Middlebury Dean of Admissions Nicole Curvin and Interim Executive Vice President and Provost Michelle McCauley sent the following message to the Middlebury community on March 9.
Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,
As colleges and universities await the U.S. Supreme Court decision on the use of race in admissions at Harvard and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, we write to provide an overview of the issues and how we at Middlebury are preparing.
Middlebury is participating in the Supreme Court case by supporting Harvard’s use of race as one factor among many considered in a holistic admissions process. Middlebury joined 32 liberal arts colleges in signing an amicus curiae brief filed with the Supreme Court articulating the continuing need to consider race in admissions so that we may enroll students who bring a wide variety of perspectives and experiences to liberal arts and sciences education. The court’s decision is expected to come in June.
Since the 1970s, the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld challenges to race-conscious admissions practices—often called “affirmative action.” However, given recent questions raised by currently sitting justices on this subject, many in higher education expect the Supreme Court will overrule previous precedent and make it unconstitutional for U.S. colleges and universities to consider a student’s race in the admissions review process. If the court rules against or significantly narrows the use of race in admissions, Middlebury must abide by the court’s decision and adapt our policies, programs, and practices in accordance with the law. This will create challenges for us, but we remain committed to Middlebury’s mission.
Many studies have shown that diversity drives excellence; diverse communities are more creative and rigorous in their deliberations and able to fulfill their mission more effectively. Middlebury has a long record of driving excellence through diversity; that value is core to our mission, and we will continue to be mission driven in our recruitment of the best students from across the country and the world.
The Senior Leadership Group is preparing in several ways for the possibility that the Supreme Court will narrow or eliminate the use of race in admissions. The Office of Admissions will evaluate potential strategies and changes in response to the decision, in close consultation with our general counsel, Hannah Ross, and the provost’s office. That work includes assessing the barriers that marginalized students may face during the college admissions process and developing new strategies to provide access to a Middlebury education.
In addition, we will consider programs and practices outside of admissions that may be impacted by the Supreme Court’s decision, ranging from scholarships to recruitment practices to student support programs. Vice President for Student Affairs Smita Ruzicka and Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Khuram Hussain are leading this work, which will also include community participation in panel discussions, and student-led conversations.
We know that students who experience a variety of perspectives from others with different lived experiences, talents, and interests in our classrooms are better prepared and more successful after they leave Middlebury. Creating a robust and inclusive public square has always been a priority at Middlebury, and it will continue to be integral to admissions. We will look for opportunities and holistic approaches that offer access to a wide range of students and will strive to drive excellence through diversity and to ensure that our Middlebury community is reflective of our world.
If the law changes, it will be a learning experience for us all, and it will take time to navigate any impacts and to successfully implement an inclusive admissions process that adheres to the law while still supporting Middlebury’s mission. We are not alone in this work and will look to other institutions facing the same challenges, as well as to those in states where consideration of race in college admissions is no longer legal, such as California, Michigan, and Texas. We know that some of these other institutions experienced decreases in enrollment of particular groups of students and worked hard to address those shifts. Middlebury has made great strides in recruiting more diverse and talented classes and in providing an enriching student learning experience for all. Our vision of preparing students to solve the world’s most challenging problems demands that we continue to seek talent everywhere.
Throughout the spring semester and beyond, we will share a series of communications about how the Court’s decision could affect Middlebury and our commitment to building excellence through creating and maintaining an inclusive community. No matter what happens, we will continue to ensure that Middlebury is accessible to all.
Dean of Admissions
Interim Executive Vice President and Provost