Controversies in the NESCAC

This past week in NESCAC news there have been various controversies, including the social scene at Bates College, a cancellation of a scheduled talk at Williams College, and the discontinuation of the Jefferson Davis award at Bowdoin College.

In last week’s issue of The Bates Student, an op-ed ran concerning  the sports culture at the College and its effects on the social scene. The author of the piece, Dylan Metsch-Ampel, argues that the parties thrown at various athletic houses seem to be unrepresentative of the gender inclusivity that NESCAC schools strive to embody. He notes two main issues: firstly, although some athletic houses are throwing exclusive parties that are unwelcoming towards certain students, it is within the houses’ rights to do so.  However, the bigger issue is  the manner  in which the parties are exclusive. Metsch-Ampel notes that some Bates parties seem to be excluding people based on gender, letting in far more men than women and creating an atmosphere that perpetuates negative gender stereotypes. One first-year athlete quoted in the article said, “I was feeling that I was being pressured to do things that I would not normally do to seem cool. The irony of it was that with this behavior I was getting a lot of support, but at the same time, that support was not for who I really am, it was for an image, a persona. I was pretending to be someone I was not.” The op-ed ignited campus conversations about athletics and social life at the College.

Suzanne Venker, a Fox News contributor, was scheduled to give a talk at Williams, organized by Uncomfortable Learning and titled “One Step Forward, Ten Steps Back: Why Feminism Fails.” However, Williams cancelled the talk set for October 23 because students were protesting Venker’s ideologies. Mathew Hennessy, one of the leaders of the student-run organization Uncomfortable Learning, responded to the cancellation by saying “’We chose [Venker] because millions of Americans think her viewpoints carry weight, or even agree with her… We think it’s important to get an understanding of why so many Americans do think these really interesting and difficult thoughts, so we can challenge them and better understand our own behaviors and our own thoughts.”

In a similar response to detrimental ideologies, Bowdoin has decided to discontinue the College’s Jefferson Davis award. According to the Bowdoin Orient, after 33 years of awarding “a cash prize… to a government and legal studies student excelling in the study of constitutional law,” the award will be terminated because the man for which it is named represented the Confederacy and was directly involved in the fight to keep slavery legal in the United States. Bowdoin President Clayton Rose said in a press release to the Orient: “It is inappropriate for Bowdoin College to bestow an annual award that continues to honor a man whose mission was to preserve and institutionalize slavery.” The money that was endowed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy for this award has since been returned and the award will now be named after the late William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Constitutional Law Richard E. Morgan ’59.

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