Category Archives: Campus News

Scripps Students Petition for Larger Gender Studies Program—at Pomona College

Students from the women’s-only Scripps College are petitioning Pomona College administrators in an effort to enlarge the Gender Women Studies (GWS) program at Pomona, the flagship institution of the Claremont University Consortium.

Organized by a Scripps first-year, a petition urging Pomona College to devote more resources to Gender Women Studies has already gained significant traction, having obtained its goal of one hundred signatures last Thursday. It demands that Pomona “hire full time professors for the Gender Women’s Studies Program” and “[make] a larger commitment to Gender Women’s Studies to “support women, trans people, non-binary people, and intersectional feminism.” According to Pomona’s website, Gender Women’s Studies at Pomona College focuses on “the intersection of gender with race, sexuality, class and colonialism.”

Another Scripps student, Tiara Sharma, boosted the petition in an opinion editorial for The Student Life, the Claremont Colleges’ administration-funded student newspaper. Titling her piece “Pomona Needs a Real Gender and Women’s Studies Department,” she advertises the petition and affirms its message. Pomona College, she argues, with its vastly larger endowment in comparison with those of the other Claremont Colleges, has “the responsibility to provide students [of the Claremont Colleges] with academic opportunities that they are entitled to,” criticizing what she sees as Pomona’s failure “to fulfill this responsibility in regards to its Gender and Women’s Studies program.”

Sharma—who plans to major in English and “maybe Philosophy”—also complains that the GWS program is not getting “the same resources allocated to similar departments such as Politics, Media Studies, or History.” To this point, she claims that “Pomona has not given its Gender Women’s Studies program department distinction,” as it has “only one full-time professor devoted solely to GWS.” And “as Trump and his administration continue to undermine the right of many marginalized identities,” she continues, a strong GWS program is more important than ever.

Signers of the petition echoed Sharma’s sentiments. One signee explains that she signed the petition “because [GWS is] just as important, if not more [under our] current president, as every other major.”

According to statistics released by the College, however, GWS is one of the most unpopular majors at Pomona College, averaging at a little over two majors per class in the last five years. By contrast, over the same period, nearly 46 students have majored in economics, one of the school’s more popular majors, each year. Also, according to PayScale, GWS majors make an average salary of $39,000, considerably less than the average starting salary of undergraduates—$50,556, as Time reports.

Other students have disputed the petition on different grounds. Matthew Ludlam (PO ’20) told the Independent in a message that “the problem is that this student [the creator of the petition] is under the impression that all colleges should operate similarly … To assume that all colleges need a department that does not forward the goals integral to the college is preposterous,” referring to how Pomona College, as a co-ed institution, has different goals than a women’s-only college like Scripps.

The administration of Pomona College has yet to respond to the petition.

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

Pomona Students Can Change Gender Pronouns After Student Portal Update

On Monday morning, an update to the Pomona College online student portal added a new feature called “Help Faculty learn your Pronoun,” allowing students to submit or change their preferred gender pronouns in the student directory and other student records maintained by the Registrar.

Besides the binary gender pronouns (He, Him, His, Himself and She, Her, Hers, Herself), the new feature includes the following gender pronouns in a drop-down list for students to submit to the Registrar: “E/Ey, Em, Eir/Eirs, Eirself/Emse,” “Hu, Hum, Hus, Humself,” “Per, Per, Per/Pers, Perself,” “Ze, Hir, Hir/Hirs, Hirself,” and “Ze, Zir, Zir/Zirs, Zirself.”

After submitting a gender pronoun change, students’ preferred pronouns will appear with their names in the student directory, faculty class lists, and the advisee rosters of faculty advisors. According to the online instructions for the new feature, “a Pronoun, is simply what an individual would like others to use when talking to or about that individual. Submitting your pronoun will help Faculty in learning your pronoun and support the proper use when talking to or about you.”

The new interface for changing gender pronouns on the Pomona College student portal. (Click for larger version)

In a message to the Independent, Pomona College’s Information Technology Services (ITS), which maintains and updates the student portal, stated that it was informed of the decision to implement the update in the fall semester of the school year by “students through ASPC [The Associated Students of Pomona College], Student Affairs and the Queer Resource Center (QRC),” “after a discussion with the office of Student Affairs and ASPC.”

For its part, the ASPC hinted at the changes to the student portal last fall, when student government officials circulated a survey evaluating the need “for modifications to the Portal that would allow students to change their pronouns and/or name.”

Representatives from ASPC—the College’s student government—gave the Independent the following statement concerning the student portal changes:

“ASPC worked closely with the Office of the Registrar, the Dean of Students Office, and the Queer Resource Center (QRC) to develop a more efficient and user-friendly system for students wishing to change their gender pronouns and/or chosen name. ASPC and the relevant administrators independently identified the need for a Portal feature to facilitate these changes, and ASPC was asked to assist in the creation of the new feature to ensure that student voices were present in the conversation. Supporting transgender and non-binary students is of utmost importance to ASPC, and we sought their input throughout this process with the assistance of the QRC. We are allied with all marginalized communities and strive to be cognizant of their needs as we advocate for the student body in collaboration with the administration.”

In particular, “the current Student Information System (SIS) makes it difficult to synchronize name and pronoun changes seamlessly in all relevant locations.” In transitioning to a new SIS, the registrar’s office and ITS, with the full support of the ASPC, has declared that having “a mechanism that allows for global implementation of name and pronoun changes” is “non-negotiable,” as the new SIS must be “more conducive to supporting the transgender and non-binary community.”

In a follow-up email to the Independent, ASPC added that “some faculty, including members of the relevant faculty committee, the Student Affairs Committee, were consulted during the process.”

Scripps students: “Death to AmeriKKKA,” “F*** white people” is “valued speech”

This week, after Scripps College administrators demanded that the phrases “F*** Zionism”, “F*** white people”, “Death to AmeriKKKa” and others be removed from the chalkboard walls of its student-run Motley Coffeehouse, the café’s student management team is outraged that these messages, which it regards as “valued speech,” are being silenced.

The Motley, which previously made headlines for hosting events that excluded white people from the premises, calls itself “an intersectional, political, and feminist business” with a mission “to foster independent thinking and purposeful change.”   

According to a formal note from Scripps College administrators, the offending phrases violated the College’s Principles of Community, as they were not expressed in an appropriate “time, place, and manner.”  The phrases “may not be written on Scripps College property within a business establishment operated on campus,” though the note also stressed that college officials “are not taking the position that students may not intellectually subscribe to these statements or make them in an appropriate setting.”

In response to the administration’s order, “The Motley Manager Team” wrote and posted the following note on the coffeehouse wall at the center of the dispute:

“We are complying with the college, but we will not do so quietly. We call into question the swiftness with which Scripps College responds to speech that challenges systematically privileged identities, and we challenge the community to think critically about what speech makes them feel uncomfortable versus unsafe. We want the students who wrote these statements to know that their perspectives are valued in this space and that we will continue to resist Scripps’s effort to silence these perspectives in public spaces such as The Motley. / We recognize that erasing this board works to reinforce systems of power and oppression, and therefore we will not let this be where we let the story end. We urge the community to challenge each other and ourselves, and to destroy white supremacy, white privilege, colonialism, fascism, and (neo)liberalism on campus.”

This is not the first time that student speech has sparked controversy on campus. Last March, when the message “#Trump2016” was found scrawled on a whiteboard hanging in the hall of a student dormitory at Scripps College, student body president Minjoo Kim derided the “vandalism” as a “racist” act of “intentional violence” in a public address to the community.

Both the Scripps College administration and the management of the Motley Coffeehouse declined to comment upon request.

College Presidents Spread False Anti-Trump Narrative to Student Body

Earlier this week, presidents of the five Claremont Colleges joined over thirty peer institutions of higher education in denouncing President Trump’s recent executive order, which halts refugee immigration from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen for 90 days. Trump stated of the executive order, “America is a proud nation of immigrants and we will continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression, but we will do so while protecting our own citizens and border … The seven countries named in the Executive Order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror.” However, the presidents’ emails to their respective student bodies described Trump’s policy as a ban on Muslim immigration.

Pomona College President David Oxtoby, for example, described Trump’s orders as “deeply troubling” examples of “xenophobia” and “religious discrimination.” President Oxtoby stated that “these actions tear at the fabric of who we are and what we aspire to be.” Pitzer College President Melvin Oliver went so far as to say that “President Trump has altered the American experience, and with it the vision of hope and unity previously shared by most of us.”

President Oliver’s statement continues, “three executive orders … have upended our policies of openness and welcoming,” claiming that the orders have “the practical effect of creating a religious ban against people of Muslim faith.” Though Trump’s orders would likely affect only around 200 million of over 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide, President Oliver told the Independent that he believes “America is more beautiful because of its inclusiveness, not despite it.” Oliver stated that “xenophobia – whether targeted at one … or 1.5 billion – goes against America’s founding values,” but did not specify why he thinks Trump’s orders amount to a Muslim ban or what about them is xenophobic.

While noting that Pitzer College, Claremont McKenna College, and Pomona College currently enroll zero students from the seven countries named in the executive order, each of the school presidents made lengthy efforts to reiterate the availability of emotional assistance for students who “feel vulnerable.” President Lara Tiedens of Scripps College ended her own note by stating “We are fortunate to have such a strong network of active, informed, and compassionate individuals who are invested in preserving Scripps as a haven for inclusive excellence,” referencing a December statement naming Scripps “a sanctuary center of higher education” which would follow in the footsteps of Pomona College and Pitzer College to refuse compliance with federal law regarding immigration status.

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Image: Flickr

CMC Funds Racially Exclusive Program to Fight Racism

On January 25, Vince Greer – the Assistant Dean of Students for Diversity and Inclusion at Claremont McKenna College (CMC) – distributed the following message to the students, faculty and staff of the college:

“Dear CMC community, The Cultural Influences on Mental Health Center at CMC is offering a FREE 8-week compassionate meditation program for ethnic minority students to learn how to heal from racism- and race-related incidents. Students must identify as an ethnic minority, must have experienced race-related stress, and must have attended one of the Claremont Colleges for at least one semester. If you meet these requirements and are in need of such services, you are eligible to sign up!” [emphasis original.]

Dean Greer’s email continues to state that while Professor Wei-Chin Hwang will head the  healing program, it will be “co-led by two students.” Hwang is a tenured, full-time professor of psychology at Claremont McKenna College with expertise in “Cultural Competency” and “Race & Social Problems.” Greer’s email to the community closes by making clear that the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of Claremont McKenna has approved the program.

Many students have expressed concerns about the racial exclusivity of the program. Shawn McFall, (CMC ’18), the President of the Claremont College Republicans, told the Independent, “I find it disturbing that school funding is supporting a cause which excludes the majority of CMC students. Too many school programming centers which claim to represent and foster diversity have become mere tools for exclusion.”

Alex Ohlendorf (CMC ’18) told the Independent, “It is troubling to see that CMC, an institution which just last year saw widespread movements against racism on campus, has approved and funded an event that specifically denies students the opportunity to participate on the basis of ethnicity. By creating such segregated programs, administrators only encourage political polarization and prevent dialogue.”

Following the above-mentioned protests at Claremont McKenna College in late 2015, President Hiram Chodosh wrote publicly that “We must ensure that each of our students shares a deep sense of belonging to the CMC community. Thus, I am committed to developing a thoughtful, productive, and responsible inclusion strategy, where every student is fully engaged and valued… No student or group on our campus should live and learn in isolation.”

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Image: Flickr