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Head of School's Blog

Occasional musings from Head of School Brad Bates

The Supreme Court and Diversity

Cover Photo by Calvin Bates 

I first visited the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) in the 1990s by way of an invitation from the US Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, Deval Patrick, who happened to be the parent of one of my students. As a history major in college, I studied numerous SCOTUS cases and marveled at the power of the modern court to overturn laws deemed racist and unconstitutional. That day, I went into the court thinking that SCOTUS justices were larger than life and beyond reproach. I discovered they are very much human beings with political and personal views that influence their decision-making. Mr. Patrick was arguing to protect the voting rights of Black Americans in southern Congressional districts. This was a case about access and equity, it was fascinating, and I came away feeling strengthened by our democratic process. 

Photo by Peter Imhoff 

The recent SCOTUS decision deeming race-conscious admission decisions at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina unconstitutional threatens the progress we have made as a country to expand access to education and has further implications for access in the workplace and even at independent schools like Dublin School. Legal precedents established by the case last week are already being referenced in new cases addressing programs commonly referred to under the name of affirmative action. While we do not see a need to change any of our current admission practices, we are working with the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS), and The Association of Independent Schools of New England (ASINE) to make sure we are doing everything we can to protect our community’s diversity while operating under the law.

Our college counselor Holly Macy has been following this evolving case for months now and will make sure that our seniors applying to college are given every opportunity to tell their unique stories throughout the college admissions process as they always have. Our students thrive by living in a diverse community of individuals from different backgrounds than their own, and the colleges they have applied to have always taken notice of the uniqueness of our school community. We are reassured that institutions of higher learning are already taking steps within the law to guarantee the diversity of their student bodies.

The diversity of our campus and the small size of our student population have been defining aspects of our educational mission for decades. We believe, like the people at the National Board for Teaching Standards, that students living in diverse communities develop empathy for people who come from cultures different from their own. When they interact and live with people from different cultures and countries, they develop competencies that will broaden their perspectives and open their minds. Students develop self-confidence and a sense of belonging when they learn to collaborate, live, play, learn, and grow with a diverse group of people where everyone feels heard and respected. Our quickly changing world needs young people with soft skills and a sense of nuance that I believe we learn by living in an intentionally small and diverse community. First Lady Michelle Obama, writing about her college experience, remembered, “and semester after semester, decade after decade, for more than half a century, countless students like me showed they belonged, too. It wasn’t just the kids of color who benefitted, either. Every student who heard a perspective they might not have encountered, who had an assumption challenged, who had their minds and their hearts opened gained a lot too.”

To encourage critical thinking and open dialogue, I urge everyone to read the majority and the dissenting opinions linked here. Earlier this past year, Dean of Students and Belonging Lisa Munoz urged us to follow the advice of Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, who said that “learning is our action step.” Stevenson says, “Hopelessness is the enemy of justice.” We need to learn and have hope to be agents of change.

Ms. Munoz and I feel strongly that dynamic things happen in diverse communities. We invite everyone to be proximate to each other and work to make Dublin School and our country the best they can be.