Last week, the College held a panel discussion about affirmative action and the case currently before the Supreme Court, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, which could overturn affirmative action in higher education. We hoped that the discussion would be sincere and honest—and that people would feel comfortable enough to express themselves, even if that meant saying something unpopular. We also hoped that the audience would remain open-minded and give consideration to the diverse views surely to be expressed.
I think that is exactly what happened. Audience members voiced many differing opinions, sometimes disagreeing with one another, sometimes heatedly so. Yet, for the most part, the audience, panel, and moderators navigated a difficult, deeply personal topic with civility and tolerance. I want to thank those who were challenged by this frank conversation for coming and participating.
Here are some of the questions that were raised:
- How does the number of students of color compare to other groups on campus?
- Once students of color have come to Middlebury, is the College doing enough to help them stay at Middlebury?
- If the Supreme Court overturns affirmative action, how will Admissions be able to achieve a diverse student body?
- Should admissions decisions be colorblind?
- What other types of identity groups (e.g., athletes, legacies, cellists, etc.) are targeted in the admissions process?
- Can admissions decisions be more transparent?
- How important is Posse to Middlebury?
- When do we stop taking race into account?
- What is the fairest way to handle college admissions decisions?
- What is the collective impact of affirmative action on campuses?
- Does Middlebury have a standard for diversifying faculty?
- Is there a conflict between two goals of action: repairing past segregation and discrimination through affirmative action and taking steps to create a diverse campus?
- By choosing someone based on their race, could they be less qualified?
- What is the true definition of a Middkid?
For those who were unable to attend, you can view the panel discussion here. It is clear that more listening, learning, and engaging needs to take place on our campus. We have work to do, so let’s keep communicating honestly, openly, and respectfully.
I wrote about this topic in an earlier post, and encourage you to read the brief that Middlebury filed along with 32 other colleges, in support of affirmative action, diversity, and inclusion in higher education.
Please add your voice to the conversation. I’d love to hear from you.