Bates responds to Supreme Court’s ruling on race-conscious college admissions

Dear Members of the Bates Community:

We are deeply disappointed by today’s decision by the Supreme Court, a ruling that turns back the clock on 45 years of established constitutional principle and significantly restricts the admissions practices used at many colleges and universities, including Bates. 

The Court fails to acknowledge the role of race in American history and contemporary social structures. It also undervalues the crucial role that higher education plays in building a healthy and informed democracy and providing individuals of all backgrounds with the opportunity to fulfill their human potential. Bates will comply with the law. Yet, the Court’s ruling does not change who we are and what we value. 

Bates was founded in 1855 as a college with a core commitment to educational opportunity, far ahead of the norms of its time. We were the first coeducational college in New England, and we educated Black and white students together. Bates understood from the beginning that if it limited the opportunity for a college education to white men only, as was the custom of the day, it would be complicit in further entrenching our nation’s historic systems of oppression. We also learned, over time, that opening one’s doors is not sufficient to ensure equity in education. Despite admitting students of color, it still took almost 20 years for Bates to graduate its first Black student. Put simply, progress requires firm commitment and sustained effort. 

When we highlight in our mission statement the “emancipating potential of the liberal arts,” we speak not only of what we teach and how we teach, but also of whom we teach and from whom we learn. We understand that a diverse faculty and curriculum are essential to shaping thoughtful citizens and leaders of a globally interconnected world. We also recognize that students learn beyond the classroom. They learn from one another by sharing ideas and navigating differences to build community. A learning environment populated by students who are diverse across many dimensions—including racially diverse—is essential to an education that develops students ready to embrace the opportunities and tackle the challenges of the complex and fast-changing world they will inherit. These are our values and they will remain our touchstone as we move forward under changed circumstances.  

We will not allow the Court’s decision to diminish our commitment to our current students or the students we will continue to seek out. We will take this opportunity to do what we do best: think creatively and experiment with new strategies consistent with the law that will allow us to continue to craft a class with diverse identities, life experiences, interests, and perspectives. Now, as before, we will meet students where they are—at their high schools, in their college-access programs, and in their local communities. We will also make clear how hard we work to create a welcoming and inclusive environment on campus so that all students are supported to do their best work and thrive in the classroom and beyond. 

We know that many of you will have questions and concerns about what the Court’s decision means for Bates and how we will move forward. The college has been working with legal counsel in preparation for this decision, and we will continue to do so. We are committed to keeping you informed as our thinking evolves. 

To this end, over the next several months, we will offer opportunities for our community to better understand the decision and how it will affect Bates’ practices. In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about the topic, please see these resources.

We appreciate your support and commitment as we continue to work together on this fundamental aspect of our mission.


Clayton Spencer

Garry W. Jenkins