Bates was founded by abolitionists on the principles of egalitarianism, and Benjamin E. Mays, a Bates alumnus, was an important figure in the human rights movement. Still, Bates is a college in Maine, and the vast majority of students are white. Students here tend to come from two kinds of backgrounds: those who are able to afford the nearly $50,000-per-year comprehensive fee and those who are paying for their education through scholarships. Over the past few years, diversity has been a big issue at Bates, and after a swatstika and racist comments were seen drawn on walls and dorm room white boards, many students formed a rally to end existing discrimination and further diversity on campus. The administration was very receptive to the students’ views, and organized several forums about how to improve diversity at the College. In 2008-09, for the first time ever, the number of minority students on campus was in the triple digits. Bates also offers a rigorous Hughes scholarship program for first years interested in the sciences, and the program, which takes place over the summer, attracts many minority students, allowing them to acclimate to Bates, make friends, and get a leg-up on their science credits and GPA before their semester even begins. The program is selective and pays the participating students. Politically, Bates is mostly liberal, but there is a small conservative following, as well. Bates, without a doubt, is a two-party college—while there may be some independent party voters on campus, the break-down is mostly Democrat and Republican.
Bates students who aren't able to visit the school before they come here may be surprised by the uniformity of the student body. Even students who aren’t minorities but are used to living in a more diverse environment sometimes feel uncomfortable in such a homogenous student body. But despite the small numbers of minorities on campus, the International Club and other minority clubs are a definite presence. Many students, not just internationals or minorities, attend events organized by these clubs, such as the International Fashion Show and the Asian Dinner. Considering its location and the fact that Bates is a small, private school, the College is about as diverse as you’d expect it to be—which just isn’t very much.