All posts by Megan Keller

Megan is a freshman staff writer for the Claremont Independent who is interested in Economics and History. You can usually find her with her nose in a book or computer screen, if she's not excitedly arguing with a friend.

CMC President Promises To Punish Policy Violators in Wake of Protest

After protesters at Claremont McKenna College shut down a scheduled lecture and Q&A with Heather Mac Donald, a critic of the Black Lives Matter movement, by blocking the venue’s entrance, Hiram Chodosh, the president of Claremont McKenna College, promised to crack down on some student protesters for violating college policy.

Chodosh observed that, despite the protesters’ efforts, a live-stream of Mac Donald’s talk was viewed by nearly 250 people live and had been watched over 1,400 times at the time of his email. “In the end, the effort to silence her voice effectively amplified it to a much larger audience,” he wrote.

He outlined the college’s decision to not physically remove protesters, explaining that “based on the judgment of the Claremont Police Department, we [the college] jointly concluded that any forced interventions or arrests would have created unsafe conditions for students, faculty, staff, and guests.”

Chodosh also took the unusual step of promising punishment for those who blocked all exits and entrances to the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum, where Mac Donald’s talk was scheduled to take place. “Blocking access to buildings violates College policy,” he wrote. “CMC students who are found to have violated policies will be held accountable. We will also give a full report to the other Claremont Colleges, who have responsibility for their own students.”

Chodosh highlighted the fact that the protest was composed of “a large group of students from the Claremont Colleges, including a small number of CMC students and some individuals from external communities.”

Echoing the statement released Thursday evening by Vice President for Academic Affairs & Dean of Faculty at Claremont McKenna College, Peter Uvin, Chodosh concluded by reaffirming the college’s commitment to protecting free speech:

“Finally, the breach of our freedoms to listen to views that challenge us and to engage in dialogue about matters of controversy is a serious, ongoing concern we must address effectively. Accordingly, we will be developing new strategies for how best to protect open, safe access to our events.”

A World That Never Changes

Because world-changing ideas have to be brand new, they often come from people you wouldn’t peg as ‘world-changers.’ These new ideas aren’t going to be what most people think, so the person who comes up with them has to be a little outside the realm of most people – they have to be a little abnormal, just like their idea. If it was normal, then it wouldn’t alter the world. And if the person was completely normal, they would not have cause to question what’s commonly accepted.

Even if someone has an earth-shattering idea, the strength of majority opinion makes implementing it difficult; not only did Galileo have to conceive a new way of understanding the universe, but he also had to find a way to surmount the Italian Inquisition.

What’s worse is when the world-changer is written off even before they have a chance to speak simply because society considers them useless. Even after escaping slavery and developing himself into a literary genius, Frederick Douglass still needed to defeat the common assumption that the color of his skin made him inherently valueless.

The measures society accepts to rid itself of “undesirables” are truly disturbing.

Danish public opinion, for instance, considers Down syndrome a sign of worthlessness and 60% of Danes look forward to eliminating  Down syndrome in 2030 through subsidized abortions. Twelve years ago, the Danish government introduced free prenatal screenings. A year after the policy was enacted, the number of Danish babies born with Down syndrome halved. The Copenhagen Post now reports that “[i]f current health policies and trends continue, Denmark could be a country without a single citizen with Down syndrome in the not too distant future.”

As the Copenhagen Post observes, this is not an uncommon opinion in the US or the UK where 92% of all fetuses diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. In fact, there are whole groups dedicated to eliminating this and similar disorders in vivo. For example, the California Prenatal Screening Program’s primary goal is “to reduce the occurrence of birth defects and disability by offering prenatal screening and follow-up services to pregnant women in California.”

A similar practice is running rampant in India, where female babies are considered less valuable than males. Even after gender testing was outlawed, up to 4 million girls were aborted between 1991 and 2001, and a further 6 million by 2011, vastly outpacing the abortion of male fetuses. The ban is poorly enforced, and legal abortions make it possible for families to have sex-selective abortions. As in the case of Denmark, India is hardly alone in their behavior. According to Scientific American, sex-selective abortions were being considered as early as 1950.  Other societies which value women lower than men suffer from abortion-fed gender imbalances. In China, it has led to a spike in sex trafficking, notably of young girls.

All these nations fall into a larger pattern. There has never been a society in history without prejudices. So when it is legal to choose who deserves to live, society seems to inevitably target the marginalized and unwanted. This is why abortion has long been tied to eugenics in one form or another. Planned Parenthood was founded by a leading advocate of eugenics, Margaret Sanger, who believed it would be an integral part of the eradication of the “unfit,” and observed that, “Eugenics without Birth Control seems to us a house builded upon the sands. It is at the mercy of the rising stream of the unfit.”

And she was right that eugenics relies on birth control. Frederick Douglass faced terrible odds at birth, but he had a slim chance to prove mass opinion wrong. Through his perseverance, he was ultimately able to argue against the society that had devalued him and lived as irrefutable proof that they were wrong about his unworthiness. Aborted children have no such opportunity. If nearly every disabled child is aborted, they have no chance to prove their equal value and the incorrect assumption that they don’t deserve to exist endures.

Regardless of whether one thinks a fetus is human, the fact that abortion supports the elimination of the oppressed and helpless before they can even draw breath is sickening. Enacting such eugenics will prove detrimental to society—such a society won’t have many world changers. It will not include men like John Nash or Albert Einstein. No, their respective mental disorders would have cut their lives terribly short.

As genetic testing becomes more precise, where might this end? It is not difficult to imagine fetuses with ADD, dyslexia, anxiety, or bipolar disorder being systematically aborted. Even queer children could fall to the march of progress; scientists have long suggested that homosexuality can be linked to certain genetic markers. If these genetic markers can be identified before birth, might families choose to abort their queer or trans pregnancies before the child is born?

Surely, the resulting society would be a cold and callous one: one in which a person’s right to life depends on their social utility. Once put into place, it will likely stay that way.

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Image Source: Flickr

The Safest Space in Claremont

My senior year of high school, I established a safe space. Of course, at that point in my life, I had never heard the phrase “safe space,” so I called it the Gay-Straight Alliance. At its best, the GSA was a family for kids who did not otherwise have a supportive community. And in my tiny rural high school, there were a lot of queer kids who needed family.

Still, the GSA struggled to be everything those students needed. It’s hard to build a community that consistently cares for its members. Regardless of their circumstances, people in a group tend to prioritize their standing in the group above the wellbeing of others. And, in many ways, safe spaces come engineered to make that worse. They are supposed to be somewhere members can be emotionally vulnerable and open. So, usually, the leadership is given the power to remove bullies who would pounce on that vulnerability.

The only problem is that this often gets abused.

A friend of mine started a GSA-like organization at her college freshman year and it imploded. New leadership were verbally abusive towards bisexual and pansexual students before ruling to ban them from meetings completely. Since these students could “pass as straight,” they were considered just as threatening to the group’s “safety” as straight people. In reality, their identities just made them easy to bully.

That safe space, like far too many do, allowed no room for dissenting views. The appointed leaders dictated the common good, what was right and wrong, who was pure and who was dangerous. No one could defend the outcasts, for fear of being deemed sinful themselves.

So I didn’t seek out a safe space my first year at Claremont. I visited the Queer Resource Center when I toured the colleges, but I never came back. The staff seemed nice and there were certainly times I could have used a community. I just didn’t think I would find it there, seeing as I was conservative, Christian, and—most importantly—fond of speaking my mind.

Then, last year, my friend dragged me to a 3CIV bible study. I had my misgivings. The people seemed nice but, again, I wasn’t sure I’d fit in. 3CIV is a branch of InterVarsity serving CMC, Scripps, and Harvey Mudd and as such is an Evangelical organization. I was raised as an Episcopalian, which is about as different you can get from InterVarsity stylistically and theologically without being Catholic. I figured I could get past the lack of hymns and stained glass, but did not think they’d be able to move beyond my opinions on scripture. Particularly, I didn’t think they’d get past me identifying as bisexual.

I wouldn’t have really blamed them if they didn’t allow me to join. After all, the QRC and other liberal groups on campus wouldn’t have accepted me for my political and religious views. It wasn’t any stranger for an Evangelical to think my choice to act on my sexual identity made me intolerable. And my personal experience with Evangelicals told me that’s what I should expect.

Then 3CIV blew my expectations apart. No matter how many points we disagreed on, no matter how much I pushed back, this group still treated me like someone with a soul. They prayed with me, talked with me, and welcomed me in as a member of their community. When I talked about my own experiences with homophobia, this Evangelical bible study listened to me and loved me.

That kind of unconditional care set the standard for all of our meetings. I was safe to disagree with someone and they were safe to disagree with me. Consequently, I had some of the best conversations I’ve ever had about healthy relationships and queerness with members of that evangelical bible study.

I was equal parts shocked and horrified last April when the Associated Students of Harvey Mudd College (ASHMC) decided to withdraw 3CIV’s funding on the grounds that it discriminated against LGBTQ students.

According to Carla Becker, ASHMC Senate Chair, while 3CIV welcomes anyone as a member, it requires that its official student leaders “exemplify Christlike character, conduct and leadership,” referring to several biblical passages, including 1 Corinthians 6: 7-11. Among other things, the passage states, “Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers – none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.” Accordingly, leaders must agree that sex outside of a monogamous, heterosexual marriage is immoral. If they disagree, they are asked to step down as official leaders but are still welcome as members.

So, ASHMC explained, in February, two Harvey Mudd leaders of 3CIV were asked to step down: one because of his views on the eternal nature of Hell and the other because of their perspective on sex outside of heterosexual marriage. According to Ms. Becker, “The leaders agreed to step down, but a friend of the members thought the action…discriminatory and went against the nondiscriminatory statement ASHMC requires in the charter of all ASHMC chartered clubs… This sparked discussion in the senate about whether or not leaders of religious clubs can be held to certain beliefs.”

That discussion is still ongoing as ASHMC holds a closed subcommittee this summer to decide exactly what it thinks. For 3CIV, this discourse has already had negative consequences.

On April 17, 3CIV requested $1000 in scholarship funds to send Mudd students to InterVarsity’s regional summer conference and “[a] senate member then motioned to give 3CIV $0 for the conference. The motion was seconded… The same senate member read [Corinthians 6: 7-11], mentioned cases of discrimination they had heard about from past LGBTQ member(s) of 3CIV, and mentioned a booklet published by InterVarsity on how parents can prevent homosexuality.” On April 24 the motion passed with 5 in favor, 4 opposed, and 3 abstentions. Though the alleged mistreatment of LGBTQ students was discussed, ASHMC’s decision ultimately hinged on the idea that 3CIV forces leaders who disagree with its stance on sex to step down.

The only problem is that isn’t factually true. According to the head of 3CIV, Kate Vosburg, “3CIV leaders are not asked to step down if they disagree with the belief that sex outside of marriage is immoral.  However, they are asked not to teach against this belief.  In the last 11 years I’ve been with 3CIV, we have not asked any leader to step down because of their personal beliefs about sex.”

Granted, this could just be a sizable mistake on ASHMC’s part, but it’s fairly large oversight and that makes me wonder why 3CIV came under fire at all. The idea that club leaders should represent their clubs’ ideals is not unusual. No one balks if the leader of a young republicans club is required to be a republican.

ASHMC’s behavior could be warranted if 3CIV were a particularly hateful organization. Though the leaders in 3CIV have much less power than, say, the leaders of my friends’ GSA, they still could be guilty of abusing it. However, the evidence indicates that is simply not true.

The leaders who were asked to step down in February did so amicably. When asked to comment, one of the ex-leaders, Nathaniel Leslie, said he did not feel discriminated against and commented: “I disagree with some of the organization’s theology and the way that they go about spreading it. However, I regard all of the people in 3CIV very highly. They are some of the kindest people that I have ever met.”

The other former leader, who wished to remain anonymous, stated:

“I think 3CIV is a great resource for a lot of Christians on campus, but it sadly does not represent all denominations of Christianity, nor does it claim to. Next year, with the support and good wishes of 3CIV, a few friends and I are going to work on creating another Christian group at Mudd that does not align itself with any denomination, in hopes to provide a welcoming place for Christians of all backgrounds, as well as anyone who is interested in exploring the Christian faith.”

Unfortunately, ASHMC chose to withhold the names of the students who allegedly experienced discrimination within 3CIV so I cannot comment on their experience, but judging only from my own I would be surprised if 3CIVers treated queer students unlovingly.

So it seems to me that the crux of the issue is not how 3CIV treats students or the construction of their charter, but probably ASHMC’s own prejudice against evangelical Christianity.

If that’s the case, it wouldn’t be terribly surprising. I love 3CIV now, but a year ago I would have assumed they were unfriendly towards queer. And I certainly wasn’t alone in that prejudice. Colleges are notoriously unfriendly towards religion and outright hostile towards evangelical Christians, who suffer state-sponsored oppression nationally for expressing their views.

However, what matters now is what ASHMC does to remedy their mistake. Come this fall, ASHMC will review whether or not to recognize 3CIV’s charter. Their decision will not be just a matter of free speech and religious liberty. It will help determine our campus culture.

In reality, 3CIV succeeds where the POC-only discussions and online forums, my friends’ GSA, and every other segregated “safe” space fails. Despite the increasingly common persecution of evangelical Christians, 3CIV opens its arms to every single student like a sister, comforts them like a mother, and strengthens them in the way a family should.

Corrections: The piece previously asserted that 3CIV asks leaders to step down if they disagree that sex outside of marriage is immoral and that the Asian Pacific Islander Support Program At Mudd only accepts Asian Pacific Islanders. Additionally, the articled stated that Students for Middle Eastern Cultural Promotion and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers are live organizations at Harvey Mudd.

These statements have been adjusted since this story’s initial publication.

Claremont Students: Non-Progressive Students of Color Are ‘Shady’

On Wednesday, a Facebook page called “Pray for the Boys of Claremont” began circulating among 5C students. The group posts “prayer requests” for the salvation of various male students at the 5Cs.

The page’s first prayer request targeted all men involved with the Claremont Independent. The subsequent post ridiculed the entire “vile” publication.asf

asdThe group swiftly turned their gaze to a specific student at Pomona College, condemning the CI’s Managing Editor, Jose Ruiz, for being both a Person of Color and writer associated with the Claremont Independent.

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After a series of complaints, the page removed the explicit mention of Jose’s name and promised to “refrain from posting names in the future” because “[t]he Lord does not need names to know for whom we pray.” In addition to this retraction, the group removed a picture featuring current Independent Editor in Chief Steven Glick, Publisher Taylor Schmitt, and former Editor In Chief Hannah Oh Thursday night. The inclusion of Hannah Oh appears contradictory to the group’s stated mission, but would be coherent within a larger mission to bully conservative students, a not uncommon practice at the Claremont Colleges.

Mr. Ruiz noted, “I have been targeted before for being part of the Independent, but usually in person. This is the first time I’ve been targeted over social media… It’s been getting worse over the years, and the negative sentiment peaked last semester.”

Not all students visiting the page appreciated the personal attacks. One student remarked on the page “I thought Claremont people [were] better than this cyberbullying crap… There is a special place in hell for people who bullied their classmates online in the name of [the] Lord.”

The group seems to have no specific religious affiliation, calling on the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, while claiming that “[s]horts with imperialist flags are not Halacha.”

As of this morning, the page has received over 100 likes and is still drawing support for their claim that: “Many of the boys of Claremont are in desperate need of salvation and our prayers. Submit the gross boys in your life to our prayer list!”

President Oxtoby to Step Down

In an email sent this morning to the Pomona College community, David W. Oxtoby – thirteen year President of Pomona College – announced his plans to step down in June 2017.

President Oxtoby states that he is “very proud of Pomona College.” In particular, he references “the successful conclusion of Campaign Pomona: Daring Minds,” a five-year, $250 million fundraising effort that has contributed to new construction projects like those of the Studio Art Center and Millikan Hall, as well as increased funding for internships, fellowships, and scholarships.

He further assures the community: “While I am considering opportunities I might pursue, my highest priority will remain leading this amazing institution in the months ahead. I am confident that the leadership and expertise of our faculty, the experience of our staff, the determination and talent of our students, and the time we have to partner together on the shared goals will make this a smooth transition and allow us to remain focused on the critical work still at hand.” With the support from the Board, President Oxtoby plans to continue advancing “the College’s key priorities and successful operations of the institution.”

This advancement will include “working to improve diversity and inclusion, developing plans for the new Pomona College Museum of Art, progressing [Pomona’s] commitment to be climate neutral by 2030, and taking the next steps to further integrate the new Sontag Center for Collaborative Creativity into The Claremont Colleges.”

President Oxtoby closes by urging the college to “continue to move ahead, celebrating the meaningful work we do here every day and exploring exciting opportunities for the future.”

Sam Glick, Chair of the Pomona College Board of Trustees, emailed the Pomona College community following President Oxtoby’s announcement, stating that “We will celebrate President Oxtoby’s many contributions to the College in due course.  For now, however, both President Oxtoby and the Board of Trustees have plenty of work to do.  Every year that he has led the College, President Oxtoby has moved our institution forward with characteristic energy and ambition.  I expect his final year to be no exception, and he has the full support of the Board of Trustees in continuing to advance Pomona’s mission.”

Mr. Glick continues: “Meanwhile, the Board of Trustees must begin the important task of choosing President Oxtoby’s successor.  Selecting a new leader is the highest duty a governing body has – a duty that my colleagues on the Board and I intend to carry out with humility and careful deliberation.  Over the next month or so, we will design a process to select the tenth president of Pomona College.  While we will share more specifics regarding that process in April, I know that it will reflect Pomona’s long tradition of shared governance, and, as with previous presidential searches, will take into account the perspectives and priorities of Pomona’s diverse community, including faculty, staff, students and alumni.”

Mr. Glick concludes by assuring the Pomona College community that “Pomona has never been in a stronger position to recruit a new president, and President Oxtoby’s transition presents us with a valuable moment in which we can reflect as a community on who we are, who we want to be, and how a new leader can support us on that journey.”

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Image Source: Wikimedia Commons