Skip to main content
Access for All

Access for All

by President Alison Byerly

President Byerly speaks to the Carleton student body on the importance of building a diverse community.

To the Carleton Community:

This month, the United States Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling on whether colleges and universities can consider an applicant’s race when evaluating their application for admission. While we don’t yet know the Court’s decision, the nature of the questions asked during oral arguments before the Court last October lead most commentators and legal experts ́to expect that the Court will rule against the two universities, the University of North Carolina and Harvard, whose race-conscious admissions practices have been challenged.

Such a ruling would have a significant impact on admissions practices at many colleges and universities, including Carleton. I write today to assure you that, while we will comply with whatever the Court decides, we stand firm in our commitment to increasing the diversity of our student body in every dimension.

To our students in particular, I say: we know that we may have to work harder to build the diverse community that is needed for all students to thrive, grow, and learn from each other. And we are prepared to do that work.

Our efforts to create diversity within our student body and among our faculty and staff are grounded in Carleton’s mission as a liberal arts college that seeks to prepare students for lives of meaning and purpose in a diverse, global society. In the words of the College’s diversity statement, diversity will “sustain and enrich the learning and living environment that defines the institution and its place in the world.” Our community recently came together to reinforce this commitment when the 2022 Community Plan for Inclusion, Diversity and Equity was adopted with a clearly stated goal to “significantly increase representation of students, faculty, and staff on campus from underrepresented populations,” with a focus on Black, Latine, Indigenous and other historically excluded groups.

We have publicly affirmed the importance of a racially diverse learning environment through participation in an August 2021 amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court in support of Harvard, the University of North Carolina, and race-conscious admissions; and in a letter I signed last month on behalf of Carleton, along with 25 other presidents from the Liberal Arts Colleges Racial Equity Leadership Alliance (LACRELA), reiterating our commitment to increasing diversity within our student bodies.

There is no question that if the Court rules against the consideration of race in the admissions process, it will be more challenging to continue to make progress toward the College’s diversity goals. When California, Texas and Michigan banned race-conscious admissions for public institutions, their state universities reported an immediate decline in the number of students of color enrolling. Nevertheless, we believe we will benefit from the holistic approach we have long employed in our admissions process, which uses a variety of sources of information to understand each applicant’s environment and lived experience as a context for assessing their academic accomplishments and co-curricular engagement. We also will continue to build on our partnerships with community-based organizations that help us to identify talented students.

Once we know the specifics of the Court’s decision, we will be able to determine what changes or enhancements to our admissions process may be necessary to ensure that we continue to strengthen the diversity of the students on our campus. We know that this in turn will make Carleton stronger as an educational environment and as a community. I appreciate your support and commitment as we continue to work together towards this critically important goal.

President Byerly

President Alison Byerly