To the Williams community,
The U.S. Supreme Court just handed down its decision in Students for Fair Admissions, Inc., v. President and Fellows of Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions, Inc., v. University of North Carolina, et al. Chief Justice Roberts’s opinion, which covered both cases, ruled that race-conscious admissions as currently practiced in higher education is unconstitutional. This reinterprets the Court’s own precedent regarding race-conscious admissions by invalidating admission practices that consider race as one factor among many—approaches on which schools have relied for decades.
Diversity, inclusion and access are core values at Williams. We write to you together, as president and Board chair, to affirm that today’s decision will not change those commitments. We especially want to reassert Williams’ commitment to racial diversity, given that race was the central issue in both cases. We are committed to modifying our processes as necessary to continue seeking and supporting a diverse, vibrant and exceptional learning community within the new legal context.
To quote from the college mission:
The strength of the student body today is the product of the college’s resolve to search as widely as possible for students of high academic ability and great personal promise. Diversity is not an end in itself, but a principle flowing from the conviction that encountering differences is at the heart of the educational enterprise—differences, certainly, of ideas and beliefs, but also differences of perspectives rooted in the varied histories students bring with them.
The Court’s full decision is legally complex and was accompanied by concurrences and dissents. It will take time to read, analyze and assess it for its full implications. Programming is being planned for next fall to help everyone consider the potential effects on Williams and higher education. The college will also soon announce a gathering opportunity for people on campus this summer.
For now, we return to our main point: Williams is a remarkable intellectual community in which we see excellence and diversity as fundamentally connected. Although today’s decision has closed off certain established paths toward that vision, especially in regards to race, we will work within the new bounds of law to ensure that the promise of a great liberal arts education remains open to people of all identities, backgrounds and perspectives.
Maud S. Mandel, President; Professor of History; Program in Jewish Studies
Liz Robinson ’90, Chair, Williams Board of Trustees