Letters

Devoted to the Quest

This particular issue of Bates Magazine(winter 1998) really got to me. In addition to admiring Phyllis Graber Jensen’s photo of the Quad after the ice storm and her fascinating portrait of Dennis Browne, I was amused by the planned-giving advertisement featuring classmate Lynn Willsey ’54 and the 1953 basketball team.

I also was moved by the remembrance of Norm Levine ’57. Normie and I were friends from childhood, and I was his counselor and coach at summer camp in East Parsonsfield. I suppose that I was a major influence in his decision to attend Bates. Norm didn’t have an athlete’s body, but he had the heart and desire to participate and to lead and teach so effectively.

To my knowledge, there are few institutions besides Bates more faithfully devoted to the spectacularly difficult and complex quest for opportunity and diversity on all levels. The only apparent place that Bates fails to compete on a level playing field is in football. And even there, the spirit and desire is evident.

Jonas Klein ’54
Georgetown, Maine

An Insidious Incident

Reflecting upon the article “Pride and Prejudice” (On & Off Campus, winter 1998), I must conclude respectfully that the author of this piece failed to express the broader issues at hand.

The author stated a concern over the “growing number of homophobic acts on campus leading up to Coming Out Weekend. In particular, a series of ‘Questioning Your Sexuality’ posters, put up by the campus Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual Alliance, had repeatedly been defaced and/or torn down.” Characterizing such dastardly deeds as representing the manifestation of a phobia misses the point. To me, they represent something considerably more insidious: the cessation of the free exchange of ideas. More to the point, a cornerstone of our Western heritage is torn down and defaced.

One evening in 1992, when I was a student at Bates, I put up several posters in Chase Hall advocating the reelection of then-President Bush. Though I put them up before dinner, by the time I had walked out, all of the posters had been torn down and lay strewn on the floor. This happened several times before I simply gave up. Now, I don’t think that those who tore them down bore the symptoms of “Bushophobia” or “conservatophobia.” Such terms would again miss the point that the entire community of learners suffers when any perspective is denied access to the minds (and judgments) of its members.

Such control of the free exchange of ideas invites comparison to policies of fascist and communist dictators, the supreme thought police. It is no different from stealing the campus newspaper to prevent others from reading a story we disagree with. How do we differ from the Nazi book burners in these cases?

Underlying both the defacement/tearing down of the GLBA’s posters as well as the tearing down of my Bush posters is the same crime: the attempt to control the terms of the debate by squelching the free expression of its propositions. When Bates ceases to be a place where ideas can be aired and debated freely, it ceases to be an academy of learners and thinkers. It ceases to be a place where, by force of reason and logic, just notions are elevated and absurd ones are discarded in the crucible of open debate.

Bates ought to expend its efforts vigorously supporting the noble principles of the open expression of all ideas, rather than viewing acts that violate these principles as phobic of some group or idea. Indeed, the administration ought to consider whether members of the community who disagree with free speech ought to remain part of the community. The very mission and character of the College may be the real issue here. In the final analysis, any squelching of debate is an attempt at thought control and ultimately insults those who would prefer to make up their own minds, thank you very much.

Leon Nicholas ’93
Norwalk, Connecticut

No More Lame Excuses

News flash to Keri Ann Fox, Taro Hagiwara, and Julie DeLaite: Life does not become less stressful after you leave college (“What’s Intelligence Got to Do with It?” winter 1998). Leave behind your lame justifications and excuses! Quit smoking now, not later.

Tina Brickley ’90
via e-mail

Art Brings Joy

Thank you so much for choosing to allow a selection of the Bates Museum of Art’s collection to appear in the obituary section of Bates Magazine. It gave me great joy to scratch the surface of what must be a wonderful collection, without leaving the New York City area (where I am in my second year of a three-year fine art certificate program at the New York Studio School in Manhattan). I am sure the work is even more exciting in real life. I do remember being shown a Picasso linocut in the Museum – the colors were wonderful. The Japanese print (Hiroshige Ando, Scene at Kanagawa) included in the winter issue is particularly impressive. Bumping into great art daily is always a joy. While museums are wonderful, they cannot integrate art into one’s daily life in the way public art or reproductions can.

Alexander Larsen ’96
Jersey City, New Jersey

History behind the Name

I was delighted and dismayed by the “What’s in a Name” article on the naming of 227 College Street as Nash House (On & Off Campus, winter 1998).

Delighted, because I feel the name is most appropriate; dismayed, because there was no mention of the efforts of my mother, Elizabeth Buschmann, in encouraging the College Trustees to so name that historic farmhouse, nor of our family who lived there for almost fifty years prior to the time the College acquired the property.

My father, August Buschmann, was professor of German at Bates from 1928 to 1971, and well known by many alumni, not only in the classroom, but also on the tennis and volleyball courts. Our family moved to 227 College Street in 1941 and lived there for forty-eight years. Present student residents have seen many of us, all saying “we grew up here,” and indeed we did, three girls and four boys.

My own recollections of early days on campus include roller skating on the Quad with the Phillips, Berkelman, and Myhrman children and visits to “Uncle Norm” and “Auntie Marge” [Ross] at 32 Frye Street. During the war years, I watched the V-12 units march down College Street to the “Y” in Auburn (from the vantage point of my piano bench, where I had to practice for lessons with Professor Seldon Crafts!).

My memories, of course, could go on for miles, but the purpose in writing is to say: Bates, you were my home and home to my family for many years. I think some recognition of the Buschmann family should be included in the history of Nash House.

Just for the record, the following family members and others who spent College years at 227 College Street, are included as Bates alumni: Caroline Buschmann Barnes Linson ’51, Dorothy L. Barnes ’72, Marion Buschmann True ’55, Robert C. True Jr. ’55, Stephanie True Peters ’87, Robert C. True III ’91, Nancy Collins True ’91, Friedrich King Buschmann ’71, Margaret Kendall Buschmann ’72, Myrna Milton Cook ’55, and Leonardia Maskiewicz O’Brien ’53.

Marion Buschmann True ’55
Westboro, Massachusetts

Trouble in Paradise

There are problems at Bates College. Supposedly educated students are smoking cigarettes (and cigars?). The administration has not declared the campus to be smoke- free.

There are problems at Bates College. Homosexual militants disrupt the peace and tranquility of the campus and the administration does not have the courage and/or intelligence to stand up for Christian values.

There are problems at Bates College. An alleged sexual assault or attempted assault occurs on campus.

What good are new buildings if there is moral disintegration of the people in them? What good is education without basic values? New buildings will not save Bates. If the Roman Empire fell, so can a college. The people at Bates must solve the problems at Bates or Bates will not survive.

Douglas Hayman ’71
Haverhill, Massachusetts

Whither “Quiet, Conservative” Bates?

To those of you who feel the views recently expressed in Bates Magazineby Mr. Charles Radcliffe ’50 and others are an aberration, I can assure they are not.

I recently got together with five other grads, and a “state of the College” discussion soon began. Every member of our group was pleased to discover that he was not the only one who was disgusted with the way our alma mater was being run.

A historical reference is needed to understand the outrage that many of us harbor towards those who advance unwanted change on the College community. We came to Bates specifically because she was not Berkeley, Wellesley, or Harvard. We could walk across the Quad without having to dodge beatniks, gay-rights advocates, save-the- whales loonies, and all other forms of get-a-lifers that were so pervasive at those other schools. A quiet conservative school of students with solid mainstream values is what we longed for and found at Bates. We grew to love her for that. Sure, we had our share of non-conforming extremists, but they were small in number and most importantly, were ignored by students and the administration. You are going to get a certain number of misfits by the blind selection process of college admissions.

The difference in today’s Bates is that the administration actively recruits, supports, and then bows to the pressure of these extreme groups. Nothing can better illustrate this point than the recent events regarding the gay-lesbian-bisexual, left-handed peanut- eating, all-around put-upon group and their “harrowing” experience of having their lavender montage mistakenly torn down (“Pride and Prejudice,” On & Off Campus, winter 1998).

Seventy students, less than 5 percent of the population, cry a little bit and the administration immediately begs for forgiveness and signs some ridiculous agreement about initiatives to address homophobia on campus. It must be nice to know that your contributions to Bates will go to pay for speakers who campaign for the acceptance of “alternative” lifestyles, which directly oppose the parental teachings of many of the Bates students.

Parents, remember while you’re signing those $30,000 tuition checks what exactly you are paying for: You are paying the salaries of an administration that actively promotes activities which many of you find immoral and unacceptable, an administration that does not have the backbone to stand up to a few protestors due to their mindless obsession with political correctness.

Clearly, the president and his cabal of deans are living in a politically correct world that has crumbled in the rest of the nation. Affirmative action is in its death throes across the country, having been rejected both at the ballot box and in the courts in Texas and California. Does that have any effect on the Bates administration? Of course not. They not only keep it but try to expand it with useless and costly so-called multicultural personnel and programs. Every time a subpar student is admitted with preference due to race, religion, sex -you know the drill – the worth of the diploma of every previous Bates student is diminished.

The current administration has steered the College off the cultural mainstream to a place far afield from the Bates we knew and loved. Therefore, the six of us decided that day to withhold our financial support. We do not do these things lightly. We do them not to destroy Bates but to save her. Her course righted, she could once again be an unmatched beacon of education, morality, and civility. Allowed to follow her present course, however, she is destined to spiral into the unfocused hedonistic maelstrom of mediocrity. We cannot and will not support this.

James Wakely ’82
Medfield, Massachusetts

Real Threat Is from the Right

I was pleased to see that, despite his concerns as a “politically conservative” alumnus, Charles W. Radcliffe ’50 intends to “stay engaged” with Bates (Letters, winter 1998).

Mr. Radcliffe’s observations about the “war raging in academia,” however, suggest that reality has eluded him. “Not since…the Middle Ages have the basic premises of liberal education been under such attack as they are today by the zealots of ‘political correctness,’” writes Mr. Radcliffe, apparently unaware that he graduated from Bates in the midst of the American inquisition, a time when hundreds of teachers and professors were summarily dismissed for having the wrong thoughts and the House Un-American Activities Committee ordered colleges and universities to submit to the government lists of their textbooks and course readings.

In particular, Mr. Radcliffe finds intellectual inquiry threatened by “the political and social radicals of the 1960s [who] have captured academia.” That is, after the social sciences spent decades providing enthusiastic support for a host of repugnant policies – Jim Crow laws, an attempt to overturn the Brown decision, restrictive immigration to prevent the influx of inferiors from Southern and Eastern Europe, and involuntary sterilization of “defectives” like epileptics, “cripples, tramps, and paupers” – Mr. Radcliffe is now, like Claude Rains in Casablanca, shocked,shocked, to discover that these disciplines are being politicized.

It is, of course, undeniable that inexcusable excesses have been committed in the name of political correctness, though they bear little resemblance to the hopelessly ill- informed descriptions retailed by critics like Dinesh D’Souza, whose Illiberal Education began the anti-PC campaign. (In one of his minor absurdities, D’Souza refers to Bates’s optional SAT policy as an attempt to “regulate the composition of…[the] freshman class along politically acceptable lines.”)

But the real, and largely unreported, danger to academic freedom remains the political correctness of the Right. During the Bush administration, for example, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that the NEH was refusing to fund projects submitted by “controversial scholars and those who use nontraditional approaches,” no matter what their scholarly or intellectual merits. According to a program officer, any application with a phrase like “feminist critique…would not be acceptable,” and “even a name connected to a project can kill it,” no matter that the connection is as peripheral as inclusion in a bibliography. Among the “killer” names cited was Catharine Stimpson, a respected scholar, Bates Trustee, and former president of that group of dangerous radicals, the Modern Language Association. That is, in the name of preserving independent thought from the threat of PC, an official list of taboo terms and persons was compiled, any one of which mentioned anywhere in a proposal would make an otherwise scholarly project unacceptable to enforcers of the real rules of political orthodoxy. The very people poisoning the academic wells claim to be the water commissioners.

In addition, brilliant scholars, like Henry Giroux at Boston University, have been refused tenure for similar transgressions, and at small, conservative schools devoted predominantly to teaching, faculty members have been fired for such acts as wearing a “gay rights” button.

Finally, there is something Orwellian about the sort of claims made by Mr. Radcliffe and others – that the academy has been “captured” by “zealots,” requiring the defenders of academic freedom to “fight…back” bravely against the forces of intellectual tyranny. In the 1990s there have been scores of popular books and hundreds of articles in the media excoriating the PC orthodoxy. To publish a critique of political correctness, no matter how embarrassingly ignorant or shamefully distorted, is a literary gambit of little courage and low risk, not to mention a fairly certain route to the best-seller list. If PC is such a fearful tyranny, how is it that everyone is attacking it? In some quarters, it is sufficient to dismiss an idea simply by referring to it as “PC,” thus making substantive considerations unnecessary. Though I certainly do not believe it true of Mr. Radcliffe’s sincere and concerned letter, lurking just beneath the surface of many of the attacks on political correctness is the suspicion of, and hostility toward, the life of the mind that Richard Hofstadter warned of long ago in Anti-Intellectualism in American Life.

William Tucker ’67
Camden, N.J.

Colleges Will Overcome Excesses

I have been following the debates in Bates Magazine about political correctness and the supposed “war raging in academia.” As someone who has been involved in higher education since graduating from Bates in 1961, I thought I could offer a somewhat different perspective from those who thunder about the academy from far away.

I know our industry well, and my advice to the critics is this: Stop worrying so much! If an education, especially a liberal education, is any good, it will overwhelm “multiculturalism” or other such “evils” of the time that exist — if those things are wrong. If they are not….

At some point, persons who are well-educated start to think for themselves. It just takes time. If they have been exposed to the dialogue over differences, if they have had the opportunity to see values set in opposition to each other, if they have experienced controversy, and if they have actually lived and worked with folks who are different, then they will develop ideas and conclusions of their own.

Similarly, at our colleges and universities, the excesses will disappear, the good stuff will survive, and just as our best institutions of higher learning are thankfully very different (and, yes, much more inclusive) than they once were, they will be different and better than they are today. It is an easy prediction. There will also be fresh “excesses” — another very safe prediction.

A personal example: In the spring of 1961, my picture appeared in several college and town media. I had a bad haircut, and I was carrying a large sign, “Pacifists Do Not Speak for Bates,” as part of a counter-demonstration against students who could not support a planned civil-defense exercise.

Today, I am president of Manchester College, a small, residential, liberal-arts college in Indiana that is connected to the Church of the Brethren, which, with the Quakers and Mennonites, is one of the “historic Peace churches.” Our mission statement carries an expressed commitment to peace and justice. We honor it. Manchester has the nation’s oldest undergraduate peace studies program, and we were rated by Mother Jonesmagazine in 1996 as one of the twenty most activist institutions of higher education. Some of my friends among our alumni were conscientious objectors and paid a dear price for dissent. Other friends, their classmates, served honorably in the military. They all made hard choices based on their convictions and all offer luster to our college today.

We also have faculty and students with views that are more conservative. Everyone is better for the presence of the others and their ideas, even if some do not always know it until years later. In time, as should be the case for those with a liberal-arts education anywhere, they always find that they can think for themselves.

I am very comfortable with Manchester’s values, having begun a metamorphosis that started in spring 1961 with sharp criticism of my views from some fellow students at Bates whom I respected. I think that today most of them are more conservative than I am. We passed each other as we all grew older and wiser.

So, I have a simple suggestion to those who feel that they cannot contribute their money, advice, or affection to schools that have the “wrong” political agenda: Support them instead on the basis of the sound liberal education that they provide. At Bates, as elsewhere, students need the best college possible – one that provides ideas and experiences that help them to challenge their own assumptions.

I respect my Bates education greatly. Together with my family, it has led to everything that I have and value. I support Bates as generously as I can, even as I try to raise funds for a school that truly needs every dollar much more. I do so because I appreciate an education that taught me to think for myself and to detect cant and worse. The details were less important and sometimes plain wrong. It just took a bit longer than four years to get it right.

Parker G. Marden ’61
North Manchester, Ind.

AIA Gratitude Requested

Having just reviewed The Bates Report 1996-97, I want to thank Bates for keeping the alumni community aware of the College’s continued growth.

I respectfully suggest an addition for future issues of this report. As one of many members of the Bates Alumni-in-Admissions (AIA) network, I believe The Bates Report is an appropriate medium for the College to express gratitude, in writing, for the individuals who donate countless volunteer hours to the College on a continuous basis.

As an AIA volunteer, I cheerfully represent Bates at local college fairs, make contact with the guidance counselors at local high schools, interview Bates applicants, and then prepare and submit comprehensive reviews of these meetings to the admissions staff. I am an enthusiastic representative of the College, all the more credible because I am not paid for my time.

Dean of Admissions Wylie Mitchell did recognize AIA in general terms in his letter that appeared in The Bates Report, and for that I am grateful. Indeed, the entire admissions staff consistently thanks us for our efforts, and I know that my participation is appreciated.

However, each and every year, I cringe at the list of names that appears in The Bates Report of those alumni who contribute dollars to the College. I contribute my time, and yet my name does not appear. I hope that Bates would agree that my time is no less valuable a resource, and in the very least a “special gift” that saves the College thousands of dollars in sending admissions staff out into the field to interact with promising high school students.

Traci LaRosa-Suppa ’90
New Rochelle, New York