Video: Bates seniors celebrate the end of thesis with a kiss-and-tell ritual

“It makes it seem real,” says Quincy Snellings ’15, explaining why, even in the digital era, she feels good about printing a copy of her yearlong honors thesis.

Printing her thesis was, in fact, part of a sweet Bates ritual that helps seniors commemorate a pivotal moment — the completion of a thesis, a signature achievement on the road to a Bates degree.

At Bates, all departments offer a thesis option; most require it. A select few seniors, around 10 percent, reach for the brass ring and undertake an honors thesis.

These days, seniors who do honors work upload digital versions of their theses to an online repository called Scholarly Communication and Research at Bates. Seniors who do semester- or year-long versions still print and bind their final theses.

Regardless of the type of thesis, many seniors take part in a ritual that seems to have arisen within the last few years: A senior will invite a first-year student to help bind a copy of the thesis. After the binding, the first-year gives the bound copy a kiss, as a sort of blessing.

Even the seniors who’ve done an honors thesis, and thus don’t need to print it out, partake of the ritual. Its origins are murky, but the new ritual may have filled a gap left by the demise of an honors thesis ritual, that of hand-delivering four bound copies of their completed thesis to Office Services, whose staff would fete (and hug) each senior.

With the end of that ritual (because seniors now upload their theses), the new ritual may have emerged and spread to other seniors doing semester- and year-long theses.

Besides the practical benefit of the ritual — it informs first-year students about the importance of Bates academic life — it might also reveal what Bates students value about their community. In this case, it’s the “beautiful cycle,” a term coined by Tommy Holmberg ’13 in his Senior Address at Commencement two years ago.

Among Bates students, Holmberg explained, the “beautiful cycle” means that Bates seniors have a pay-it-forward mindset, taking steps to ensure that “the goodness of Bates is passed on” to younger students.

The goodness is passed on “out of admiration and gratitude” for what the seniors have experienced, Holmberg said, and out of “excitement and pride for what” younger Bates students will do and become.

In her honors thesis, Snellings, of Lexington, Mass., looked at Bates students’ perceptions and awareness of whiteness and its impact on their college experience. For her thesis ritual, she made a choice that highlights the family aspect of Bates. Snellings chose her sister, Frances, to help bind the book — the sisters are one of 34 sets of siblings currently at Bates.

Grace Pezzella ’15 of Newburyport, Mass., wrote her honors thesis on the transformation of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s hut system in the White Mountains from a very masculine environment to “an ideal feminist model, wherein there is complete equality between the sexes.”

For her binding ritual, Pezzella, the vice president of the Bates Outing Club, chose the BOC Equipment Room, and invited first-year Beanie O’Shea of Somers, Conn., to join her around the fabled BOC stump.

Pezzella chose the BOC E-room to honor the club’s long history of gender equality, and chose O’Shea “because I think Beanie is going to go far in the Bates Outing Club,” Pezzella says.


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