The Work of Antiracism at Bates: Progress Update

A Note of Introduction

As promised in a June 2020 letter to the community, this report provides an update regarding progress during the fall semester on antiracism work being carried out across Bates involving students, faculty, staff, and alumni. It also addresses a recent call by students for the college to make clear and actionable its commitment to antiracism. 

The work of antiracism at Bates is grounded in our recognition that the racial hierarchy this nation was founded in and shaped by continues to be part of the lives of Bates students, faculty, staff, and alumni. It is critical to our educational mission to address and act on this reality in order to provide a just and equitable learning environment for all students. 

To achieve this goal, we must disrupt structures of racism that persist in the college’s policies, practices, and culture, and make Bates a place where all members of the community are invited to full participation and belonging. This work needs to be embraced broadly and deeply and advanced through sustained effort across all dimensions of life and work at the college. 

In this spirit, this progress report has been prepared with the input of many individuals. It includes material from racial equity plans developed by various college offices, and it has been endorsed by the Senior Staff. This report highlights specific examples of equity and inclusion work at Bates in areas that are of particular concern to the college community. 

We hope that you will find this document a useful reference, and we encourage you to share ideas for further progress with colleagues in your own areas, with staff in the Office of Equity and Inclusion, or with members of the Senior Staff. 

Clayton Spencer and Noelle Chaddock

Creation of a Trustee Committee on Equity, Inclusion, and Antiracism

To reinforce our commitment to the work of antiracism at every level of the institution, this summer the Bates College Board of Trustees formed a Committee on Equity, Inclusion, and Antiracism as a standing committee of the Board. The committee is chaired by Bates trustee Evelynn Hammonds, a historian of science,  former Dean of Harvard College, and a nationally recognized expert on equity and inclusion in the academy. 

This committee’s mission is to serve as a resource for the college’s efforts to cultivate and maintain a Bates community that is welcoming, equitable, inclusive, and antiracist. It will help determine the most effective means for engaging and educating the full Board of Trustees on relevant issues and will interact with campus constituencies in carrying out this work. The committee will take the lead in shaping the Board’s role as a strategic partner in the college’s efforts to advance its commitment to antiracism in ways that are concrete, effective, and measurable. 

Telling the Bates Story

Over the past few years, we have worked hard to make more complete and accurate the manner in which we tell the Bates story to ourselves, to prospective students and families, and to the public. Recently, we took the opportunity to frame the narrative of our founding and values in the context of our 10-year reaccreditation by the New England Commission of Higher Education, which included a self-study by the college. In the self-study report, we made clear that Bates has a deep-seated commitment to an inclusive educational mission, which is a strong through-line in our history and guides our work to this day. We were also careful to stress that this commitment began aspirationally and remains an unrealized, though central, goal. Specifically, we stated the following:

Bates was founded in 1855 by Freewill Baptist abolitionists. Because our founders believed that all human potential should be developed, they admitted African Americans to study along with white students, and women along with men, and they banned fraternities and sororities because they repudiated social hierarchy. Bates was exceptional in taking these positions. However, our efforts at true equity, inclusion, and access were imperfect and were shaped from the beginning by U.S. social norms that promoted hierarchies of race and gender: The first six female students were forced out of the college, no African Americans graduated until 1874, and some early philanthropy was derived from cotton fortunes made on the backs of slaves.

Despite these and other shortcomings over our 165 years as a college, the pursuit of access and equality in education runs deep throughout our history and mission and animates our current efforts to ensure that all members of our community are supported to thrive here.

In recent years, the Bates Communications Office has published historical features, working with students, faculty, and staff to highlight the complexities of our institutional narrative. For example, earlier this year, BatesNews published a story chronicling this work across the Bates community in a feature that took a deeper examination of our founding. This article will also be published in the Fall 2020 issue of Bates Magazine, which reaches 23,000 readers. The work of illuminating a fuller institutional narrative is ongoing throughout the college.

Racial Equity Education and Training Across the College

We have heard from faculty and staff across the college that they welcome opportunities for systematic training and education on issues of race, racism, equity, inclusion, and antiracism that they can apply to their work. We have undertaken a variety of strategies to respond. 

  • This past academic year, the entire Senior Staff, including the president, participated in a three-day, intensive racial equity training with an outside consultant. In addition to Senior Staff, more than a third of staff across the college (228) have participated in racial equity training over the past three years, as have 34 faculty members.
  • More recently, the college created a staff position that provides us with internal capacity for racial equity education and antiracism training for faculty, staff, and students. Nicollette Mitchell joined us this fall as the inaugural Director of Equity and Inclusion Education. Nicollette has convened a faculty and staff working group that will assess needs and develop plans and timelines for extending racial equity education and training across the college. 
  • We have created, and will continue to curate, a website that provides readings, videos, blog posts, and other resources for members of the Bates community seeking to learn more about antiracism.  

Community Engagement, Support, and Commitment

Since their arrival in summer 2019, Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Noelle Chaddock has hosted a number of sessions in varying formats to invite all members of our community into conversations about the work of antiracism at Bates; to better understand how Bates is experienced in its many dimensions by BIPOC, LGBTQAIP2+, and historically marginalized students, staff, faculty, and alumni; to create space to process difficult issues from the external environment that have an impact on our community; and to explore ideas for generating a greater sense of belonging in our most vulnerable and disenfranchised populations. Following are examples of these opportunities.

  • Commons Conversations is a series designed to create space for community members to come together and have conversations centered on issues of equity, inclusion, access, and educational justice. To date, the Office of Equity and Inclusion has sponsored 17 Commons Conversations, with approximately 400 participants.
  • A series of virtual forums open to all members of the community has grown out of Commons Conversations, including the Let’s Talk about Race series and opportunities for the reading and discussion of books and other media, including White Fragility, How to Be an Antiracist, and the documentary 13th.
  • The college has provided a series of virtual opportunities this summer and fall to hold space for community members to process issues of race and racism in light of the ongoing killings of black people and persistent diminishment of black lives in the United States.  
  • On Nov. 21, 2020, the Office of Equity and Inclusion hosted the first in a three-part series on Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation with Dean of Students and Chief Diversity Officer Demi Brown of Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss. This series is open to students, faculty, and staff. The truth, racial healing, and transformation framework is designed to help communities move beyond the transactional nature of reconciliation to the substantive work of transformation through “truthful narratives,” the work of “dismantling the hierarchy of human value,” and the convening of “racial healing circles” as they have been developed by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. These sessions will extend into the winter semester with several opportunities for community members to participate. 

Curricular Transformation, Inclusive Pedagogy, and the Support of all Students for Academic Success

Over the past several years, we have made concerted efforts to examine our curriculum and teaching in a variety of areas to ensure that we are better equipped to meet the interests and needs of all of our students. We have been active in applying for external grant support for this work, and we have several major initiatives underway.

  • Bates was one of 57 colleges and universities across the country to win a multi-year grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Inclusive Excellence Initiative. We received the grant in 2018, and our work under its auspices will extend through the academic year 2022–23. The goal of this work is for any student at Bates who is interested in STEM to be provided with an inclusive curriculum, support structures, and dedicated faculty and staff mentors to ensure that they have the opportunity not just to survive but to thrive. To date, 68 percent of our STEM faculty have taken advantage of development opportunities in inclusive pedagogy and antiracism. Using inclusive pedagogies, we have also redesigned gateway courses in several STEM disciplines to address disparities of outcomes with regard to race, class, and gender in early STEM courses. In their first and second years, our STEM Scholars work closely with faculty, learn from a range of expert guest lecturers, and receive peer mentoring within their fields from juniors and seniors. This signature and successful program will become a permanent aspect of the STEM pathway for students. To support these efforts, the college created the first endowed professorship, held by biology professor April Hill, dedicated to equity and inclusion in STEM disciplines.
  • We are undertaking similar efforts in curricular transformation and inclusive pedagogy in the humanities and humanistic social sciences with the support of a grant from the Mellon Foundation. Work under the Mellon grant will continue through April 2024. The Bates College Mellon Curricular Grant Committee is actively reviewing applications from two departments for curricular transformation grants and will make funding decisions before the end of this semester.
  • Plans are underway, led by the Office of the Dean of the Faculty, to extend our work and funding in inclusive pedagogies and curricular transformation to the social sciences and interdisciplinary programs. 
  • More recently, students have asked that the college adopt a curricular requirement for all students focused on critical race theory, and subjects including the study of race, gender, sexuality, power, and privilege. Dean of the Faculty Malcolm Hill and the Academic Affairs Council hosted two initial conversations on the topic this month — one meeting with faculty and another with students — to better understand the student request and begin to consider the work that needs to be done. Before the winter semester, the Dean of the Faculty, members of the AAC, interested students, and faculty with relevant expertise will work together to outline a process to design options for a curricular requirement to be considered by the faculty over the course of the winter semester. 

Structural Support for BIPOC and Minoritized Faculty in their Work at Bates and in their Academic Careers  

Various internal surveys confirm that our BIPOC and LGBTQAIP2+ faculty members often feel marginalized within our community and under-supported in their current work and professional development. 

  • Our work to change this reality begins with a commitment to recruit and retain a more demographically representative faculty. We have made measurable progress toward this goal over the past five years. In 2012, new BIPOC faculty represented 14 percent of tenure-track hires. By 2015, that percentage grew to 50 percent. In 2019, 60 percent of new tenure-track hires were BIPOC-identified, and the new faculty cohort for fall 2020 is 67 percent BIPOC-identified.
  • This academic year, Associate Dean of the Faculty Krista Aronson and VPEI Noelle Chaddock began the practice of hosting virtual community-building sessions for new BIPOC faculty members several times a month.
  • In 2018, Bates joined the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity, which sponsors programs for mentoring and support. Fifty-nine faculty members are enrolled in our institutional membership with NCFDD, and 17 have completed the Faculty Success Program as well as other offerings. Two members of this year’s new faculty cohort have already completed the fall session and six more are registered and on track to complete the program in the 2020–21 academic year.
  • Co-chaired by Malcolm Hill and Professor of French and Francophone Studies Mary Rice-DeFosse, the faculty Tenure and Promotion Review Committee will bring forward legislation in the winter semester that creates transparent criteria of evaluation and clear processes for review as faculty progress through the academic ranks at Bates. In related work, the faculty Committee on Personnel will continue the practice, adopted in fall 2018, of beginning its work each year by educating all committee members on the ways that bias can be embedded in the materials and processes governing faculty evaluation. This committee is also creating a “Guide to Good Practice” for colleagues who are in various stages of review.  

Systemic and Structural Change Across the Student Experience

Vice President for Campus Life and Dean of Students Josh McIntosh and colleagues in Student Affairs have taken a leadership role in adapting hiring, programming, and staff development to create processes and culture that better serve the needs of BIPOC and first-generation students and emphasize attention to equity and inclusion across the many dimensions of the student experience.

  • Under the direction of Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Leigh Weisenburger, the college has prioritized increasing the diversity of our student body and access to a Bates education. Building on the recent enrollment of the classes of 2023 and 2024, the most racially diverse classes in the college’s history, the Office of Admission will continue to work actively to recruit, admit, and enroll students from historically marginalized backgrounds.
  • In close collaboration with Student Affairs and the Dean of the Faculty’s office, the Office of Intercultural Education is building out structures to ensure not only retention but belonging and success among BIPOC, LGBTQAIP2+, and first-generation students akin to that experienced by their majority peers. 
  • This fall, the Office of Equity and Inclusion created an Equity, Inclusion, and Antiracism Student Advisory Committee to work with institutional partners to ensure student participation in decision-making and governance processes that directly affect the experiences of BIPOC students at Bates. Members of the advisory committee were nominated and elected through a process open to the entire student body that extended from August 18 through September 16, 2020.
  • Equity- and inclusion-related programming has been added to training programs for student organizations and clubs as well as Residence Life and Student Health student positions; to Purposeful Work programming; and in an intensified form to first-year Orientation. Additionally, antiracism values are a core element of a comprehensive student leadership framework, funded by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation, that encompasses 20 leadership programs across the college. Student Affairs, in partnership with a number of offices across the college, is currently working to strengthen the reach and effectiveness of these offerings.
  • On Aug. 1, 2020, Rachel Roberson joined the college as Assistant Dean of Educational Support Services and Director of the Bobcat First! program. With this appointment, we have broadened the scope of Bobcat First! to improve the ways in which first-generation to college, BIPOC, and minoritized students are advised and guided throughout their college experience, through student support advising and other structures.
  • As part of a broader effort to advance the work of antiracism within the areas of safety and security, Student Affairs has changed the name “Security and Campus Safety” to “Campus Safety,” reflecting a shift away from the language of policing. Additionally, Campus Safety staff have participated and continue to participate in racial equity training, including programs on bias-based profiling. Finally, a student advisory council was appointed to work with Campus Safety on a range of issues, including issues of bias and racism.

Structural Support for Staff from Historically Marginalized Groups

Just as Bates is committed to building a more demographically representative faculty and student body, we are also committed to recruiting and retaining a more diverse workforce across all departments and supporting BIPOC staff and other staff in their participation in the life of the college and professional development.

  • When new positions open up at any level, departments are being asked to adapt their current staff recruitment and hiring practices to ensure that they are working intentionally to diversify applicant pools and implement equitable, inclusive, and antiracist search and hiring processes.
  • Departments within the college are also taking advantage of national efforts to assist colleges in diversifying staff in specific professional areas. For example, Information & Library Services joined a national group to create a three-year residency program for librarians from underrepresented groups, which resulted in the hiring of a BIPOC entry-level librarian at Bates. The Office of College Advancement is working with the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) on strengthening its inclusive hiring practices.
  • Beyond recruiting a more diverse staff, creating a more equitable and supportive environment for our BIPOC staff is critical. For example, Student Affairs has created a staff of color affinity group to foster a greater sense of community and connection. A priority in the upcoming search for the next Assistant Vice President for Human Resources will be to identify a strong partner for further efforts at creating inclusion and belonging for staff. Human Resources completed a full revision of the employee handbook in 2019, with many updates made to help ensure equity and inclusion across the college.
  • Director of Title IX and Civil Rights Compliance Gwen Lexow is working with colleagues across the college to develop more responsive structures for bias-, Title IX-, and racism-related reports that will result in accountability for and mitigation of such incidents. This work is in progress, and new processes and structures will be announced once regulatory requirements are made clear by the incoming presidential administration.
  • Many administrative departments have begun the process of evaluating how they can shape or change their culture and services, as necessary, through the use of a racial equity lens. This process is important in order to support the well-being and professional development of BIPOC staff within departments. It is also crucial for all staff at Bates to better understand the lived experiences of students and provide services in a way that meets their needs.
  • In order to develop an institutional racial equity lens to guide the work we do, staff perspectives need to be grounded in education and training. Thus far, more than a third of Bates staff have participated in formal racial equity training. Training will be expanded to reach additional staff under the leadership of the inaugural Director of Equity and Inclusion Education. This work is underway, including December training for staff in Dining, Conferences, and Campus Events and Facilities Services.
  • During summer 2020, each member of the Senior Staff worked within their departments to prepare a plan to guide racial equity work in their own organization. Draft plans were submitted to the president and VPEI in early September, and the leaders and managers in the various offices are currently working to refine and implement their departmental strategies.
  • Our Director of Equity and Inclusion Education is working with administrators and head coaches in Athletics to build capacity to lead conversations about equity, inclusion, and antiracism with their teams and with each other.

Engagement and Support of BIPOC, LGBTQAIP2+, and First-Generation Alumni

In January 2020, Julisa De Los Santos joined the Office of College Advancement as Senior Associate Director of Alumni Engagement and Director of MOSAIC programs to lead our efforts in increasing the engagement and support of BIPOC, LGBTQAIP2+, and first-generation alumni. 

  • Efforts to date have focused on: developing a strategic plan for this work that begins with a survey to better understand the interests and needs of alumni; increasing engagement through programming that is responsive to these interests and needs; strengthening the relationship of MOSAIC alumni with each other and with the college through college support of affinity networks; and cultivating stronger connections between alumni and current BIPOC, LGBTQAIP2+, and first-generation students.
  • Before the end of 2020, the Office of College Advancement will join six peer liberal arts institutions to collaborate on a workshop designed to explore new approaches to equity and inclusion programming for alumni.

Needs Assessment, Problem-Solving, and Measurement of Success

Under the leadership of Tom McGuinness, our Office of Institutional Research, Analysis, and Planning is a key partner in providing a strong analytical basis for our equity, inclusion, and antiracism work across the college. Recognizing the limitations of traditional outcomes measures such as graduation rates and grades, we are employing new, holistic approaches to student outcomes assessment that focus on the different ways in which students thrive during their time at Bates. These approaches include the use of surveys and quantitative analysis, as well as qualitative and participant-led research so the work elevates the voices of our community members in ways traditional survey methods and analyses may not allow. Specific examples are described below.  

  • Multiple surveys, including the Senior Survey, conducted each year, and the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education Faculty Survey, completed in 2018, have identified diversity, equity, and inclusion as issues that the college needs to address. 
  • During the 2018–19 academic year, the Office of the Dean of Students, the Center for Global Education, and the Office of Institutional Research, Analysis, and Planning collaborated on the International Student Needs Assessment project. This participant-led research project incorporated focus groups, a survey, and analyses of institutional data to identify key issues facing international students at Bates. This effort resulted in initiatives that have improved international student programs and services. Additionally, the project established a model for participant-led research at Bates that we aspire to apply to future campus climate studies.
  • As part of the college’s HHMI grant, we have engaged with an external evaluator to conduct an analysis of Active and Inclusive Search Plans, which are required of all new hire proposals to ensure that departments and programs are devoting attention to equity and inclusion at all stages of faculty searches. The product of this effort will be a framework that can be used to understand how faculty approaches to recruitment and hiring processes have evolved and to identify the ways in which the college can have more equitable and inclusive hiring practices.
  • In order to better understand how BIPOC students experience the humanities and humanistic social sciences at Bates, the Office of Institutional Research, Analysis, and Planning has partnered with the VPEI to provide an analytical basis for curricular transformation. This work, funded by the Mellon Foundation, has investigated traditional and non-traditional measures of student success and evaluated senior survey assessments of educational experiences by students who majored in the humanities and humanistic social sciences.

Ongoing Efforts

This report aims to give the Bates community a sense of the depth, breadth, and concreteness of our institutional seriousness about the work of equity, inclusion, and antiracism, as well as the commitment of many individuals across the college to carrying this work forward. Please consider this document part of an evolving body of work that will be updated twice yearly as the work progresses.