On & Off Campus

Bates Professors help make sense of Lewiston’s ongoing controversy surrounding Somali migration to the city

Bates in the News

It’s hard to say whether Lewiston Mayor Laurier Raymond’s controversial letter to local Somalis will slow the influx of Somali immigration to the region, as Raymond requested in the Oct. 1 message. But Raymond certainly brought in a lot of journalists, as the story became a cause célèbre in media outlets as prominent and far-flung as ABC News, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and even major newspapers in the United Kingdom.

Bates faculty helped reporters make sense of the affair. Professor Emeritus of Political Science Doug Hodgkin talked to ABC’s Ron Claiborne, and other reporters quoted historians Steve Hochstadt and James Leamon ’55. John Jenkins ’74, who was Lewiston’s only black mayor, told the Sun Journal that the incident overshadowed 18 months of efforts to welcome Somalis to the area. Leamon helped provide historical context, noting that tension stirred by immigration is not new to Lewiston. The Irish who began arriving in the 1850s, for example, “were met with a good deal of antagonism,” he says, which culminated in the burning of an Irish Catholic chapel by a Protestant mob. The New York Times took up that Irish-Somali comparison in its Dec. 25, 2002, editorial, concluding that the impact of this newest surge of immigrants “especially in older, smaller towns, can be enormous and positive. And while immigrants like the Somalis need places like Lewiston, places like Lewiston can survive only with immigrants like the Somalis.” Mayor Raymond denied any racial motivation behind the letter, relating it instead to the municipal burden of resettling an estimated 1,200 Somali arrivals in recent years (“Our city is maxed-out financially, physically, and emotionally,” he wrote). Yet the race card was on the table, wanted or not, even into January, when a white supremacist group, riding the publicity of Raymond’s letter, held a meeting in Lewiston to call for “the expulsion of Somalis” from the city.

From the Columbia, S.C., newspaper The State, meanwhile, came more encouraging news: In November, the paper reported that a local group would be preserving the birth home of Benjamin Mays ’20 — the son of former slaves, longtime president of Morehouse College, and mentor to Martin Luther King Jr.

Another Maine contest of wills that played nationally was the race for the 2nd Congressional District seat, pitting first-time GOP contender Kevin Raye ’83 against veteran state legislator Michael Michaud. As The Boston Globe reported, the “campaign in Maine’s woods” kept analysts guessing, as a pro-life, pro-labor Democrat faced a pro-choice, pro-business Republican — who, as it turned out, was not the voters’ choice.

Of course, the hard thing about running statewide campaigns vs. Maine Democrats is that the Maine Democratic party leadership is peppered with — you guessed it — Batesies. In December, former Bates debater Barbara Raths ’96 was elected state party chairwoman and profiled by the Associated Press. A true political junkie, Raths said she “went into hibernation’’ after the Nov. 5 election to get away from politics, but “found out very quickly I couldn’t sleep very soundly.” Raths is the former executive director of the Maine Democratic Party; her successor as director, Adam Thompson, is a 2000 Bates grad. Meanwhile, Tamara Pogue ’99, another former debater, was campaign manager for John Baldacci’s successful gubernatorial run in 2002.

Bates’ biggest autumn story was the inauguration of President Elaine Tuttle Hansen. The Associated Press ran pretty much verbatim the inauguration press release crafted by Office of Communications and Media Relations Director Bryan McNulty. The College’s oldest alum, Ida Taylor Sperber ’20, age 104, summarized the mood nicely for McNulty: “I think she is fine, and I’m glad we have her.”

About six of every 10 Bates students go abroad during their careers, among the highest study-abroad rates in the nation. So it was little surprise that the Portland Press Herald, for its story on study abroad, would seek out a Bates student. “School here isn’t so much about classes,” said Aaron Putnam ’04, a geology major from Maine studying in Iceland, echoing the familiar refrain of study-abroad participants. “It’s about getting this perspective. It’s something you can’t communicate to other people.”

The white van that never existed sidetracked authorities rushing to solve the sniper case in Virginia during the fall. The Baltimore Sun, examining the reliability of witnesses in criminal investigations, interviewed Amy Bradfield, assistant professor of psychology, who has written extensively on the phenomenon of misidentification. “Jurors believe eyewitness accuracy is tied strongly to confidence,” said Bradfield. “It turns out there is a small relationship between confidence and accuracy. You can have this really confident, compelling witness who can also be wrong.”

In the wake of the College Board’s decision to rework the SATs, William Hiss ’66 popped up in The Washington Post and Christian Science Monitor, and on Boston public radio station WBUR-FM, explaining the College’s refusal to require standardized-test scores from admissions candidates. Vice President Hiss, with Dean of Admissions Wylie Mitchell, also appeared in Jacques Steinberg’s new book, The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College. Journalist Steinberg describes how Bates offered him nine months’ total access to its admissions process. Steinberg liked the idea — but did his research at Wesleyan.

The press gave the Bates College Museum of Art its due as the facility mounted back-to-back exhibitions by acclaimed portrayers of the Maine landscape. Late in the year Joel Babb’s Intimate Wilderness was warmly welcomed by the statewide press, and the summer show of work by the Swedish-born Carl Sprinchorn made it into the prestigious journal American Art Review.

Speaking to a different audience was David Chokachi ’90, co-star of TNT’s Witchblade, a sci-fi series about a girl and her magic gauntlet. Chokachi was riding high in July, when the Boston Herald quoted “Hollywood’s fave surfer dude,” noting that where Witchblade was filmed, Toronto, he couldn’t get ESPN. Sad to say, the two-year-old series wiped out in September.

If there’s an upside, though, it’s that Chokachi, a former grid performer, was back in the States to see Bates running back Sean Atkins ’03 on ESPN’s “Hidden Video.” At halftime during the Nov. 7 Cincinnati-Louisville game, the sports channel showed tailback Atkins leading Bates to its second Colby-Bates-Bowdoin title in four years, with a record-setting 48-28 win over Bowdoin Nov. 2. (See Sports Notes.) Atkins joins hammer-thrower Jaime Sawler ’02 (a Sports Illustrated “Face in the Crowd” in August) and steeplechaser Justin Easter ’03 in the pantheon of Bates athletes under the media spotlight.