Category Archives: Campus News

Pitzer Senate: DreamCatchers Foundation “Tabled Indefinitely” Due to “Cultural Appropriation”

Last night, a student proposal to start a DreamCatchers Foundation affiliate club was “tabled indefinitely” at the Pitzer College student senate meeting. Senators expressed concerns that the term “dreamcatchers” was a form of cultural appropriation towards Native Americans. The club was intended to be a campus branch of the national DreamCatchers Foundation, an organization that helps create happy experiences, or “dreams,” for terminally ill hospice patients. The club was initially proposed to the Pitzer Senate by Janu Patel (PZ ’19) on November 1, where it was tabled for one week. At last night’s senate meeting, the proposal was tabled indefinitely by a vote of 16 to 9.

“Last Sunday, during our weekly meeting, the legislature had the opportunity to review a student organization application for the DreamCatchers Foundation,” stated Senate Treasurer Chance Kawar (PZ’ 17) in an email to the student senate obtained by the Claremont Independent. “Some student senators indicated that Native American community members ought to be consulted about the legitimacy of the organization’s name, prior to approving the application.”

Following the senate meeting, Kawar received a statement from Scott Scoggins, the Native American Pipeline Director and Outreach Liaison for Pitzer College. Scoggins said that the DreamCatcher Foundation “seems like a worthy organization in their goals and mission,” but “their choice of logo and name is problematic and is, I believe, an example of cultural appropriation.”

Additionally, Scoggins pointed out the fact that “the DreamCatchers Foundation does not explicitly indicate that it serves any Native nation or group in the Los Angeles area.” He continued to argue that “a corporation with a logo containing explicit Native imagery that doesn’t serve Native communities or affiliated with a Native organization is cultural appropriation.”

Some senators felt that these arguments were sufficient enough to provide evidence of cultural appropriation. In an interview with the Claremont Independent, Gregory Ochiagha (PZ ’18), a Special Constituency Representative, stated, “We have the Native American Liaison saying he believes it is cultural appropriation. We have a Native American student representative saying that it is cultural appropriation and that he feels uncomfortable. So to the question of whether it was cultural appropriation: yes, to Native American people, it’s cultural appropriation.”

Other senators were concerned about how the senate would look if it approved the DreamCatchers Foundation. “The name ‘DreamCatcher Foundation’ would appear next to Pitzer College on their website, as well as student senate’s,” said Lora McManus (PZ ’18), a member of the senate’s Diversity Committee, in an interview with the Claremont Independent. “Are we as a body ok with that? Is this how we want our school to be represented?”

Kawar also emailed Caitlin Crommett, the founder and CEO of the DreamCatchers Foundation. Crommett, whose family is part of the Penobscot tribe of Maine, replied that she is “a bit surprised by your [the senators’] concern regarding cultural appropriation.” Crommett stated that she has collected dreamcatchers for her entire life, and that her organization gives patients dreamcatchers as reminders of their experience. “For these reasons alone,” Crommett continues, “I believe that our foundation’s name of DreamCatchers is highly relevant to our work, and not at all cultural appropriation because of the respectful way in which we conduct our work.”

“We have in fact granted Dreams for Native American patients and spoken with them at length about the name,” noted Crommett. “In these cases, they have been fully supportive and interested in our name, and have in no way expressed a distaste or disappointment in the use of an element of Native American culture to represent the positive, beneficial work we do.”

Patel, who has been involved with the DreamCatchers Foundation since she was in high school, offered to partner with Native American groups on campus and help them with their events. Patel emphasized that the club would be doing good things, and that she wanted to further the organization’s mission at Pitzer.

Despite these efforts, student senators did not support the club proposal. “I do think a club like that needs to exist,” stated Ochiagha. “But because it is a cultural appropriation issue, and additionally because I don’t think the national organization is doing that much really to support a Pitzer College charter, I think we should just create a Pitzer club with the same exact purpose, with our own name that’s PC-friendly.”

The Pitzer Senate told Patel that they might be able to approve the DreamCatchers Club if she were able to use a different name. “I did try to talk to her [Crommett] about changing just the name for Pitzer,” Patel said in an interview with the Claremont Independent. “They said that since I want it to be a chapter of their organization, I have to keep the name.”

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Image Source: Flickr

Students Condemn Project Vulva for ‘Transmisogyny’

Last Thursday, students at Scripps College hosted an event at The Motley called “Project Vulva” to initiate dialogue about the stigmatization of vulvas in society. “Why is it that, generally, society is so comfortable with the image of the penis and vulvas are considered taboo?” states Project Vulva’s Facebook page. “In middle school people would scribble penis pictures on the desks in the classroom. There is always that kid who passes out at the party and someone draws a dick on his face.”

Project Vulva’s organizers described the event as “an educational and interactive art show displaying your friends [sic] depictions when we asked them, ‘Can you draw a vulva?’ We will also have cupcakes that you can decorate like vulvas. Supplies are limited!” The event’s stated goal was “to create an open dialouge [sic] educating people about the vulva in order to confront society’s stigmas and stereotypes, and make people more comfortable with the many varying images and types of cis and non-cis vulvas.”

However, the event faced harsh backlash from students who found it offensive to the trans community. One student, who felt that Project Vulva’s claim that penises are not stigmatized was untrue, wrote, “Society is not comfortable with the image of a penis on a woman. This event feels extremely transmisogynistic and to say penises are universally accepted as non-taboo is transmisogynistic. I can’t say I’m surprised though. There are infinitely many ways to celebrate genitals without making transmisogynistic remarks in the process.”

Another commenter wrote, “Right like this entire event is so incredibly violent to trans women specifically. I’m so disgusted.” The comment went on to state, “Equating genitalia to a person’s gender is and always will be transphobic.”

In defense of the event, one student tried to clarify the event’s description and commented, “I’m not really trying to protect transmisogyny and I honestly don’t know why you’d accuse me of that.” However, the comment only sparked further backlash.

“I don’t need your help parsing out the finer details of this garbage, cis, white event,” responded one commenter. “A trans woman is telling y’all this makes her feel uncomfortable and that’s not enough for you to rethink your stance on this? You’re gross, this whole thing is gross, have fun with your ugly cupcakes.”

The conversation intensified as more people defended the event, with one commenter arguing that students have a right “to try to explain our purpose and ask questions when attacked.” This outraged other students who felt that the word “attacked” has racist connotations.

“These women did not ‘attack’ you or your event,” replied one student. “You responded to their very very very credible and personal (as trans women of color) critique by using racialized terms (such as ‘attack’) to discredit their actions and hence discredit anything they are pointing out to you. That is wrong and racist.”

In response to these concerns, one of Project Vulva’s organizers wrote, “It has come to our attention that certain aspects of our project implied a binary perception of gender, as well as a limited relationship between gender and genitalia. We apologize to those offended. We strive to be as inclusive as possible, which is why we are doing our best to incorporate all viewpoints into discussion. We hope that everyone can attend our event and continue to have progressive conversations.”

Additionally, officials from The Motley issued a statement: “The Motley wants to validate and support the critiques that have been voiced concerning Project Vulva. We are deeply sorry for the hurt experienced by the trans community both in the space of the Motley and on the Scripps campus in general. Being a privileged and exclusive space has long been imbedded in our herstory, and though we have tried and are trying to become an inclusive space where everyone can feel safe and accepted, we recognize that we have failed.”

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Image: Pinterest

Pitzer Senate: “Yacht Club” is Too Offensive

At Pitzer’s weekly student Senate meeting this past Sunday, a proposed Yacht Club was turned down on the grounds that its name was offensive. “Student Senate voted against this club instatement last night, as the majority of Senators found the name ‘Yacht Club’ to have a particularly offensive association with Yacht Clubs and a recreation known for being exclusive,” wrote Taylor Novick-Finder (PZ ’17), an Environmental Senator, in an email on Pitzer’s Student Talk thread.

The club requested $5000 in funding to go towards renting boats and hiring instructors, though clubs do not have to receive the full amount requested from the Senate (or any money at all) if the Senate approves them. According to Senators, this was only the third club to be rejected by the Senate in the history of Pitzer College. The first two, the Hammock Club and the Cake Club, were denied because they were too similar to existing clubs already funded by Pitzer.

The Yacht Club’s would-be president, Jordan Fox (PZ ’16), is also a member of the student Senate at Pitzer. “We as a Student Senate have overreached our boundaries,” Fox stated in an interview with the Claremont Independent. “We should be looking for ways to fund clubs that promote a sense of community within the student body.” Fox has never sailed before, and was hoping to start a club that teaches and promotes boating and sailing. “It’s frustrating that we don’t really have a precedent set as far as which clubs we’re willing to approve and which ones we aren’t. It’s almost like this is a satire at this point.”

“We were turned down just because of our name,” Fox said. “We have been trying to talk about the description of the club, but everyone is so focused on the name. We never had intentions of making this club offensive in any way. I certainly never would have thought this name could be considered classist.”

According to screen shots obtained by the Claremont Independent, some students felt that the decision to reject the Yacht Club was justified, regardless of its name. “It doesn’t matter what it is called, the club itself is a classist and inaccessible activity for people who are not wealthy,” wrote one Pitzer student. “Pitzer’s money would be going towards a luxurious classist, elitist yachting activity (alienating students on campus who are lower income) instead of going to support for example queer and trans people of color, disabled students, working class students, indigenous/Native American students, etc.”

Other students disagreed. “I think you are missing the point that this club would open up access to sailing for people who have never been able to experience it, like myself,” wrote Kyle Dalrymple (PZ ’17), a member of the Senate’s Faculty Executive Committee. “Additionally, I will stress again the approval of a club has nothing to do with the budget allocated to it.”

Senators also criticized the decision to turn down the Yacht Club based on the precedent set when the Tattoo Club was approved earlier this year. The Tattoo Club’s proposal statement says that the club’s function “would potentially include but not be limited to: subsidizing transportation to tattooing locations, subsidizing the cost of the tattoos themselves, bringing speakers to the Claremont Colleges, providing information about tattoo related locations and events, and hosting stick and poke parties! (just kidding).”

Typically, the only criteria that the Senate considers when determining whether or not to approve a club is that it uses money from the student activities fund to pay for student experiences (as opposed to commodities), which Yacht Club stated it would do.

One Senator pointed out the hypocrisy of rejecting Yacht Club when Tattoo Club was funded for the same overarching purpose of opening up access to different experiences.  If anything, subsidizing tattoos for individual students constitutes more of a commodity than renting a boat for students to learn how to sail together. “Taylor’s student talk email was a disgusting misrepresentation of the situation and an attempt to rial [sic] up the student body in opposition to this club instead of having to deal with addressing some of the dangerous precedents set by this body. It should be noted that Taylor was adamantly in favor of tattoo club, which we openly opposed.”

Yacht Club’s founders hope that Senate will approve their club if they change its name. “I by no means want anyone to feel uncomfortable. I would just like a space on campus where we as students can enjoy and learn more about sailing, boating, the ocean, and sea chanteys,” said Fox. “After the meeting, we are planning to change the name of the club or possibly drop the matter altogether.”

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Image Source: Flickr

ASPC Defends Defunding

Yesterday, the Pomona College community received a statement from the Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC) regarding its decision to revoke funding from Mudd Goes Madd last weekend. The email states,

“Last year, students on Harvey Mudd’s campus started planning an event also titled ‘Mudd Goes Madd.’ A number of students from the mental health and disability communities protested the name and the framing of the party on the grounds that they trivialize mental health disabilities, and that the concept of ‘going mad’ has historically been used to discredit individuals with chronic or acute mental illness, especially those who are marginalized in other forms.”

The email noted that the primary reason ASPC defunded the event was that Mudd Goes Madd’s organizers did not ask students affected by mental illness and disabilities for their feedback on the party’s name––a step ASPC felt was necessary in planning an event with such an ableist name. ASPC stated, “To the students that made their voices heard last year and to all of those who belong to the mental health and disability communities: we hear you. You are important to us. We value you. Especially to those who have been traditionally left out of mental health and disability conversations: you matter to us. These issues are always on the forefronts of our minds and are a focus of actions we will take this year.  We will work to represent and amplify your voices: we are here to support you.”

ASPC stated that it did not know Pomona students would be unable to attend the event after funding was removed. It is not stated whether knowledge of that information would have changed ASPC’s decision regarding funding.

The email closed with the statement, “We will continue to strive for a more inclusive campus and keep inclusivity as a top priority when funding events and clubs.”

Also included in the email was a note from the Disability, Illness, and Difference Alliance (DIDA), the 5C Disability Mentor Network (5CDMN), and the 5C Mental Health Alliance (MHA), which listed these groups’ complaints pertaining to the party’s name.

“We are writing because we believe that the conversation around Mudd Goes Madd needs to center the violence [sic] of ableist language and not the technicalities of ASPC’s decision,” the note begins. “While we don’t believe that the party planners intended to be ableist by naming the party Mudd Goes Madd, the word still carries a connotation of violence against disabled people.”

“Language is only one piece of the complex system of institutional ableism that students encounter daily at Mudd and in the 5Cs at large, but it is one of the most basic ways that we can support our peers,” the letter goes on to state. “It is important for us to be critical of our language, because the impact of ableist phrases extends beyond someone being offended. Words are used to oppress people.”

The note states that the party’s name restigmatizes mental illness, and that “Mudd Goes Madd erases the history of violence and institutionalization of mentally ill people and constructs madness as being silly and drunk.”

The letter goes on to state that the name Mudd Goes Madd also stigmatizes alcoholics. “What does it mean for Mudd to go ‘madd’ at this party? Are people mentally ill at the party because they got drunk? Addiction is a mental illness where people’s lives are jeopardized because they have no support. Thinking about partying through a metaphor about alcoholism is unacceptable.”

The letter continues, “Our disappointment is not about political correctness. Mudd Goes Madd dismisses the needs and wellbeing of disabled students.”

The letter closes with a call for the permanent banning of the name Mudd Goes Madd. “We demand that Mudd Goes Madd is no longer used. No event should reference disability without engaging with it in meaningful and critical ways. Event planners must involve disabled students from their own community and DIDA when programming events.”

 

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Image Source: Wiki Commons

ASPC Gets Madd

Earlier today, the Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC) voted against funding a 5C party called “Mudd Goes Madd” due to the name’s trivialization of mental health issues. The event description on Facebook states:

“Join your favorite Madd scientists as we get down and dirty with paint for North’s first 5C party of the year! Get covered in gallons of fluorescent (but washable!) paint on September 26th at North Dorm!”

Though seemingly similar to other parties Mudd has hosted in the past (such as “Foam,” which will not be taking place this year), the ASPC committee opposed funding Mudd Goes Madd, which would prevent Pomona students from being able to attend the event.

One of the hosts for the event, Elise Cassella (HMC ’18) released the following statement she received from ASPC regarding its decision:

“The committee has decided against funding your event due to the following reasons:

After asking what improvements Mudd North Dorm would make in terms of making one of the first major 5c events of the year safer than previous year, [sic] the answer provided addressed none of the primary concerns, such as crowd control, atmosphere, and security.

We are disappointed at your choice of the name for the event, as well as your rationale for allowing the name ‘Mudd Goes Madd.’ Your disregard of the concerns of the mental health community and their allies trivializes the issues that we deem extremely important to our community. Further, the exclusion of the mental health community in the discussion of allowing the event name is inappropriate.”

ASPC President Nico Kass (PO ’16) also released a statement to justify ASPC’s opposition to funding Mudd Goes Madd:

“On behalf of ASPC Senate, I would like to explain the rationale behind our decision to not fund this event. Most importantly, not only do we believe the name trivializes mental health and disability issues, but despite students’ repeated expression of hurt due to the party name in the past, the event organizers decided to exclude them from the conversation and dismiss their concerns as unimportant.”

ASPC’s precaution against using the term “Madd” in order to protect students with mental health issues did not resonate well with students, including those with mental illnesses. Some of these students expressed concerns that ASPC was patronizing them. “As a guy on the autism spectrum,” responded one anonymous CMC student, “ASPC’s reasoning is less than helpful. ASD is a very serious issue, but treating me like I’m five years old and trying to protect me from every possible trigger doesn’t prepare me for the real world.”

Similarly, another 5C student, who requested anonymity, stated, “I am actually bipolar and I am offended that people infantilize the whole issue of mental illness by suggesting we should be protected from anything that could damage our ‘fragile’ psyches.”

Jeffrey Allen (PO ’17) had another theory for ASPC’s reasoning to defund the event. “I may be overestimating the ability of Pomona students to behave rationally around anything related to political correctness, but I seriously doubt this has anything to do with the name and has everything to do with ASPC not wanting to spend money. If that is the case, using social justice as a cover for an unpopular decision is truly despicable.”

In response to the outpouring of opposition, Mudd Goes Madd ultimately decided to open its doors to Pomona students despite the lack of funding. Casella stated, “In light of all the responses we’ve received and observed, we’ve decided to make the party 5C and allow every 5C student to attend. We just want everyone to be safe and have a good time tomorrow night. The party will proceed as initially intended and if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to any of the hosts.”

Mudd Goes Madd will take place tomorrow night from 9:00pm to 1:00am at North Dorm.

Update: September 25, 2015

Elise Casella confirmed that “Mudd Goes Madd” has never been used as a party name in the past, contrary to Nico Kass’ statement.

Update: September 26, 2015

When ASPC made its decision to not fund, it was not aware that it would prevent Pomona College students from attending the event. 5C parties do not have to be funded by all the colleges for their students to attend.

Update: September 29, 2015

In 2010, Harvey Mudd College planned a party with the “Mudd Goes Madd” name. http://cmcforum.com/news/02052010-mudd-prepares-for-maddness

Update: September 30, 2015

Elise Casella clarified that “Mudd Goes Madd” was not an event last year, but it has been used as a party name in the past.

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Image Source: Flickr