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Conversation with President Spencer


Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College

Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College

On Monday October 5th, at 8pm, President Clayton Spencer joined us in the basement of 31 Frye Street for her third on-air conversation with students at WRBC. This time, Michaela Scanzillo ’16 and Josh Leiner ’18 posed the questions.

Here are the questions posed as well as a recording of the conversation.

  • So, last time you were here you spoke a little about the new dorms that are currently being built on Campus Avenue. Would you mind talking a little about the progress that has been made? What student input is going into this process? What will the current package center and college store space be used for? What will happen with Smith after the construction?
  • What campus event do you look forward to most each year?
  • There was recently a Bates Student article critiquing the Purposeful Work initiative, claiming that it only applies for certain disciplines, and in the process delegitimizes many fields of study. And specifically, I quote, “Purposeful Work only affirms the cliché liberal arts insecurity—that the work we do here lacks practical meaning. By placing this heading on classes and certain types of work, we are inherently excluding classes and work not under this label, which doesn’t align with significant Bates principles.” Do you think that deeming certain work and or courses “purposeful” undermines some of the other things we do here and their legitimacy?
  • On a related topic, we often talk about purposeful work and how it relates to our own professional trajectories. How does Bates fit into your lifetime of purposeful work? What are your plans for the future?
  • Continuing to talk about work, many students feel the need to travel to other schools in order to gain access to professional recruiters. Recently, an upperclassman said to me, “I’m dismayed that Fortune 500 companies don’t recruit at Bates. For the quality and cost of a Bates education, it seems we should have access to these opportunities.” Is expanding beyond the Bates Alumni network a priority for the Bates Career Development Center, and for the College?
  • What do you consider to be your number one job as President?
  • What do you think your biggest achievement has been so far at Bates? What are you most proud of?
  • Recently there has been a discussion amongst some students regarding a “diversity” or “community engagement” requirement…it would be some sort of seminar or class that would be a graduation requirement involving community outreach, to either supplement or reform the SLQ system currently in place. What do you think about this prospect?
  • The Atlantic Journal recently came out with an article entitled, “The coddling of the American Mind.” It was about how political correctness is not only hampering professor’s’ ability to teach, but also adversely affecting students’ mental health. Most recently, a Bates Student article revealed that Luau was canceled in part due to cultural appropriation. The article quoted Director of Media Relations and Policy Advisor Kent Fischer, and he said “Several Pacific Islander students let the administration know that they were uncomfortable with the cultural appropriation of a “luau,” so we felt a change in the format and name of the event was in order.”  So with these two articles in mind, how do you think Bates balances the needs of being politically correct with allowing professors and students to talk about difficult issues, and what do you think the administration’s role should be regarding this issue?  
  • Over my three years at Bates, the cost of tuition has risen every year. Specifically, since my matriculation, tuition has increased by about 10 percent. Are there cost controls in place, and is stabilizing tuition a priority for your administration?
  • Can you speak a little bit about the changes in the student affairs office, particularly with regard to accessibility and dean’s excuses, and the intention behind these changes? It seems that recent policy updates have made it sometimes harder to get dean’s notices and to get accommodations in certain instances. Can you comment on these changes?
  • Are there any plans to increase space or resources for students to engage in the arts outside of coursework?
  • And our last question, In what ways do you think that Bates is ahead of the curve compared to other institutions? In what areas do you believe that we could be doing better?