A message to the Bates community

Dear Members of the Bates Community,

I hope Thanksgiving provided time with family and friends and an opportunity for restoration after an intense couple of months. As we head into the final sprint to winter break, I want to follow up on the message I sent the day after the election.

Specifically, I write to:

  • Make you aware of a set of actions we have taken to speak out against any present or potential encroachment on the rights of individuals in our community or values central to the Bates mission;
  • Clarify college policy with respect to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and undocumented students; and
  • Call upon all of us to work together to advance the ideals of our campus and community.

As has been widely reported, a divisive election season has been followed, across the United States, by a number of racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and similar incidents, ranging from offensive comments and harassment to outright violence. Some of the reported incidents have occurred on college campuses or in their immediate environs, including on the edges of our own campus.

These incidents are contrary to the values on which Bates was founded and they contribute to an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty that goes beyond the ambiguity often associated with a transition in political leadership. Even as we wait to see the concrete policies that will emerge under a new administration, the rhetoric of the campaign — and the way it is magnified in the hands of certain groups — has created an atmosphere that is personally threatening to a number of individuals in our community and offensive and destabilizing to many more.

For these reasons, I recently signed an open letter to President-elect Trump from college and university presidents affirming the basic values of human decency, equal rights, freedom of expression, and freedom from discrimination and pushing back against a climate of harassment, hate, and acts of violence.

I also joined more than 100 college and university presidents in a statement urging the continuation and expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. As you may be aware, Bates welcomes applications from all students without regard to their immigration status, and applications for admission from DACA and undocumented students are treated the same as those from domestic students. Likewise, DACA and undocumented students are eligible to apply for institutional, need-based financial aid, and, as with all students, we meet the full demonstrated financial need of any admitted student.

We are committed not only to admitting students without regard to their immigration status but also to ensuring the safety and support of all students while on campus. We will not release information about students’ citizenship or immigration status unless legally compelled to do so nor will we take voluntary action that would put any students at risk solely because of their immigration status.

Adding our name to these letters is not meant as a partisan gesture but rather as a public defense of the values that define who we are, how we support all members of our community in the fulfillment of their personal and educational goals, and how we do the work of scholarship and teaching that are the lifeblood of a healthy democracy. I will continue to work with my fellow college presidents and higher education associations to monitor policy developments as they emerge and react accordingly.

I have also spent time over the past several weeks talking with and listening to students, faculty, and staff about related issues. I have heard the personal anguish of students whose parents are recent immigrants, the shock and fear of persons of color observing a public discourse about white nationalism, and the anxiety of LGBTQ+ members of our campus who fear a reversal of hard-won progress on issues of sexual orientation and gender. I have also heard from politically conservative students who have been made to feel that their views are not regarded as a legitimate dimension of political debate on this campus.

We cannot fully control outside events. We do, however, have the responsibility to do everything within our power to defend our values, to ensure the safety of our students and protect them from discrimination, and to foster a campus climate defined by deep listening, mutual respect, and honest discourse on even the most difficult subjects.

As we move into 2017, I encourage us to continue to talk, to listen, and to work together to advance the ideals of our campus and community.

Sincerely yours,