Has Bates, in the two years since a young alumnus left the College, genuinely become a great place to be queer?

Eph Thoughts

I live my winters in Williamstown, Mass., home of the vaunted Williams College “Ephs.” When the news of Morgan McDuffee’s death (summer 2002 Bates Magazine) hit Williamstown, the effect was strong, and the death was felt deeply. The lacrosse coach, Renzi Lamb, and the tennis coach, Dave Johnson, were deeply affected. They were sincere when they came to me to offer their depth of feeling, knowing that way back when, I graduated from Bates.

They say you stay alive when you stay in someone’s heart. I am sure that will be that way with Morgan. I wish I had known him.

Robert Greenberg ’53
South Bristol, Maine

Egalitarian Omni-Shtick

The “Bates in the News” section of the summer 2002 issue reported that Bates is now actively recruiting queer students and promoting itself as a queer-friendly college. I was somewhat baffled; my not-so-distant tenure at Bates was witness to the verbal and/or physical assault of several queer students, the repeated defacement and removal of flyers promoting the queer student group, the administration’s seizure of a Coming Out Day installation, and the trashing of a queer faculty member’s office door, among other more tacit but no less significant forms of homophobia.

If the administration is taking an active role in making Bates a better place for queer people, I’m all for it. But, despite the best of intentions, it’s hardly justified – and not a little bit underhanded – for the administration to tout Bates as queer-friendly to perspective students when there is a lot of fairly recent evidence to suggest that the opposite is true. Has Bates, in the two years since I’ve left, genuinely become this great place to be queer, or is the administration merely courting a trendy new “admissions niche”? I’d be nothing short of delighted to learn that I’m a cynical relic of days past, but for now I have to doubt that real change is keeping pace with the PR machine and that real issues aren’t being glossed over by Bates’ egalitarian omni-shtick.

Jason Goldman ’00
San Francisco, Calif.

A Hire Idea

I believe Richard Dearborn ’41 might be a bit off base in asserting that Charles Radcliffe ’50 is advocating affirmative action for conservative economists in his letter calling for a conservative appointment to a new Bates professorship (winter and summer 2002 Bates Magazine). More to the point, he’s advocating bringing a broader understanding to the educational experience at Bates.

My graduate work at the University of Chicago is heavily steeped in economics, and I have had the benefit of taking classes taught by both conservative and liberal economists (in some cases team taught by both). There are clear differences of opinion among economists over fundamental questions like the role of government in a free society and the benefits and costs of social programs.

Moreover, as any good economist will tell you, healthy competition tends to strengthen firms in a market. Likewise, in Bates’ intellectual marketplace, a healthy competition of ideas and perspectives would bring about the same results. The hiring of a conservative economist would go a long way to showing that Bates is the inclusive and accepting institution it purports to be.

Shawn O’Leary ’99
Northbrook, Ill.

Cultural Standards, Part II

Imagine my surprise to read the letter from Peter Slovenski (“Cultural Standards,” summer 2002 Bates Magazine). I was disappointed to read such intolerant words in Bates Magazine, especially since Bates is a college founded on egalitarian principles that “respect the dignity of each individual.”

I find it incredible for Slovenski to profess that Lewiston was safer when Franco-Americans and Catholic influences dominated the community. To blame the recent incidences of campus violence, as well as a decline in family and community stability within Lewiston, on “multiculturalism and geographic mobility” seems at best irresponsible.

In fact, when French-Canadian immigrants first arrived in the mill cities of New England, they were likely subjected to mistrust and discrimination from the largely Protestant residents of English descent. I suspect the problems Mr. Slovenski attributes to outsiders moving in are more likely caused by cheaper textiles from overseas eroding the financial base of Lewiston, substance abuse within the community, and the actions of a handful of criminals that taint the image of an otherwise agreeable Maine community learning how to be more diverse.

Lewiston has many wonderful virtues, most importantly its citizens. To suggest that the “intellectual community in America of which Bates is a vibrant part” exacerbates the security and social issues facing Lewiston by supporting diversity is unproductive and derisive.

Eric Cantor ’87
Salem, Mass.

Peter Slovenski’s letter is disappointing in light of the recent conflict in Lewiston over the influx of Somali refugees into Lewiston-Auburn. Last fall, the Lewiston mayor drafted an open letter to the Somali community discouraging their continued migration to the city. Recently, encouraged by the mayor’s letter, a white supremacist group held an anti-Somali rally in Lewiston. Bates hosted a pro-diversity rally, attended by thousands. Was it wrong of those people to make the Somalis feel welcome and protected and to celebrate the differences they bring to the community?

Can Mr. Slovenski really mean to blame the Somalis or anybody else who is different for attacks on the Bates campus? Is the Somali resettlement the “geographical mobility and multiculturalism” that Slovenski blames for a reduced sense of security? I guess we shouldn’t look at the current recession and the ever-growing divide between the rich and the poor. (Tuition at Bates exceeds Maine’s median annual income and is very likely half as much more than the income of many residents of the Lewiston-Auburn area.) I guess we shouldn’t examine the role of the media that increases its reporting of crime while crime rates drop. I guess we should ignore the fact that Bates has for years (probably since its founding) experienced private attacks between Bates students, who largely come from white, Northern European backgrounds.

Additionally, Slovenski’s letter is ironic because it comes just as sex-abuse scandals have rocked the Catholic church. Would these incidents exemplify the “unifying cultural standards” or the “ethnic and religious powers that held Lewiston together” that Slovenski longs for? Should we ignore the fact that these and other social ills (teen-age pregnancy and poor education to name two more) have been exposed and reduced during the last 20 years by, in part, the intellectual (and supposedly godless) “baby boomers” themselves?

Ron Schneider ’88
Portland, Maine

To Our Letter Writers

We welcome letters of approximately 400 or fewer words. Letters may be edited for style, grammar, length, clarity, and relevance to College issues and issues discussed in Bates Magazine. Please address letters to Bates Magazine, Office of Communications and Media Relations, 141 Nichols St., Lewiston, ME 04240, or e-mail <magazine@bates.edu>.

Philanthropy at Bates Correction

All members of the Bates community recently received Philanthropy at Bates, the College’s annual report of giving. While every effort was made to ensure accuracy, the donors noted below were inadvertently either omitted or misplaced with regard to giving level. Bates apologizes for the errors.

+ Lois M. Beardwood P’91 Honor Roll
Erik S. Gellman ’97 Honor Roll
Pauline Guenette P’89 Honor Roll
+ Glenn R. Kumekawa ’51 Hathorn Associate
Erin L. Lydon ’92 Leaders in Philanthropy
Nathalie D. Milbank ’00 Cheney Associate
+ Al ’62 and Harriet Squitieri Phillips Society
UBS Warburg Matching Gift
+ Given consecutively for at least the last five years to the College.