Advance at UNM stands with UNM President Garnett Stokes, Provost James Holloway and other academic leaders across the country in declaring that work towards a diverse, equitable, and inclusive academic community will continue.
The Supreme Court decision to strike down race-based college admissions will have an impact far beyond undergraduate admissions. We don’t know what the impact will be on faculty, staff, or students.
For now, we’re educating ourselves and will be sharing links and information as we all learn more. We will persist.
News and Information
Statement from UNM President Garnett Stokes
On June 29, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in the Students for Fair Admission v. Harvard and University of North Carolina cases invalidating their specific admissions programs in relation to how they consider race and severely restricting the consideration of race in admissions generally. The Court ruled that Harvard’s and UNC’s admissions practices in relation to race violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The Court did not entirely ban the consideration of race in admissions, however, stating that “nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise.”
This ruling has far-reaching implications affecting access to higher education for countless students for generations to come. We have yet to understand what the full impact will be, but we in academia must carefully and creatively consider how we respond to this important question: by further limiting affirmative action, what message is being sent to current and future students regarding their sense of belonging in our classrooms and on our campuses? More importantly, what must we do as institutions of higher education to make sure that students are not dissuaded by such messages?
At UNM, we will lead. U.S. colleges and universities provide an unparalleled system of higher education; but they also offer bountiful opportunities and experiences, including diverse campus communities, in which to develop critical thinking skills, challenge assumptions, and communicate and collaborate effectively with people of different backgrounds, cultures and worldviews. We will continue to preserve these critical opportunities for learning and for personal and intellectual growth in spite of socially and politically constructed challenges and barriers, whether it’s the affordability of a college degree, challenges to curriculum, misunderstanding of higher education, or skepticism that diverse students belong in college. Here at UNM we will ensure that our students know that they belong and that we will do everything we can to make sure that they thrive here. Higher education may not be the optimal path for everyone, but it should always be an accessible and well-lit path for anyone who wants to take it. When we limit access to education, we shackle the nation. Our nation’s history has included systems that claim to support equality, while, at the same time, sadly, constructing barriers for those who are most vulnerable and disadvantaged by those same systems. Again, in 2023, American higher education cannot afford to restrict access, or to be perceived as a place where certain people can’t or don’t belong.
Here at UNM we will do and be better for our students, for their sake and for the sake of the nation. June 29, 2023 I was a first-generation college student more than 50 years ago, and I know what it’s like to think you don’t belong in college. It doesn’t take much to convince someone they can’t or shouldn’t pursue a higher education. The result can be thwarted aspirations, deferred dreams and unrealized potential that sets back not only individuals, but our communities and our nation. I am glad I was told that I do belong…and that I listened. Here at UNM we will not send messages that some do not belong, and we will especially not send such messages to those whose path may be the most challenging. As the University for New Mexico, we fully and openly embrace the cultural diversity that has made UNM, and our state, such a unique place to live and learn and grow for generations. With one of the most diverse campuses in the country, we strive to give our students the vital sense of belonging to the Lobo community, which understands, values, and respects them.
Through our participation in the Student Experience Project (SEP), a collaborative committed to innovative, research-based practices that foster a greater sense of student belonging, we know the impact that being valued, included, and accepted on our campuses has on our students, especially those who come from communities traditionally underrepresented in college. Since 2020, we have seen failure and withdrawal rates drop, as well as an increase in the number of students receiving As and Bs. Just as important, students have told us that their sense of identity safety, social connection and belonging improved notably under SEP practices. SEP is just one way we are investing in a healthier, more productive, and more successful campus environment for everyone. I strongly believe it is our obligation to ensure our doors, experiences, and culture remain accessible and open to everyone. We owe all students full access to a college education and the gateway to a life of endless opportunities that such an education provides. Maya Angelou said that “you may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” We will continue to champion and lead in what we already do – build belonging through inclusivity; we will not be reduced. At UNM we don’t create barriers…we are committed to removing them. As per our institutional mission, we will continue to provide an unfettered path to higher learning, personal fulfillment, and a better future for our students.
Garnett S. Stokes, President
Statement from UNM Provost James Holloway
The Supreme Court of the United States ruled yesterday that race-based admissions processes in higher education violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, although some race conscious decisions do not. This ruling takes place in a context of numerous legislative actions in at least 21 states intended to thwart diversity, equity, and inclusion work and even to restrict what we teach or research. With so many steps simultaneously taken in apparent alignment, we have the sense that our values are under assault and that the very principles that drew many of us to UNM are being diminished. And frankly, in some quarters, they are.
At UNM we celebrate, and we will continue to celebrate, the broad scope of New Mexican peoples and cultures, and of the many societies of the world. We are proud to do so. Over the past two years, UNM came together in the 2040 planning process to articulate our values and to describe the center of learning we wish to create over the next two decades. And so, in our UNM 2040 framework, one of our core values is inclusion and “we respect and celebrate the differences of all persons and value working in a collaborative environment where diversity is cherished and there is a shared sense of belonging.”
In valuing diversity in an inclusive university community, we affirm the relationships, furnish the knowledge, and support the health of peoples and places, necessary for a better and more equitable world. UNM 2040 takes ownership of the promise of inclusive excellence, and rather than assuming that we are inclusive because our constituents are diverse, we center the value of inclusion and recognize that we must strive for diversity and equity, not because we have attained these goals, but because we know we have not and must continue to reach. Our values provide us with an ideal to strive for, but seldom an end achieved. And so is it with inclusion – to create the environment in which all are welcome and all have a fair chance for their own success, our choice should be in how to strive, not whether to try.
Inclusion is ours. It is cherished at UNM, and it cannot be separated from us by a court ruling or a legislative action. Nor can such a ruling or action destroy UNM’s promise or poison our beliefs. The only way we can lose our dedication to inclusion and diversity is if we surrender it within ourselves. And so how we respond to these national events will reflect the extent to which we elect to retain our character, or surrender it. Whatever the law, as a public institution we have a duty to obey it. But our values are not dictated by the law. What do we do if a court ruling says we cannot do what we have done in the past? We rethink how we realize our values in programs, practices, and processes, and push forward.
If old tools are denied to us, we seek new tools. It’s vexing, it’s frustrating, it’s maddening. But we will find ways, and the work will not stop.
James Paul Holloway, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
Barbara Rodriguez, Senior Vice Provost
Pamela Cheek, Associate Provost for Student Success
Bill Stanley, Associate Provost for Faculty Success