Bates College was founded in 1855 by active abolitionists and many former slaves were some of its earliest students. Before becoming Bates College, the school housed a seminary (which later merged with Bates as the religion department) that was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Reverend Oren Burbank Cheney served as the college’s first president and received funding for expansion from Benjamin E. Bates, a Boston manufacturer. As the oldest continuously operating coed college in New England, Bates had the first female graduate in the northeast in 1869. Starting with a couple of buildings and less than 100 students, this Little Ivy evolved into a prestigious liberal arts school over its 150 year history.
Bates’ campus covers 109 acres of beautiful woodlands, ponds, and Mount David, a little forested hill with great views (where students have been known to retreat for illegal activities). The campus is compact enough that venturing between buildings and residence halls is easy, even when the ground is piled high with snow. Many of the buildings look like old New England homes, but the newer ones are a bit more generic with modern glass and brick structures. There are some great places to hang out on this gorgeous campus; The Ronj is a student-run coffeehouse on Frye Street, the quad provides a picturesque place to relax when the weather is warm, and the sweet new Commons dining hall sees students hanging out for hours after mealtimes.
Lewiston is a fairly small town without too much to offer in the way of college entertainment. It’s the second-largest city in Maine, but don’t think that means it’s a major metropolis. As a sleepy former mill town, Lewiston does offer some quaint shops and restaurants, but for those itching for hopping nightlife, your best bet is to stay on campus. For the most part, students stick to college grounds since the close community and array of campus offerings keep life exciting. Adventurous souls seeking to cure cabin fever look to Portland and Freeport, and outdoorsmen can find lots of nearby activities like skiing, biking, hiking, and fishing.
One student finds what to love in Lewiston: "Despite complaints from some students, Lewiston is a really cool place. It is certainly not your typical college town, and it may be very different from where most Bates students come from. That is why I love it. It is an old mill town turned city with a strong community, wonderful central park, down-to-earth residents, and lots of outlets for community engagement and volunteering. It also has a pretty cool local music scene with great folk performances in particular."
Mustachio Bashio—An annual event where fellas grow beards for a month to show off at a February party. Even girls don stick-on or drawn-on ‘staches.
One noble tradition at Bates is the Puddle Jump, hosted annually as the culmination of Winter Carnival, during which the outing club saws a good chunk of ice out of Lake Andrews (the Puddle, our small campus pond), and brave/foolhardy students jump in and out of the frigid water before running over to the raging bonfire on shore.
Senior Pub Crawl—A spring event where seniors dress up in themed costumes and bar hop through Lewiston in teams. The Pub Crawl finale occurs when the seniors come back to campus and jump in the Puddle.
Gala—This is a fabulous free formal dance in the Spring (think prom on ‘roids) with live bands and a huge showing of students and teachers.
Lick It—Held the evening before Gala, this is when students show their less classy sides by showing up sloshed and wearing next-to-nothing. Sometimes, the students who are most hardcore (or most drunk) come wearing nothing but saran wrap.
'Trick or drink' is one of Bates' more ridiculous traditions. On Halloween, everyone gets dressed up in costumes and goes to an off campus house where they give $5 and receive a map of all the houses participating. You and your friends then stumble from house to house, with the help of the Lewiston-Auburn police, taking a different shot of alcohol at each house. When you are done at all 9 or so of the houses, the school has put pizzas in the basement of one of the dorms for us to eat. I'm not lying. The school recognizes this event. The cops help us cross the street. Apparently drinking laws do not apply on that night.
Newman Day—Usually held in January, students try their best to consume 24 beers in 24 hours as a tribute to Paul Newman who was supposedly quoted, “24 hours in a day, 24 beers in a case. Coincidence? I think not.” Newman has not confirmed the quotation.
Robert F. Kennedy (1944-1945) attended Bates for naval training during WWII and was JFK's little bro and US Attorney General.
Bryant Gumbel (1970) was a personality on NBC's The Today Show.
David Chokachi (1990) was a hunky cast member of Baywatch and Witchblade.
Dorothy Clarke Wilson (1925) authored Prince of Egypt, which became the 1956 Academy Award-winning film, The Ten Commandments.
Justin Freeman (1998) is a professional skier and was a member of the 2006 Olympic Team.
The Bates Bobcats are an NCAA Division III program and compete in the New England Small College Athletic Conference as well as the Colby-Bates-Bowdin Consortium. With games dating back to 1875, Bates has one of the oldest football teams in the nation. The men’s and women’s rugby teams have made it to regional and national tournaments, the women’s basketball team has had recent success, and the women’s rowing team finished third at the NCAA Championships in 2007. Though sports aren’t a huge draw, students attend games and matches to support friends on their respective teams. Athletics are a big deal to those who participate (at least as a pleasurable extracurricular) and teams can become little cliques within the student body, with players sometimes living and eating together. Intramurals are a fun option for those not interested in joining a varsity team.
Bates has been an SAT-optional institution since 1984.
Bates appeared in an episode of The Sopranos when Tony and his daughter Meadow visit New England colleges. (Meadow ends up attending Columbia.)
Dave Matthews attributed the sparking of his career to a concert “at this little college in Maine.”
Bates students invented a game called “One Ringing” where you call a friend during a sports match and hang up after one ring to torture him. The game was mentioned in a Sports Illustrated article in July 2006.
Housing options at Bates are extremely varied, and since students are required to live on campus all four years, most get to experience a range of residences. The ten dorms and 25 college-owned houses offer rooms from singles to quads and most of them provide residents with a kitchen, laundry and lounge. The houses on Frye Street are ideal for those wanting to be the center of the party scene, quiet dorms are perfect for students wanting a 24-hour study/napping atmosphere, and the theme houses provide a place for students with common interests to group up. The school also offers “chem-free living” for those who’d like to opt for a boozeless, drugless existence. As at most schools, freshman year will be spent in the dingier dorms and upperclassmen with high lottery numbers will secure the ritzy rooms. With a small student body where everyone knows each other, doors are always left open and halls quickly become tight-knit friend groups.