Bates Diversity Today
With a legacy of inclusiveness since its founding, the College continues to address changing realities of the 21st century.
Bates’ strategic focus includes current initiatives to facilitate a welcoming climate and diverse campus. The goals: to continuously increase the diversity of our campus community, to welcome and support students from underrepresented groups, and to integrate increasingly diverse perspectives into the curriculum.
There is widespread agreement on campus — starting with the president and trustees — that building greater compositional diversity among students, faculty, and staff, and incorporating diversity as a fundamental component in the educational model, are critical to fulfilling Bates’ primary mission: providing an outstanding education for all Bates students.
Ad Hoc Committee on Diversity and Academic Excellence
In 2003-2004, president Elaine Tuttle Hansen convened the Ad Hoc Committee on Diversity and Academic Excellence. This group recommended the creation of the Professional Development Seminar on Stereotype Threat (2004-2005), in which the president and the deans of Faculty, Students, and Admissions participated with members of the faculty and staff.
Special Assistant to the President
In 2005, the president initiated the office of the Special Assistant to the President — an annual faculty appointment — to provide leadership in infusing diversity into the curriculum and campus life.
Since then, the four faculty members who have served as Special Assistant — Professor Liz Tobin from 2005-06, Professor Sue Houchins from 2006-07, and Professor Leslie Hill from 2007 – 11, and Professor Heather Lindkvist in July 2011 — have sought advice of members of the faculty and staff, analyzed committee recommendations focused on diversity since 1992, and initiated the Campus Climate Project.
Campus Climate Project
Starting in 2005, the Campus Climate Project — comprising over 75 students, faculty, and staff — conducted a broadly-based examination of how welcoming our campus is to those not in the majority — as defined along many dimensions, including race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexuality, economic, geographic, and political perspectives — how to make improvements, and how to achieve positive changes in representation and equitable achievement among underrepresented populations.
The groups met throughout the winter semester and short term, brought speakers and consultants to campus, and traveled to study more diverse campuses.
In May, 2007, president Hansen hosted a public symposium called “A College for ‘Coming Time': Diversity and Changing Demographics in Higher Education.” “Given the rapidly changing demographics of the region and the nation,” she said, “it falls to our generation to sustain the founding vision while building for a radically different future.”
“We aspire to increase access and enhance the diversity of this college,” she said. “A learning environment that does not sufficiently reflect and explore the complexity of the world outside its gates and prepare students for full and active participation in a global society falls short of the high standard of excellence for which Bates is rightly known.”
The symposium took its title from early writings of Bates founder Oren B. Cheney, who envisioned a new institution of learning to serve those who did not have easy access to higher education.
Bates’ educational experience is made possible, in no small part, by the administrative environment on campus. In 2005, office staff across campus founded the Bates Office Professionals Network to provide training, support, and collaboration that would lead to the best possible support for the College.
Changing Demographics of U.S. Higher Education
“I believe we stand at a critical juncture. We face a great risk of creating a society cleaved along a very distinct line: those who were able to go to and complete college, and those who were not. …
“Our task today is not to change the world of Bates in a single moment. But we do have the responsibility to proceed in this dialogue about diversity at Bates by recognizing that we must set our sights high and that we need to dream big to make a difference …”Complete remarks.
—Jamie P. Merisotis ’86, Bates Trustee and President of the Institute for Higher Education Policy