Bates+Who?: A New Coalition for Racial Justice at Bates


Bates+Who? Logo

Bates+Who? is a coalition of Bates students standing up to contest the abuses of Bates Campus Security officers against students at Bates (especially against students of color). The group formed in response to a long train of abuses committed by security   – the incident involving a black student and two Bates security officers on Saturday, May 13 was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back. The name “Bates+Who” is a riff off of Bates’ newly launched capital campaign “Bates+You,” through which the school seeks to raise $300 million dollars. At the Bates+You campaign launch event on Tuesday, May 16 at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston – to which the school invited over 800 alumni and donors – Bates+Who organized a non-violent protest where we passed out the information found below to nearly every individual in attendance. Our goal is not to defund Bates – we hope they meet and well exceed their financing initiative – our goal is to problematize the College’s claim that Bates educates “through the transformative power of difference.” We believe that our racist Campus Security culture and officers serve as a testament against Bates’ idealist claims of diversity and difference. We will continue to organize acts of civil disobedience until our demands outlined below are reasonably met. 


We firmly believe that Bates is failing to live up to the radical egalitarian principles that this College was founded upon. On Saturday, May 13 at a dance hosted by the Bates Women of Color, a black male student was forcibly grabbed by a Bates Security officer, violently taken to the ground, placed in a headlock and ultimately handcuffed in front of his peers. His spirit has not been broken. We believe that the College has not taken appropriate action in responding to this incident of clear racial violence. Further, we know through personal experience that this incident is not singular – it is one of many examples of injustice that Bates Security officers have committed against students of color on campus in recent years. We are here organized in non-violent direct action seeking immediate change.

1. We want Honesty from President Spencer

President Clayton Spencer’s email response concealed the reality that Bates Security used excessive force during this incident. Further, the message sent to students, faculty and staff did not directly address the fact that the student detained was a person of color and the role anti-black racial bias played in this incident. We believe President Spencer has a responsibility to notify all members of the Bates community (i.e. including alumni and parents) of this event and the role that racism played.

2. We want Bates Security fired

We believe the excessive force used and incompetence exhibited during the incident was so egregious as to warrant the immediate firing of both security officers involved. They detained in handcuffs a non-violent Bates student and turned a Village common room into a public prison cell.

3. We want a Progressive Head of Security

Bates is now searching for a new Director of Security. We believe the person hired must have a radically different vision of what security ought to be. That person (most preferably a person of color) should first and foremost have the health and well being of all students in mind. They must be deeply familiar with the realities of racial injustice in the United States and have the prior experience and leadership abilities to reshape Bates security from a group set on “policing” students – to a group set on fostering communication and trusting relationships with all students at Bates and particularly students of color on campus.

4. We want a transparent and just re-write of the Bates Security Policy

Nowhere in the Bates Student Handbook is there any mention of the procedures and methods Security officers are supposed to follow when interacting with students. The reality is that Campus Security officers at Bates treat students (and especially students of color) in a punitive and dehumanizing manner. Often times they search our rooms without reason and without asking. We believe that we have a right to know the official security policy on how to interact with students (if there is one) and we also believe we have a fundamental right to privacy.

5. We believe that there is no middle ground for white students, faculty and admins

You are either part of the problem or part of the solution. Students of color experience the effects of racism at Bates every day. Bates is not immune from “real world” issues of racial injustice. This event proves this fact. White people make up 61% of the student body, 79% of the faculty, and the overwhelming majority of the administration – we need your committed support right now to effect change.

6. We believe that Bates has problems (many), but can learn from its radical past

Bates was founded on the idea that anybody – regardless of race, class, or gender – deserved an equal opportunity to receive an education. Thus, Bates has admitted black students for its entire 162-year history. Bates (1855) admitted women over 100 years before Bowdoin (1969), Williams (1971), and Amherst (1980). That’s our radical past. Our question: what radical decisions is Bates making today (2017) to put the College 100 years ahead of our peer schools? Our answer: none.

We call on Bates students, staff, faculty, alumni, administration and security to rekindle the flame of our radical egalitarian ethos as the College charts its future course through its Bates+You capital campaign.

This weekend our friend was arrested by a Bates security officer outside of the Benjamin E. Mays center. He was publically humiliated – and forced to feel less than human. We call on the words of one of Bates’ most dignified graduates – Professor Benjamin Elijah Mays (class of 1920) to remind us of what Bates College ought to be for all students – and especially students of color: “Bates College did not ‘emancipate’ me: it did the far greater service of making it possible for me to emancipate myself, to accept with dignity my own worth as a free man.”

Since 1855, Bates College has been dedicated to the emancipating potential of the liberal arts. Bates educates the whole person through creative and rigorous scholarship in a collaborative residential community. With ardor and devotion — Amore ac Studio — we engage the transformative power of our differences, cultivating intellectual discovery and informed civic action. Preparing leaders sustained by a love of learning and a commitment to responsible stewardship of the wider world, Bates is a college for coming times.

  • Bates alum

    Sounds like a horrible situation and more transparency should be provided. Without surrounding facts it is too easy for members of the Bates community to retreat to their predisposed biases. Also, was it Bates security that did the handcuffing and “arresting” or police?

    • Desirae Valentin

      Bates Security did the “arresting” and handcuffing; however, they do not have the keys to unlock said handcuffs, so the Lewiston Police had to come and do so.

  • Another Bates alum

    My freshman year at Bates was more than 5 years ago, and the problems concerning security were just as prevalent then – just talked about less. Even as a white student, I personally saw several examples of security abusing their power and targeting students of color unfairly. I cannot imagine what students of color go through with security on a regular basis.

    Speaking as an alum who has given money to Bates and will continue to give money to Bates, this movement’s goals are reasonable. Bates wants to transform its facilities and academics to keep up with the changing times; it is time for it to undergo these necessary changes so that ALL students are safe at Bates.

  • Obi-Wan Kenobi

    5. Only a Sith would deal in absolutes.

  • Young Bates Alum

    Hi Bates+Who– thank you for calling attention to this issue. Question for the students leading this work: what’s the best way for alumni to support your efforts?

    • Korbin Houston

      Hi feel free to message me to learn how to help out!

      • Anike Tourse

        Hi Korbin – I think several alumni are asking how we can help especially as many of us will be coming up for our respective reunions in June. Please let us know the actions you are hoping alumni can take, thank you! – Anike Tourse, ’92

        • Korbin Houston

          Hi Anike! You have my email (and I am also on Facebook) so feel free to message me and I can give more detailed ways to help out.

      • Young Bates Alum

        Hi Korbin,

        Happy to reach out, where can I find your contact info? And I agree with the other posters that it would be great for this info to be public and shareable.

  • Young Alum

    Thank you for sharing this with the Bates community at large. As a recent alum, I definitely witnessed some of this on campus, and felt that the administration did not always meet the needs of the entire Bates bubble. As a female, white-bodied student, I carry a great deal of privilege, but I often found myself aware of how my peers and close friends’ rights were being trampled unjustly. What can the alumni community do in order to support LGBTQ+ and students of color on campus?

    Thanks for doing this important work!
    Talia Mason ’15

    • Korbin Houston

      Feel free to feel out this survey and you will be prompted at the end to have actions you can take as an alum

  • International alum

    I am deeply troubled to hear about this incident. There needs to be a fundamental shift in the way that campus security operates. They are there for the sole purpose of providing safety and security to everyone on campus. I’ve heard from current students that security officers involved in this incident claimed that they felt threatened. Even if this is true, which it isn’t from eye-witnesses, why is it that the safety of the officers come before the safety of students? Did they not receive enough training to handle situations like this without resorting to the use of violence and handcuffs?

    I want to know what the criteria is regarding handcuffing anyone. Simply claiming that a student posed a threat to an officer is enough?

    This line of reasoning, that the person posed a threat to the officer, is the most common reason put forward by the police in US to justify violence against people of color. Seeing this trend creep into Bates security is not a good sign, and as an alum I am deeply, deeply troubled.

    President Clayton should be honest to the Bates community in fully acknowledging the salient facts of this issue.

    Bates needs to do more to integrate with its larger community. The Bates bubble contributes to this. It is time for Bates to move beyond making wordy statements of their commitment to diversity and do the hard things.

  • Incoming Student

    I’m an incoming student who selected Bates based on it’s history of egalitarianism. To see this history tarnished like this is infuriating. I chose the school that was founded by abolitionists, not the one that beats its students of color.

    Organizers: If there’s anything I can do to help let me know. Because I’m not on campus yet, I don’t have any of your contact info, but I’d really like to get in touch.

    • Alum

      Your concern is admirable and your efforts are that of a future leader however beating is not mentiond or implied. Please don’t slander the school before you’ve even arrived and I hope your Bates experience teaches you not to rush to judgement.

      • Incoming Student

        Duly noted. But regardless, I am deeply troubled. As someone who’s trying to prepare for a huge transition from high school to Bates, this is really the last type of thing I want to see right now.

        • Bates aulm

          Would you rather it swept under the rug? Bates may have its problems but the administration is responding to them in a Bates like fashion.

          • Incoming Student

            No, I’d rather this incident never happened in the first place. I’ve haven’t seen any response from the administration. It would be much appreciated if you could point me to one though; I’d be very interested in what they have to say.

    • Emily Manter

      I’m not an organizer, but could I connect you with one? Not sure what kind of work/story collecting they’re doing specifically at the moment, but I know that your voice as an incoming student is powerful!

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