All posts by Amelia Evrigenis

Amelia Evrigenis is a former Managing Editor at the Claremont Independent. She's a senior at CMC dual majoring in legal studies and Spanish. A Sacramento native, she enjoys blasting country music, probing vintage clothing stores, and re-watching Smallville episodes on DVD.

On Accidental Weight Loss and the Fear of Gaining it Back

Last semester, my friend Mohammad shared his story on weight loss and body image. He, in turn, inspired me to share mine.

I began to lose weight in my final weeks studying abroad during the fall 2013 semester. My battle with clinical anxiety, which started two and a half years prior, had begun to take a toll on my body. When my worries surged, my appetite disappeared. My calorie count plummeted, and the weight melted off without any intention at all.

I continued to lose weight upon returning to the United States, during winter break and the spring 2014 semester at CMC. Although I did not weigh myself during those periods, I quickly noticed that my clothing no longer fit as it had before. Pants that had once fit snugly around my butt now sagged; shorts that had hugged my thighs hung loose. A couple of my closest friends began to express concern about my rapid weight loss. I felt worried as well, but I was too mentally preoccupied to pay sufficient attention to the matter.

That changed when I returned home for the summer of 2014 and alarmed my family with my tiny frame. My parents and sisters were frightened by my weight loss, which had taken me from lean and healthy to thin-as-a-rail. I attempted to gain weight, but it quickly became a lost cause. By that point, I had lost my appetite altogether. Eating food had become a chore rather than a pleasure; I could no longer enjoy even my favorite meals, although I could nostalgically remember a time when I did.

I hit my low point that summer, when worsening anxiety and a heart-wrenching breakup pushed me to 101 pounds. My original weight had vacillated between 120 and 125.

I am 5’6”. At 101 pounds, my body mass index (BMI) was 16.3. The generally healthy range is between 18.5 and 25. I had dropped from a size 5 to a size 0, which I hadn’t worn since middle school. My doctors began to express concern that my weight loss could have negative long-term consequences on my health.

My appetite slowly began to return during the month of August, as I healed emotionally and found an effective treatment to manage my anxiety. I returned to Claremont last fall knowing that I needed to gain some weight. Still, I peculiarly remained reluctant to gain it all back. Despite my family’s and doctors’ insistence that I was too thin, part of me enjoyed my new frame – and the distorted confidence it gave me. At 101 pounds, I no longer avoided certain outfits in which I had previously felt self-conscious. With virtually no fat on my body, I felt nothing to hide, and I admittedly enjoyed that newfound freedom.

Upon returning to Claremont for the fall 2014 semester, my reluctance to gain weight evolved into more of a fear. My weight loss appeared drastic to those who hadn’t seen me since the previous semester, and I received a myriad of comments about my new body. Some people voiced serious concern, others mere observation. Some people actually complimented me on my weight loss and asked me “how I did it.”

I had never before been very concerned with my weight – nothing beyond the standard self-consciousness that most women face. But as I received comment after comment on my body, I grew fearful that just as my peers had noticed (and even complimented) my weight loss, they would likewise notice any weight gain – and judge me for it. I feared losing control of my weight and being perceived as the Amelia who “let herself go.” I wanted to be the Amelia who kept herself together, and that meant I couldn’t allow myself to gain it all back.

I would not go so far as to say that I developed a diagnosable eating disorder, but I do believe that I was at high risk for one. For a large part of last semester, I found myself unduly concerned with maintaining my stick-thin frame. The warped confidence I felt being so thin, combined with the fear of judgment from my peers, kept me motivated to restrict my diet and complete early-morning workouts to keep the weight off. My body image was also significantly distorted. When I looked in the mirror, I did not see the scary slim body I had; I merely saw a thinner Amelia.

My distorted mindset was like quicksand – so easy to become sucked into, and near impossible to escape on my own. Thankfully, I was not alone, and I firmly believe that the support of my friends, family, and medical professionals are the reason I do not have a full-blown eating disorder today.

Although I initially resisted their advice, my doctor, dietician, and psychologist (all amazing resources of the consortium) encouraged me to recognize my unhealthy behavior. These individuals served as a continual reminder that my weight loss was a medical concern, and that I needed to value my health over whatever social pressures I perceived.

Thanks to the work of those professionals, and the encouragement of my closest friends and family, I have gained some of my lost weight back. I have come to recognize not only how distorted my thinking had become, but also how difficult it is to resist. It has been hard for me to set aside my fear of being judged for weight gain, but I have slowly learned to value my health over the approval of others.

It’s been even more difficult to dismiss the distorted confidence that being stick-thin once gave me. When I was a rail, I felt perfectly confident wearing crop tops, body-conforming dresses, and swim suits, because I finally looked like the women I’d seen modeling such outfits in the media for 21 years. Now that I’m healthier, and not as slim as a Forever 21 model, such pieces render me more self-conscious and, occasionally, make me miss my old body. I have to continually remind myself that my old body, although it gave me confidence, was unhealthy and, quite frankly, unattractive – even though I myself could not see it. And I’ve come to value my health, and reality, before a warped and media-fueled sense of confidence.

What I feel now more than ever is freedom – freedom from the perceived judgment of others, and freedom from the grasp of the media. I once allowed my concern for others’ approval, and conformity with the media’s depictions of beauty, to jeopardize my health and my happiness. I now feel free of those bonds, and I write this piece in hopes that it may encourage another woman or man to seek that same freedom. It is difficult to dismiss ubiquitous social pressures (I am still working on it!), but it’s worth it. For when we reclaim the power we have surrendered to our peers and to the media, we can retain it for ourselves to break through warped perceptions of beauty, health, and approval. When we break through those distorted perceptions, we begin see the truth. And the truth, in turn, will set us free.

Claremont Confessions: Expect the Unexpected

Nothing shows the 5Cs’ true colors like the Claremont Confession Facebook page, where students mired in the collegiate bubble of elite academia pour out their deepest secrets and most profound philosophical reflections.

Let me begin with a confession of my own: I cannot stand Claremont Confession. In fact, I unfriended the thing after a couple months because I was so sick of its dreadfully annoying posts appearing on Facebook every five seconds. But I felt a certain responsibility to warn you fine freshmen about the perils that you’ll soon face every time you check your news feed, so I re-added the account to refresh my memory on the nature of these posts. I guess you could call that sacrificial love.

I’ve compiled below a list of 10 typical posts you can expect to find in Claremont Confession. Friend it at your own risk.

1. Constant rants and links to articles expressing students’ political frustrations

Because students at the Claremont Colleges really enjoy provoking political “discourse” with people who already, for the most part, agree with them.

2. Occasional posts that actually spark legitimate political debates

People get pretty heated on Claremont Confession…

3. The privilege confessions

Expect to be told to check your privilege roughly 847,528 times a day.

4. People expressing their sexual woes

I’m really sorry to hear it, but I also don’t want to hear it.

5. Benevolent posts intended to improve your sex life

Some 5C students like to pour out their wisdom on others.

6. Posts about the human body that actually do make you laugh, even if you won’t admit it

Like this one I found: “Farting loudly alone in my room is literally the most satisfying feeling.”

7. Confessions about boobs

Scrolling through, I’ve seen several posts from confessors stating that they love their boobs, love touching their boobs, love talking about their boobs, etc. I’ve also seen posts on butts. Big butts, small butts, people who can work their butt, etc.

8. Confessions about human feces

I suppose people just don’t have another outlet to discuss this topic.

9. Confessions that legitimately express extremely sad and tragic events that fellow students have endured.

Suicide, cutting, depression, etc. These ones aren’t easy to read, especially knowing that they were posted by our very own classmates. We may be in the Claremont Bubble, but a lot of us are still really struggling, and if you’re one of those people, you’re not alone.

10. 5C turf wars

“Haters gonna hate?” Screw that! Let’s spew off insults about how much we hate Pomona – or Pitzer, or Scripps, or Mudd, or CMC. Fortunately, some nonconformist commenters will usually grace such confessions with musings about how the Claremont Colleges should follow in the footsteps of the fine city of Philadelphia and become a “consortium of brotherly love.”

Surviving 6:01

By now, CMC students’ WOA leaders, orientation sponsors, and resident assistants have likely shed some light on “6:01,” the infamous event that concludes the first week of classes and begins CMC’s party year. If your fine mentors went into any detail about 6:01’s rich history, you’ve learned that the occasion previously commemorated the completion of CMC’s dry week.

CMC’s dry week – during which the school prohibits any and all consumption of alcohol on campus – previously occupied the totality of freshman orientation and the first week of classes, concluding at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday evening. Naturally, CMC students paid homage to the end of dry week with a cocktail soiree on Green Beach, which began promptly at 6:01 p.m. The 6:01 tradition grew into a state-of-the-art annual festivity as students discovered innovative celebratory techniques, such as pouring champagne into friends’ mouths from over the Green dorm balcony. Unfortunately, that innovation went a little too far a few years ago, when some students endeavored to celebrate the occasion by releasing doves from a cage. (Apparently the release didn’t go as planned.)

The CMC administration responded to the out-of-handedness that had become 6:01 by shortening dry week to just a few days, concluding at 8:00 a.m. on the morning of the first day of classes. The general understanding is that the college intended to curb the excessive drinking at 6:01 provoked by the long wait. It may have worked – the party has apparently mellowed the last few years – but it didn’t stop students from continuing the tradition that is 6:01.

This year, the college has returned to the previous week-long dry period, with just one catch. Dry week will end at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday rather than 6:00 p.m. There will be a countdown to 6:01 on Green Beach nonetheless.

6:01 can be a fun occasion when celebrated responsibly, but for many it unfortunately becomes a night of regrets. We’d like for you, the class of 2017, to avoid that fate, so we’ve collected a few freshman-year 6:01 anecdotes from some upperclassmen. Do yourselves a favor and learn from our mistakes.

“Like many CMC students, I chose to remain sober throughout high school. While this choice worked well during adolescence, it also meant that I arrived in Claremont ill-equipped to handle 5C parties or Thursday Night Clubs (TNC). At 6:01, I went insane – to put it mildly. I drank enough rum to satisfy a crew of pirates. When I awoke the following morning in a groggy stupor, I grabbed my towel and headed for the shower. As I was washing shampoo out of my hair, I realized that I had actually entered the girl’s bathroom. Luckily, I managed to escape without alerting the girl in the shower next to me. Enjoy 6:01, but take it easy. You have four years to go wild.”

“At my freshman year 6:01, I got a little too confident with a guy on Green Beach. I’d seen him around campus during orientation and thought he was cute. When I stumbled into him after the 6:01 countdown, we started talking and he asked if we’d been in the same math department orientation session. (We had.) I immediately blurted out that yes, of course I remembered seeing him there because he was ‘hard to forget.’ He proceeded to ask me why he was so unforgettable – upon which I defensively ordered him not to make me answer that question! To this day, I wonder if he remembers this encounter whenever we run into each other on campus. Have fun flirting at 6:01, but don’t forget your filter.”

“I noticed a couple of kids near the fence of one of the Pomona-Pitzer pools talking about how they should hop the fence and go swimming. For some reason, they decided not to, but, being the adventurous drunk that I am, I decided to hop the fence and see what was on the other side. This dangerous venture involved avoiding barbed wire, shimmying across a 15-20 foot tall plaster wall, and sliding down a flag-pole. I somehow made it. Once in the pool area, I didn’t jump in, but decided to open a door to see if I could sneak other people in. When I opened the door, an alarm sounded, so I ran through some bushes, jumped back over the fence as quickly as possible, and was safe – only to realize that I had just lost my keys, which are worth $150 each, plus a $15 fee for my ID card. With both items necessary for any sort of access to dorms, classrooms and meals, I quickly tried to hop the fence a second time. But, as I reached the top, I saw a security guard in the pool area and immediately decided to abort the mission.”

“Brace yourselves…. College is coming. In times of old (as in last year), there were waterfalls flowing from the hills of Green, streams glistening from the North to Marks, and a glorious, awesome barrage of funk louder than thunder. All dramatics aside, 6:01 is a time of fun, festivities, and free-ranging. Take it from someone who’s been in your shoes: DRINK A LOT…. OF WATER!!! That’s the best way to ensure that you can actually keep up with 6:01 and make it memorable as well. MUCH LOVE AND WELCOME TO THE COMMUNITY!”

What’s in a feminist? Implications of the Roe v. Wade 40th Anniversary Celebration

On Tuesday, Jan. 22, the CMC “E-memo Digest” announced a Roe v. Wade 40th Anniversary Celebration to be held the following day. The flyer appended to the memo invited students to join Professors Amanda Hollis-Brusky and N. Ann Davis of Pomona College for a conversation followed by a question and answer session, and specified “Cake and refreshments provided!”

The Pomona College Gender & Women’s Studies, Intercollegiate Women’s Studies of the Claremont Colleges, Pomona College Women’s Union, and Pomona College Student Affairs Office jointly sponsored the event.

After four long months, I have finally garnered the boldness to express my unease with the Roe v. Wade 40th Anniversary Celebration. The mere occurrence of this event provokes in me great concern regarding the discourse surrounding reproductive rights at the Claremont Colleges. I write out of serious concern that the feminist dialogue at the Claremont Colleges has deemed it appropriate to celebrate abortion rights in a party atmosphere with cake and refreshments.

I do not intend to provoke debate about the ethical questions surrounding abortion and whether the government should control it. However, I do intend to question whether a party that celebrates abortion rights with cake is consistent with the sensitivity and respect for human dignity that the 5C community proclaims to uphold.

Whether we believe that abortion should be legal or illegal, federally funded or unfunded—that doesn’t really matter here. What matters is the nature of the circumstances that lead women to seek abortion in the first place.

It is tragic that any woman should ever find herself in a position in which she feels that she must or should terminate a pregnancy—whether because of a heinous crime that caused the pregnancy, a danger the fetus poses to the mother’s life, concerns about the baby’s health and well-being as potentially severely disabled, or circumstances such as poverty and destitution that render child-rearing an unfeasible task.  Sometimes the circumstances are less dramatic—a woman who could feasibly raise a child simply doesn’t want to, and thus terminates the pregnancy. This still does not seem to me a reason to celebrate.

To celebrate the right to procure an abortion with cake and refreshments trivializes the sadness and despair so frequently associated with the procedure. Abortion is not a decision made lightly, and often involves extensive suffering in a woman’s life. Whether we believe that the woman should be free to terminate the pregnancy isn’t relevant. What is relevant is that the circumstances that so often accompany the procedure render abortion hardly a cause of celebration.

But it’s not so much the event itself that concerns me. If a 5C pro-choice activist student group had hosted a Roe anniversary celebration on its own, I would find myself much less distraught. What is particularly offensive about this event is that Pomona College and the Intercollegiate Women’s Studies departments themselves sponsored it.

Such a department-sponsored “celebration” of abortion rights stifles the educational goals of creating dialogue and discourse regarding reproductive rights. The consortium’s educating authority on women’s studies hosting this event suggests that proper feminism necessitates the glorification of abortion rights to a degree at which it’s appropriate to celebrate with cake.  It’s to suggest that one cannot be a feminist or a scholar of women’s studies without enthusiastically supporting abortion. It’s to suggest that there’s a “right” way to do feminism—and that the way is to adopt a hard-left stance on reproductive rights.

The wealth of philosophical, psychological, medical, ethical, and theological scholarship that is less-than-enthusiastic about abortion rights and the Roe decision demonstrate that, in fact, there is currently no established “right” way to do feminism. To sponsor a Roe v. Wade 40th Anniversary Celebration party disregards such scholarship. This is not education, but rather ideological indoctrination. It should thus come as no surprise that the general consensus pervading the Claremont Colleges is that feminism necessitates enthusiastic support of abortion rights.

The Claremont Colleges proclaim to be bastions of women’s empowerment, but the Roe v. Wade anniversary celebration, complete with cake and refreshments, leaves me feeling anything but empowered.

Dean Spellman on the sexual violence procedures

After initially responding to our request for an interview with a statement entitled “Regarding Title IX,” the Claremont McKenna Office of Public Affairs granted the CI an interview with Dean of Students Mary Spellman to discuss the college’s Title IX sexual violence grievance procedures.

Claremont McKenna College implemented new Civil Rights Policies and Civil Rights Grievance Procedures, which apply to cases of sexual violence, in accordance with a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) issued by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. The DCL, sent to all educational institutions in the United States that receive federal funding, stipulates numerous Title IX requirements to which recipients must adhere in investigating and resolving complaints of sexual violence. The most controversial of its contents is a requirement that schools use a preponderance of the evidence standard of proof in evaluating complaints of sexual violence. The preponderance standard is met if it is more likely than not (a greater than 50 percent probability) that the offense occurred. The DCL explicitly states that schools are not to use the clear and convincing standard (i.e. it is highly likely or reasonably certain that the offense occurred).

When asked if Claremont McKenna College held any opinions about complying with the Department of Education’s ultimatum regarding the preponderance standard, Dean Spellman responded that the decision-making standard is a minimally important aspect of the college’s grievance procedures. She said, “The decision-making standard is the least important piece, I believe, in how we handle sexual violence cases or any kind of student conduct case. It’s really about, ‘Do we provide a fair and neutral and equitable process to all parties?’ The decision-making standard is a small piece of that larger process.”

When asked more specifically if the college was concerned that the use of such a low standard would produce wrongful findings of guilt, Spellman responded similarly, saying that the low decision-making standard should not be of great concern. She said,

“The [decision-making] standard is one piece of a very important process, so we need to make sure we have a process that’s fair, that it has appropriate due process for all the parties, that the individuals, particularly the respondent, understands what their rights are and has a process by which the college has as much information as possible about the circumstance so that the trained investigator or trained hearing officer is able to make a fair, neutral and informed decision. So I think that that is the most important piece. We could have a higher decision-making standard, and if our process didn’t have all of the robustness that our process does, you could still have a problem. It could be a different problem, but you’re going to still have a problem. So the decision-making standard—you know, preponderance or something else—really, what’s crucial is the process that you get to that. With preponderance of the evidence, if you have a process that is as robust as we want ours to be and we hope and think ours is, then the decision is easy at that point, because you have all the facts. The decision is either you do have enough information, or you don’t. That’s, to me, the most important piece.”

In other words, if the college institutes robust grievance procedures that offer appropriate due process for all parties involved, it doesn’t really matter whether the college uses a preponderance standard, a clear and convincing standard, or even a beyond a reasonable doubt standard. You either have enough information, or you don’t.

For a perspective about why the decision-making standard does matter, and why the preponderance standard is a troubling aspect of CMC’s grievance procedures, see our previous article “Title IX, sexual violence, and the preponderance standard.”