LEWISTON — In response to Thursday’s Supreme Court decision to strike down affirmative action in college admissions, Bates College released a statement criticizing the ruling and affirming the institution’s commitment to admitting a diverse student body through other means.

The Supreme Court’s decision means that colleges and universities cannot consider students’ race as a factor for admission.

“The Court fails to acknowledge the role of race in American history and contemporary social structures,” reads the statement co-signed by outgoing President Clayton Spencer and President-elect Garry Jenkins. “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,” the statement says.

As the first coeducational college in New England, Bates has always been open to admitting men, women and people of color since its founding in 1855, according to the statement. Bates graduated its first African American in 1874, almost 20 years after its founding.

“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,” read the statement.


The strength of a liberal arts education comes not just within the classroom, but from the diverse experiences students and faculty bring to the college, the statement continues. Students not only learn within classrooms, but also from sharing ideas and navigating differences to build community with each other.

“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,” the statement says.

“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,” according to the statement. “Now, as before, we will meet students where they are — at their high schools, in their college-access programs, and in their local communities.”

Spencer is leaving the college this month after an 11-year tenure as president. Jenkins will succeed her on July 1.

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