Nature Outings At Bates College Are Denounced As “White Privilege”

300px-Seal_Bates_College.svgBates College is one of the oldest colleges in New England (and the first to grant a degree to a woman). It has a great legacy and reputation.  As is unlikely to surprise many on this blog, one of my favorite things about Bates is its annual AESOP experience, or the Annual Entering Student Outdoor Program.  The Outing Club takes first-year students into the gorgeous Maine wilderness for a 4-day, 3-night trip.  I was saddened therefore to see an editorial by Justice Geddes in The Bates Student, where he attacked the tradition as an exercise of “white privilege.  The article has caused a backlash among conservatives.

The program as billed as an introduction to Bates and the environment that is so closely associated with the school and graduates.

However, in an article entitled “Aesop and the Outing Club Are Made of White Privilege,” Geddes took exception.

An outdoor expedition that’s part of Bates College’s freshman orientation, and the student group that runs it, recently came under fire from one student critic who accused them of perpetuating “white privilege” and “prehistoric policies regarding gender.”

Geddes, the layout editor of the The Bates Student, authored a piece in which she condemned the annual AESOP experience, or the Annual Entering Student Outdoor Program, and the group that runs it, the Outing Club.

“Many of us have heard AESOP horror stories; friends and peers had AESOP experiences they wouldn’t care to relive, and in my experience, many of those friends are those who inhabit marginalized identities. Women of color on white-majority hiking trips that are entirely made of microaggressions, queer first-years surrounded by straight people making eyes at each other across canoes, or simply geeks forced into a beach camping trip despite social anxiety–these experiences, while not at all equatable, are somewhat parallel.”

The column further asks “Why couldn’t there be an AESOP dedicated to anti-racist activism in Lewiston? Why isn’t there a trip focused on queer identity formation in tabletop role-playing games?”

The objections suggest that somehow nature outings are white-oriented or exclusionary events.  The opposite is true.  We can all find common ground in nature — connecting to something that transcends identity politics and divisions.  Indeed, hiking has been embraced as a transformative experience by minority groups, women, and urban kids.  Moreover, as we have previously discussed, hiking has been found to have tremendous psychological benefits.  The Japanese called it “forest bathing” and as a lifelong backpacker and hiker, I can attest the impact of being in nature can face on stress and mood.  With schools dealing with rising levels of depression, hiking has been found as effective or more effective than medication.  It appears to have a lasting impact on brain operations with a pronounced impact on depression.

I truly hope that Bates does not yield to such misplaced characterizations and continues this wonderful tradition.  Indeed, I could not read Geddes’ column without thinking “Geez, this person needs a long hike in the Maine woods.”  That is not to say that nature resonates with everyone, but, for those who vehemently oppose such excursions, the problem often rests not within Nature but the nature of the critic.

113 thoughts on “Nature Outings At Bates College Are Denounced As “White Privilege””

    1. I went to Bates. I love camping, and had an excellent experience at Bates.
      However, the Outing Club was a big dissapointment for myself and others. It was very exclusive and unwelcoming. Having gone to a few mtgs, I could smell the self-rightchousness and smugness in the air. And yes many inside jokes just to make sure that you knew this was a club that would take a lot of confirming to be a part of.
      Decided to go on a trip to Kathadin. It was beautiful and nice to go on a trip for free. But I was left in the dust figuratively and literally .

      I was not as in good shape and I hiked the entire thing by myself. No one ever hiked with me. Isn’t that kind of shitty? I guess that take their hiking seriously but they do not care for inclusivitu, if your not “one of them”.
      And yes I’m a privlidged white male, but they still managed to make me like I didn’t belong.

  1. I once worked as a naturalist at Indiana Dunes State Park. Students from an inner city, interracial Chicago school were enthralled by a field trip that included a hike. One student picked up a blue jay feather and marvelled at the beauty of the “leaf” he had found. His lack of exposure with the details of nature didn’t stop his sense of wonder. Don’t stop the outings, but how about some more urban green spaces to bring that joy to more kids like him?

  2. When are idiots like this ever going to realize that all they are doing is alienating potential allies, and thus make it even harder for social justice to ever prevail? My politics are to the left of Sanders, but whenever I hear this garbage it reflexively makes me want to go out and vote for the most troglodyte conservative candidate I can find.

  3. Internet comment about the recently released photo of the new interns at the People’s House-
    “The Trump White House interns could be the Whitest group I’ve ever encountered. And, I’m including the Nantucket Yacht Club.”
    Turley plucks out Bates College to talk about.

  4. No doubt a Starbucks Lib who has had little if any interaction much less relationships with people of color. There is a county park near us – a beautiful facility with trails, paddleboats, sprinkler fountain for young children, bicycles, pic nic areas and open fields conducive to tossing a football, playing soccer, volleyball, etc.. We often go on the weekend and I joke to my husband that we are representing the token minority for most of the patrons are black and brown. We’ve seen many weddings, birthday and other celebrations taking place as we took our constitutional. Children race by us on scooters and bicycles as their parents amble behind them – often with the family dog. Happy, healthy folks enjoying being outdoors – just like white folks!

  5. Geddes misses his own point. Experiencing Nature is often reserved for privileged white folks, while most Americans without privilege are limited to concrete and asphalt. Education’s main intent is to expose us to the things we don’t know about but might come to love. Nature enables our lives, enriches our spirits and is in essence our common ground.

  6. On Good Friday yesterday, Pope Francis led the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum where his closing prayer covered all the reasons why our world has collapsed…”shame for losing a sense of shame”


    Blessed Easter & Passover to all men and women of faith.

  7. Yes, nature outings are an example of White Privilege. Because if you live in the hood, you don’t just get to walk around wherever you want, taking in the sights. Because if you are a stranger on the block, you might get shot.

    Other stuff that is White Privilege:

    Wedding pictures in the paper.
    Engagement announcements.
    Wedding dresses.
    Wedding receptions.
    Father’s Day.
    Father reading Bedtime stories.
    Movies with family vacations which include husbands and fathers.
    Houses without iron security bars on the doors and windows.
    Family photos which include husbands and fathers.
    Asking for someone’s mother’s maiden name.
    Going to Disney World.
    Going to Europe on vacation.
    Having a savings account.
    Having good credit.
    Not having a criminal record.
    Husband letting wife sleep during the 3:00 AM feeding and diaper change.
    Going to a good and safe school.
    Not getting your power or water cut off regularly.

    All these things are examples of White Privilege. Truly. I am being serious. But ask yourself WHY??? Why are these things not something the average Black gets to experience, anymore???

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

    PS: Oh, if you think I am exaggerating about Blacks not being able to walk around, go to about 3:00 minutes in on this:

  8. “Affirmative Action Privilege” is antithetical, anti-American and unconstitutional.

        1. America is a republic of freedom which requires self-reliance. It’s freedoms includes those of religion.

          America is not a one man, one vote democrazy.

          America is distinctly and deliberately not a theocracy.

          Central planning, redistribution of wealth and social engineering are ideological pathologies currently infecting America.

          America must be cured; its diseases irrevocably annihilated.

  9. The Bates College should offer more outdoor experiences worldwide

    Huaorani worriers of the Ecuador Amazon offer ecological expedition packages. You will be trained with bow & arrow, blow dart guns & how to live off the land.

  10. The journalist makes the false assumption that if a particular activity seems to attract mostly one gender or race, then it is discriminatory.

    People have the right to organize into groups of like minded interests. Race is not a prerequisite for joining and outdoor club, such as the many all-African-American clubs, study groups, and dorms springing up in the Jim Crow Revival. You know what the requirement is? To love the outdoors, camping, and hiking. Are they going to start auditing the participation roles of Sierra Club hikes and break them down into their identity politics boxes? I thought the entire point of a hiking club was to find common interests among people, regardless of external factors such as race.

    Why do so many believe that someone’s entire identity is based on their race or sexual orientation? Someone may be black, but love ballet, hikes, Patrick O’Brian, and Native American art. Skin color is just one factor in their identity. There is no homogeneity among such groups made up of individuals.

    I used to go hiking with a group of outdoor enthusiasts when I was in college. I had so much fun, and I went way deeper in the backcountry than I ever would have ventured on my own. At the time, however, most rental packs were made for men with wider shoulders, so every one of us girls who rented had numb arms after hiking all day. It was a need that was filled by some entrepreneur.

    Stop ruining everything inserting identity politics. It’s intolerant and divisive.

    If you notice that outdoor activities seem to be more popular with whites than other ethnic groups, a more positive reaction would be to promote such groups to those who may have never tried it before. Encourage an introductory, short hike and invite people.

    I ride, and there are very few African American riders in the hunter/jumper or dressage circuits. I would love to see more girls of all backgrounds try it. The more adrenaline pumping equestrian sports like racing and eventing are mostly male. Horses are good for every little girl’s and boy’s soul, and you don’t really have time to get into much trouble when you spend every day at the barn. Plus, you don’t develop much of an ego when you muck out stalls or braid for shows to afford your own lessons and shows.

    1. I forgot to add that one of the benefits of the freedom to freely associate is that if you want to start a club whose purpose is round table role playing on queer identity formation, then you can start your own club.

  11. Do people know which country they are in and its thesis?

    Let’s review exactly what the American Founders established – three times for the doubting Thomases.

    “…free white person…”

    Naturalization Acts of 1790, 1795 and 1802

    United States Congress, “An act to establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization,” March 26, 1790

    “Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That any Alien being a free white person, who shall have resided within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the United States for the term of two years, may be admitted to become a citizen,…”

  12. The 1st, primary, an Only duty of a school or college is to give it’s students The Best education it can. Near all of these students ask permission to attend and staff ask to work there. With that in mind ANY student or staff that disrupts the educational process or publicly ridicules the school should be quickly expelled or terminated. Education and employment are Privilege Not a right. Government yourself accordingly

  13. Free speech is a big deal. However there is a certain amount of responsibility that comes with freedom. Whether or not Kaiser can come down on her to me is a little foggy. What’s going on in this blog is what’s more important. This blog is part of the courtroom of public opinion. How she is judged in the general population is more important.

  14. “We can all find common ground in nature — connecting to something that transcends identity politics and divisions.”

    In nature, yes, but the problem isn’t nature, it’s the other students ensconced in their expressed bigotry with no escape from those targeted by the bigotry,

    1. In nature, yes, but the problem isn’t nature, it’s the other students ensconced in their expressed bigotry with no escape from those targeted by the bigotry,

      The students aren’t responsible for your fantasies about them, bettykath.

  15. The Bates College outing club should be expanded from a 4-day trip to 2 weeks.

    Start the trip at Mahoosuc Notch on the Appalachian Trail & head north to Mt. Katahdin in Maine. I did it with an 80 pound backpack. Anyone who has underlying medical or psychological issues should not do this.

  16. Kids will be kids, have some compassion. Most of her critics on this blog probably misspoke or had faulty conclusions at her age…but we didn’t end up on America’s top legal blog accessible to millions of expert legal experts and critics as a result. Our comments weren’t archived for decades later on computer hard-drives. Probably sucks being a kid in the internet age.

    Just a guess, but maybe she was venting over past institionalized bigotry. In many localities, including Washington DC, African-Americans weren’t allowed to use desegregated swimming pools. Even today, many African-Americans never learned to swim or enjoy water activities. With that background of discrimination, many probably avoid boating and water sports.

    Only recently, only some troops, of the Boy Scouts of America, welcomed homosexuals scouts and homosxual scout leaders. They were overtly hostile to LGBT kids just a few years ago. For many children, scouting is the only experience they have in the outdoors. Maybe she misspoke from displaced anger at institutiinalized bigotry in other areas – let it go.

    1. Ashcroft’s Zersetzung – wasn’t the whole idea of Bareback Mountain to open camping to gays?

        1. Powerbottom – I did hear that STDs are up in the gay community. Take care. 😉

            1. Squeeky – I did read there is a super STD that is drug resistant. This person’s life is going to be hell.

    2. Just a guess, but maybe she was venting over past institionalized bigotry.

      She was born in 1998, grew up in a college town in Montana, and is now ensconced in a town in Maine. “Institutionalized bigotry” is not something she knows from palpable experience (unless, of course, she’s been reading the e-mails exchanged by the student affairs apparatchik about the local chapter of Inter-Varsity).

    3. Only recently, only some troops, of the Boy Scouts of America, welcomed homosexuals scouts and homosxual scout leaders. They were overtly hostile to LGBT kids just a few years ago.

      I think the median age of the youth enrolled in Cub Scouts – Boy Scouts – Explorers – Webelos is somewhere around 13. I doubt many of them are hankering to sodomize someone, but then pederastic fantasies are not my avocation.

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