Category Archives: Campus News

CMC Administration and Faculty Express Support for Protestors

This afternoon, Dean of Faculty Peter Uvin sent an email to the student body with an attached letter signed by over 200 CMC students who opposed some aspects of the protests this past week. Uvin flippantly writes, “I received this message last night and totally forgot to forward it to the students. Here it is—better late than never.”

The letter states, “While we do not condone the costumes and cultural insensitivity that the girls in costumes displayed, it is not permissible to publicly humiliate and essentially cyber bully girls that have repeatedly apologized.” The letter also expressed disapproval of students’ decision to use a hunger strike to force Dean Spellman resign.

Dean Uvin sent another email right afterwards about “painful” and “angry” statements that have been made over the past week. “Some communication—foremost on social media, and sometimes by people from outside our campus—has consisted of hurtful ad hominem attack, vitriol, and other disrespectful personal statements,” writes Uvin. Though Uvin notes that such speech is constitutionally protected, he goes on to state, “these sorts of attacks instill fear and undermine the commitment to mutual respect. This is not the way we want to behave, not [sic] is it this way any of us will achieve our goals in a sustainable manner.”

Dean Uvin ends his email, “PS. Please know that while even aggressive and hurtful statements are covered by the First Amendment, any threats of violence are illegal, violate College policy, and trigger immediate investigation and strong discipline. Please contact us immediately if you experience or observe any such threats.” Uvin also attached some Tips for Dialogue that provides guidelines for how students should talk to one another:

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In an email sent last Thursday, Dean Uvin expressed support for the protestors and their movement. The email included a statement of support from 102 faculty members, which is nearly half of the total CMC faculty. “We are collectively sorry for incidents of bias that students have experienced in our classrooms and on our watch,” said the statement. “We will strive to do more to attend adequately in our course curricula to race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, class, and privilege.”

The email provides a bullet-point list of the ways in which the faculty plans to address the protestors’ concerns:

We endorse and pledge to work towards the immediate creation of staff positions dedicated to diversity/inclusion issues.

We endorse and pledge to work towards the creation of an on-campus resource center dedicated to the needs of students of marginalized identities. Until permanent space can be found, we endorse and pledge to work towards the immediate re-allocation of other existing space. 

We endorse and pledge to work towards the need for diversity training for faculty as soon as possible, and ideally as soon as next semester.

We endorse the need to re-evaluate our curricula, and we pledge to conduct such a re-evaluation to be sure that a CMC education adequately addresses issues of race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, class, and privilege.

We pledge to continue our longstanding commitment to engaging students in critical discourse.”

Earlier this week, Claremont McKenna College President Hiram Chodosh sent an email describing the “institutional needs and action steps” that CMC needs to take in response to the protests. “We have authorized the creation of a new leadership position on diversity and inclusion within Student Affairs, dedicated to provide direct student support and education and experiential programming for the entire campus,” the email states.

Chodosh goes on to state that CMC will create a similar position in the Academic Affairs committee. “We have authorized the creation of a new leadership position on diversity and inclusion within Academic Affairs, dedicated to supporting faculty recruitment, ongoing efforts to integrate and strengthen diversity throughout the curriculum, and the provision of resources to faculty in their work with students from diverse experiences and backgrounds.”

“We have authorized the creation of a new programming space to support campus climate (identity, diversity, and free speech),” the email continues. “This space will be dedicated to collaborative, educational work by students, professional staff, and other experts on diversity, identity, civil rights, and free speech issues on our campus.”

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Image Source: Wes Edwards

Dean Spellman Resigns Following Student Protest

Earlier today, Mary Spellman resigned from her position as Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students at Claremont McKenna College. The resignation occurred in response to a protest that took place yesterday, which was centered on the idea that Dean Spellman had not done enough to create a safe space on campus for students from marginalized backgrounds. The protests were catalyzed by an email Spellman sent to a student in response to an article that student had written for The Student Life earlier this week.

“Since 2010 I have been privileged to serve as Dean of Students at Claremont McKenna College,” states Spellman in her email resignation. “Today I am submitting my letter of resignation, effective immediately. I do so with sadness beyond words, because these nearly six years have been the most rewarding and fulfilling of my life, but also with the conviction that it is the right thing to do for the school and the students I care about so deeply.”

Though many students pushed for Spellman’s resignation—including two students who went on a hunger strike—not everyone on campus shared this sentiment. In her email, Spellman notes that one student wrote to her, “You’ve inspired me in my time at CMC.  Please stay strong and realize students like me need you to stay here…I will always be honored to consider you a mentor, a role model, and above all, friend.”

Additionally, a faculty member wrote, “I also recognize how much you have worked to make our community more inclusive… I know I join many fellow faculty members and students in expressing my full support and confidence in you as Dean of Students here at CMC.”

Spellman closes her email by stating, “To all who have been so supportive, please know how sorry I am if my decision disappoints you.  I believe it is the best way to gain closure of a controversy that has divided the student body and disrupted the mission of this fine institution.  Most important, I hope this will help enable a truly thoughtful, civil and productive discussion about the very real issues of diversity and inclusion facing Claremont McKenna, higher education and other institutions across our society.”

CMC Students Feel Marginalized, Demand Resources and Resignations

Yesterday afternoon, a student demonstration took place at Claremont McKenna College (CMC), where students of marginalized identities demanded administrative officials accommodate their specialized needs on campus. Their demands include a permanent resource center; the immediate creation of two diversity positions for student affairs and faculty; and a general education requirement for ethnic, racial, and sexuality theory; along with over a dozen other demands listed in their original letter to President Hiram Chodosh sent earlier this year. The demonstration’s organizers include the CMCers of Color, the Brothers and Sisters Alliance (BSA), Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA), Asian Pacific American Mentors (APAM), and GenU.

At the demonstration, students vocalized their demands, emphasizing that they want everything done on their own terms. “We don’t want a center for free speech meant to educate white students,” one protestor asserted. “We want a center that supports marginalized students first and foremost.” When students demanded that President Chodosh commit to giving them a temporary and eventually permanent space on campus, he initially said that he could not commit to a temporary space, but is working on a permanent space at this time. But after about 5 minutes of students speaking out against him, President Chodosh said he would love to transform the Hub, CMC’s student food store and central lounge, to provide them with a temporary space. In a swift, executive decision, CMC Student Body President Will Su dedicated part of the student government office as a temporary space, ordering the administration to give these students a permanent space immediately.

“To the administration as a whole, we require greater diversity in our faculty and staff,” stated the protest leader. “The need for such programs to educate the student body is eminent [sic] by the numerous microaggressions felt by students of color.” Students of color called out racially-insensitive professors for making them feel unsafe. “We want mandatory and periodic racial sensitivity trainings for all professors,” one protestor stated. “How are students supposed to learn in the classroom when they don’t even feel safe? When their own professors, someone who is supposed to be a mentor to them, a teacher, doesn’t even respect their identities? We want more diverse course offerings for critical race theory, community engagement, and social justice issues.”

The Dean of Students, and specifically Dean Mary Spellman, faced the brunt of the complaints. In the past few days, an “offensive” email sent by Dean Spellman was widely circulated on Facebook and prompted calls for her resignation. In the email, Dean Spellman responded to an article that voiced concerns by a student of color, stating that she wants to better serve students “who don’t fit our CMC mold.” Her comment outraged several students of color, and the email was cited as another example of institutional racism at CMC. Since then, students have demanded that Dean Spellman resign from her position, with a few students on a hunger strike that won’t end until she does so. Dean Spellman apologized multiple times over email and at the demonstration for her “poorly worded” statement, but students still demand that she resign.

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One of the other main catalysts for the demonstration was a photo of four CMC students from Halloween, where two white students dressed in stereotypical Mexican clothing and were condemned for cultural appropriation. A student of color wrote the original post: “For anyone who ever tries to invalidate the experiences of POC [people of color] at the Claremont Colleges, here is a reminder of why we feel the way we do. Don’t tell me I’m overreacting, don’t tell me I’m being too sensitive. My voice will not be silenced.” The post was also widely circulated on Facebook over the weekend and prompted several other students of color to speak out. Students condemned CMC’s junior class president, who was in the photo holding the sign that said “Sorry” (dressed as a Justin Bieber back-up dancer), for being complicit in cultural appropriation and demanded her resignation.

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The junior class president resigned on November 10 in an email, apologizing for being a bystander in the situation. “I promise to speak up and act out when I witness offensive and harmful behaviors in our community,” she wrote. “I promise that I won’t let my fears get in the way of standing up for something that is right, and something that continues to be a necessary dialogue here at the Colleges. Most importantly, I promise to be more conscientious of what I say and do and truly think about the parties that can be affected.”

The demonstration yesterday afternoon was preceded by a campus-wide letter that the groups sent out that morning. The letter explained the ways in which the administration has failed to address their concerns in the past. Students of marginalized identities described their campus experience with words like “misunderstood,” “intimidated,” “don’t belong,” “fragmented,” “excluded,” “daunting,” “conflicted,” “isolated,” and “scared.”

Students reported that professors “constantly mistake them for another student of color in class” which shows that “teachers characterize and distinguish them by their skin color and not by their personhood.” Additionally, students complained that CMC’s Crime and Public Policy course “does not offer readings with perspectives of people of color” and that the Civil War history simulation about the pros and cons of slavery is “extremely insensitive” and “hurtful.” CMC’s economics professors were targeted for having a “clear bias” against people from low-income backgrounds. Students reported that these professors used terms like “Welfare Queen” and had chastised poor people in their classes. They also criticized a new faculty member for “asking for examples of microaggressions,” which, to them, reflected “the lack of comprehensive training on racial sensitivity” among CMC’s faculty.

Students also complained about the Dean of Students. They stated that the Dean of Students’ First Year Guide and Resident Assistant training schedules included visits to the offices of Black Student Affairs and Chicano Latino Student Affairs, but not to the Asian American Resource Center. Apparently, the Deans’ exclusion of this visit “perpetuated the incorrect and problematic belief that Asian American students do not suffer from discrimination and racism and thus do not need resources.” Students then reported instances of when the Dean of Students dismissed complaints about LGBTQ-related offenses, accusing them of providing “inadequate resources” to change campus climate or support hurt students.

After listing over twenty complaints, the letter states, “We ask that the administration not get lost in the details of these events and in assigning guilt, but rather take responsibility as a whole for these actions and move forward with supporting students of marginalized identities.”

“For those administrators and professors who have not been involved in the efforts to create a resource center, you are not absolved of contributing to the discrimination and indifference that marginalized students have faced at CMC,” the letter continues. “Silence is oppression. We expect you to reflect on our proposals and implement swift and impactful changes to make your departments more inclusive, supportive, and accessible to students of marginalized identities.”

The letter ends, “To the department heads receiving this letter: if you stand in solidarity with us, please forward this to all the faculty in your department. We ask you to hold an emergency meeting to discuss how to better support marginalized students and to affirm our efforts and need for space.” This week, several classes have been cancelled, shortened, or used as discussion periods, and assignment deadlines have been extended.

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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