All posts by Elliot Dordick

Taking Advantage of Holiday Absences, Pitzer Senate Boycotts Israeli Products

On April 16, a date marking Easter Sunday and the Jewish holiday of Passover, 22 of the 43 Pitzer College Student Senate members voted on and approved an amendment to its “Budget Committee Bylaws” to boycott Israeli products with the entirety of its $270,000+ “Student Activities Funds” budget, which is funded through a mandatory $135 semesterly “Student Activities fee” ($270 per academic year) that the college collects from every Pitzer student and gives directly to the Student Senate.

Only 26 senators attended the vote, which occurred just one week after “Israeli Apartheid Week” during which Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) placed a “mock Israeli apartheid wall” in the center of campus. 22 senators supported the boycott amendment, while 4 abstained, 0 were opposed, and 17 were absent from the meeting.

The updated bylaws, including amended language, can be found in Article III of the bylaws available on the school website. Under the new bylaws, the only restrictions on the use of Student Activities funds are:

“I. Student Activities Funds shall not be used for the purchase of any illegal substances, as defined by all local, state, and federal laws.

II. Student Activities Funds shall not be used for the purchase of any weapons, firearms, and/or explosives, with an exception for kitchen tools, art supplies, and gardening equipment.

III. Student Activities Funds shall not be used for the purchase of any individual single-use plastic water bottles.

IV. Student Activities Funds shall not be used for the purchase of any alcohol and tobacco products.

V. Student Activities Funds shall not be used for the purchase of any gift cards.

VI. Student Activities Funds shall not be used to make a payment on goods or services from any corporation or organization associated with the unethical occupation of Palestinian territories. Products include those products from corporations and organizations as delineated in the boycott list maintained by bdsmovement.net/get-involved/what-toboycott.”

This move to endorse the “Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions” movement shatters precedent at Pitzer College and has already provoked strong reactions from Jewish, pro-Israel, and pro-Palestine student groups on campus.

Mica Laber (CMC ’18), a leader of the Claremont Progressive Israel Alliance (CPIA), told the Independent that the circumstances of the vote, occurring “when a significant portion of the student leadership was absent … made clear the intentions to avoid any sort of productive debate.”

Laber added that “Student Senate leaders should have included the proposed amendment in the agenda prior to the meeting because this is an issue that students on campus are passionate about” and “many would have liked the opportunity to voice their opinions before any vote was called.”

Students from both the CPIA and the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity chapter on campus signed an online petition arguing not only against BDS, but also that the nature of the vote made its passage “unfair and purposefully unrepresentative of the student body.”

Despite the concerns of their peers, Claremont SJP released a statement describing the budget amendment as “an important victory.”

Pitzer College President: Factual Reporting to Blame for “Violent Hate Speech”

On March 9, Pitzer College President Melvin Oliver released a presidential “Message to the Community” titled “Hate Speech is Not Free Speech” which was both posted on the College’s website and sent in an email thread to all students, faculty, and staff at Pitzer.

The public statement, a response to the article published by The Claremont Independent that sparked national conversation on PC culture, racism, and cultural appropriation on campus, reads:

“Dear Pitzer College Community, Coverage in a local publication of a recent posting on the free wall [by Latino students that instructed white women to ‘take off their hoop earrings’] has ignited a cycle of violent hate speech that threatens the safety and well-being of every member of our community. Some students are experiencing harassment and death threats. As a place of higher education, we strongly cherish and defend intellectual curiosity, productive discourse and opposing views that may broaden our perspectives as global citizens.

However, when speech resorts to hate, violence and threats, we will not tolerate these acts nor the perpetrators of these actions. If you have information that will help us bring those responsible to justice, please contact the Office of Student Affairs and the Claremont Police Department. Every individual is entitled to freedom from fear and stigma, and with the respect of others to pursue a life of meaning and purpose. Pitzer College supports greater acceptance, not less. However each of us chooses to respond to the challenges presented by these ill-considered, offensive and hateful actions, I encourage us to care for one another and focus on our shared positive values.”

In the rest of his message, Oliver encourages students, staff and faculty to participate in a “Healing Justice Workshop” hosted by Pitzer Professor Kathy Yep. “The workshop,” Oliver writes, “practices mindfulness in a way that creates a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world and does not cause harm to others.”

The statement closes by listing resources for psychological counseling, Black Student Affairs, Chicano Latino Student Affairs, the Chaplain’s office, the Queer Resource Center, the Office of the Dean of Faculty, and the Office of Student Affairs available for support on campus at the Claremont Colleges.


Photo: C. Wohlers/Flickr

Pitzer College RA: White People Can’t Wear Hoop Earrings

A wall on the side of a dormitory at Pitzer College devoted to unmoderated free speech through art (colloquially named “the free wall”), was recently painted by a group of Latino students who wrote the message, “White Girl, take off your [hoop earrings]!!!”

When one white student expressed confusion about the message, Alegria Martinez (PZ ’18) – a Pitzer College Resident Assistant (RA) and active member of the “Latinx Student Union” – responded in an email thread sent to the entire student body: “[T]he art was created by myself and a few other WOC [women of color] after being tired and annoyed with the reoccuring [sic] theme of white women appropriating styles … that belong to the black and brown folks who created the culture. The culture actually comes from a historical background of oppression and exclusion. The black and brown bodies who typically wear hooped earrings, (and other accessories like winged eyeliner, gold name plate necklaces, etc) are typically viewed as ghetto, and are not taken seriously by others in their daily lives. Because of this, I see our winged eyeliner, lined lips, and big hoop earrings serving as symbols [and] as an everyday act of resistance, especially here at the Claremont Colleges. Meanwhile we wonder, why should white girls be able to take part in this culture (wearing hoop earrings just being one case of it) and be seen as cute/aesthetic/ethnic. White people have actually exploited the culture and made it into fashion.”

Jacquelyn Aguilera (PZ ’19), another student claiming credit for the spray-painted message, responded to the school-wide email thread, “If you didn’t create the culture as a coping mechanism for marginalization, take off those hoops, if your feminism isn’t intersectional take off those hoops, if you try to wear mi cultura when the creators can no longer afford it, take off those hoops, if you are incapable of using a search engine and expect other people to educate you, take off those hoops, if you can’t pronounce my name or spell it … take off those hoops / I use “those” instead of “your” because hoops were never “yours” to begin with.” Aguilera attached an image of herself and the others who spray-painted the wall exposing their own hoop earrings.

Pitzer’s website states that on the free wall  “you’ll find artistic representation of local and global issues that usually spark educational discussion across campus!”

Martinez and Aguilera declined the Independent‘s requests to elaborate on their comments.

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Photo: Elliot Dordick

Scripps College: Nonwhite Students Should Be Paid For Sharing Their Opinions

Scripps College resident assistants (RAs) recently hung two types of signs titled “Emotional Labor 101” across campus. One of the signs, printed on a white background, is titled, “Quick Guide For White Students.” The other poster, printed on black paper, is titled, “Quick Guide For People Of Color And Marginalized Backgrounds.”

Both signs, which are marked with the Scripps College administration’s stamp of approval, define “emotional labor” as “the exertion of energy for the purpose of addressing people’s feelings, educating, making people comfortable, or living up to social ‘expectations.’”  The sign addressing non-white students notes, “Victims of emotional labor can be cornered in the classrooms, on social media, or in social events. If you are constantly having to explain or defend this could be you.” The poster then asks, “What can I do about it?” and states, “First and Foremost: Take care of yourself. Decide if it’s worth your time. The burden does not rest on your shoulders! Remove yourself if possible/necessary. You don’t owe anyone anything at the expense of your mental health. / Second: If you do decide to engage, practice some of these tips to avoid overexertion for the sake of educating: Refer to a friendly Google search of the concept in question; Call in professors and white peers to help educate their peer(s); Charge for your services. If you’ve decided you’re going to do it, at least get paid; Visit your designated [dean of students on campus] to talk about ways to address the mental toll.”

The guide addressed to white students, rather than discussing the ways one can undergo “emotional labor,” asks “How do I know I’m causing someone emotional labor? Ask yourself these questions: Could I have Googled the answer but I chose not to? Do I find myself in a situation where people of color or people from a marginalized group are educating me? What power dynamics are at play? Do I find myself getting defensive? Are people telling me I’m causing them emotional labor?” The message to white students ends by listing options for “What can I do about [causing others emotional labor]?” The poster states that white students should “Be mindful of your place and position. Google it! Seek community of white people who are educating themselves/thinking about social justice issues. Compensate the labor you caused. Educate yourself, take advantage of ethnic studies courses, the internet, and SCORE [Scripps Communities of Resources and Empowerment] . Take ownership for the harm you caused. Do better next time!”

Neither the Scripps College nor the RAs whose email addresses are listed on the posters responded to requests for comment.

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Image: Olivia Wu