Institutional Racism at Bates: Take a Stand

Cole Phaire

In this issue of the Bates student, I will be discussing the changes that have taken place on campus at the Office of Intercultural Education (OIE). The purpose of this article is to inform, analyze, and ignite an essential campus wide discussion in regards to the needs of students of color that are not being met on campus. First off, I am a sophomore student from Washington D.C and am the secretary for the Black Student Union. As secretary, my duty is to inform members of the BSU about meetings regarding the club, as well as taking notes at each club meeting to highlight important topics or what is going on with the members in general. When it came to my attention that the OIE would be losing members Charlene, Vydaul, and Julissa, it aroused many questions and suspicions from myself, as well as the rest of the black community at Bates. Why would they leave so suddenly? What caused them to leave? And why was there no direct explanation in regards to departure? These were all questions that students had when discussing the news.

First years Mariam Kane, Emily Diaz, Samuel Jean-Francois, and Lauren Reed held a discussion for students of color that were impacted by the changes that are taking place at the OIE. “We are the most diverse class ever at Bates, yet we have the least amount of resources and faculty support”, said Mariam. This comment raised a point about an ongoing discussion that Bates does not take the students of colors needs seriously. Many students of color believe that overall, Bates lacks the initiative to support students of color due to lack of funding for cultural events, or events to uplift the voices of students of color in general.

At an institutional level, Bates fails to satisfy the needs of students of color in almost every facet. In the spheres of social and academic life, Bates leaves much to be desired by students of color. It fails to make these accommodations to such an extent, that it has created a norm for faculty of color to have short lived tenures on this campus, without helping produce much change, nor uplift black and brown voices on this campus. One could argue that the nature of the governance of Bates campus is inherently oppressive to students of color. For an institution that claims to be for the interests of underrepresented communities, students of color think that they’re not represented enough in spaces that are made for them in the first place. This showed in the discussion held by the first years.

In order to create substantial changes in experience for students of color at Bates, I think there must be three steps taken to do so. One, a recurring discussion regarding what staff and faculty can do to uphold the wants and needs for students of color must be held on a consistent basis in order to deliver power to the voices that should have the final say so in their campus experience. Those who refer to themselves as “allies” to the community of color at Bates must step up and show their support by taking a stand with us. It is not productive nor is it progressive to claim to be an ally and be “for the culture,” but not take the necessary steps in informing your white peers and faculty of the oppressive tendencies in the way this institution is operated. Share black stories and advocate for black equity. Finally three, there must be collective unity between all students of color on campus if there remains a goal to create institutional change. There have been one too many times where changes that impact students of color at Bates have been swept under the rug because students did not follow through. Bates will continue to hinder our voices until we make the collective decision to fight for a fair and just academic experience. If this article resonates with you, I urge you to join the discussion of what needs to change at Bates in the near future. Ashe.