Category Archives: Campus News

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.”

 

____________________________________

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.

________________________________________

Image Source: Flickr

Five Financial Tips for Freshmen

We all know that being on your own for the first time can lead to spending temptations. Whether through mismanaged bills or adventurous desires, it’s very easy to overspend while in college. With new opportunities and new costs, first-year students often find themselves exceeding their allotted budgets. However, there is good news. By following these five easy tips, I can guarantee your success as a new financially responsible adult!

First, for those who don’t live within driving distance of campus, your biggest expense will be plane tickets. These can range anywhere from $100 to $500 one-way (even higher for international students). You should absolutely book all flights you plan on taking well before the semester begins. Not only will this help solidify your schedule, but it will also drastically reduce your costs. Let’s say for example, that I planned on flying back to St. Louis for both Fall Break and Thanksgiving. If I booked all six of my necessary flights for the fall semester right now, my estimated cost would be around $900, but if I waited to buy the tickets until the month before each trip, I would be looking at an estimated total cost of $2,400. Therefore, by simply booking flights well in advance, you can more than halve the total cost.

The second largest expense you will incur are textbooks. For those of you who don’t know, all the necessary textbooks you’ll need for your classes can be found on your school’s portal. My first rule for textbook purchasing is to NEVER buy them from the on-campus bookstore. You are likely receiving the highest possible price by buying them in the 5C bookstore even though they may tell you that the rental program is a bargain. The cheapest alternative is to purchase the least expensive “used” option on Amazon well before the semester begins. While this may be difficult to do your first semester, this policy is definitely one to adopt in the future. The Pomona College financial packet that everyone receives describing the estimated net cost of attendance lists the average textbook cost to be about $900 for the academic year. To be frank, if you’re spending more than $200 a semester on textbooks, you’re being ripped off and throwing away money. By simply using the ISBN numbers provided by your teacher on the portal, you will be able to buy the books you need on Amazon, or other third-party sales companies, for a fraction of the cost. If you buy used, and buy early, you will be able to drastically reduce your total textbook costs.

Now that the basics have been covered, let’s delve into day-to-day money-saving opportunities. First and foremost, always use all the meals you have on your meal plan before paying for meals either on or off campus–remember, you have already paid for your meal plan through your room and board payment at the beginning of the year. Every meal you don’t use is money thrown away. Make sure to use all of your meals and take a piece of fruit or other small item on your way out of the dining hall, which will serve as a “free” snack later in the day. That way you’ve made the most of your pre-paid meal plan. This may seem like simple and common sense advice, but you would be amazed how many 5C students don’t fully utilize the meals they’re allotted.

Next, limit your off-campus meals to at most one per week. I know it’s tempting to eat out frequently since the options are very enticing and the dining hall food can eventually get repetitive, but I implore you to resist. Eating out is the easiest way to see a planned budget disappear. If you allot about $10-15 per week for a meal off-campus, that sum is a very manageable monthly expense. However, even if you simply double that figure by going out twice a week, you’re looking at a monthly expense of close to $100. Use the dining halls to your advantage and make going out to eat an event to remember as opposed to simply another meal. That will augment both your experience and bank account.

Last but not least, keep a precise budget of your spending for the semester. Personally, I use an Excel spreadsheet to document my every cost, but I realize that’s probably overkill and too tedious for most college students. With that in mind, I recommend finding one of the hundreds of budgeting apps on your phone to keep track of your expenses. Just as keeping track of everything you eat will reduce the amount you consume, the same effect applies to spending. If you get into a habit of recording all your costs, you will naturally be more mindful of your budgetary needs.

These five tips will help you manage your college spending and create good habits for life outside of academia. Don’t fret if budgeting seems daunting at first. Just slowly try to implement as many of these tips as possible to reign in your costs. Using this advice, you can cut your total living expenses in half each semester and save upwards of $12,000 over the course of your undergraduate education.

 

______________________________

Image: Flickr.

News Flash, Pomona: We’re #1—And That’s a Good Thing

Pomona College was ranked #1 in Forbes magazine’s 2015 Best Colleges List, a fact that the college had proudly stated on its recently-renovated website since the ranking came out this past July. Earlier today, however, Pomona removed its Forbes ranking from the school’s official website in response to a petition that made the rounds on Facebook starting yesterday. The petition, signed by 58 of Pomona’s approximately 1,600 students, expressed concerns about the “harmful effects of college rankings” on students applying to colleges.

The statement reads, “Pressure to attend highly ranked schools can result in stress, anxiety, and unhealthy competition among students at a time when we are most in need of support, trust, and objective information.”

There are several problems with this rhetoric. First of all, most students applying to college begin their search by perusing US News and World Report, Forbes, Business Insider and other college rankings lists to get a sense for the schools that are realistic options for them given their academic credentials.  Only then do they review schools’ own websites. Even though Pomona removed its ranking from its website, the ranking is still easily accessible on Forbes’ website where students and their parents are likely to see it.

Further, removing the ranking from Pomona’s website will not change the pressure students feel to attend highly ranked colleges.  As long as these rankings exist, students will feel compelled to try to attend a highly ranked college, as these colleges (especially those on Forbes’ list) promise a higher return on students’ college investment.  Given the ever rising cost of a four-year education, this is important for all students, particularly those from low-income families or those who are paying for college without parental assistance. 

Additionally, the petition’s concerns about a lack of objective information are completely unfounded. Forbes’ rankings are based almost entirely on objective criteria: graduation rates, retention rates, graduates’ salaries, and average federal student loan debt load, for example. The only subjective data Forbes uses is student evaluations from RateMyProfessor, which constitute just 7.5% of a school’s ranking.

The petition goes on to state, “We encourage Pomona College to instead emphasize the many qualities which make it great and beloved–its community and relationships, small and rigorous classes, commitment to access, and student research and leadership opportunities. These qualities tell the story of our college far better than a single number.”

Oddly enough, these criteria are all entirely subjective. Nearly every US college brags on its website about its “community and relationships,” “rigorous classes,” and “leadership opportunities.” If these were the only criteria that schools presented to their prospective students, it would be impossible to distinguish any two colleges from one another. Forbes—and other similar rankings—use objective data to compare drastically different schools and give students the best opportunity to make a decision based on the qualities that are most important to them.

Students who don’t care about rankings—presumably the same students who signed the petition—should not care either way about how the rankings are publicized. After all, they certainly don’t take them into consideration when choosing which school to attend. But for some students—and, more importantly, for many employers—rankings are very important. The unfortunate truth is that despite Pomona’s strong academics and high ranking, it still is not a very well known school. There is a strong possibility that potential employers will not have heard of Pomona and will need to look it up when Pomona grads apply for jobs. The first hit an employer who googles Pomona College will see is Pomona’s official website. If pomona.edu lists the Forbes ranking right from the get-go, it guarantees that employers will know that Pomona is a well-respected college.

Perhaps the most troubling part of this debacle is the statement that it makes. Pomona’s removal of its ranking from the website is simply a statement that the school does not feel comfortable embracing its own success. Whether students are willing to admit it or not, college is competitive. Students compete to attend the best schools, schools compete to matriculate the best students, and employers compete to recruit graduates from the best colleges. In a competitive environment, not everyone can be a winner. Pomona should take pride in the fact that a major publication considers it to be the best college in America rather than giving in to the concerns of a handful of students who are worried that our objective success will negatively affect our vibrant and diverse community. There is no harm that can come of leaving the ranking online, but real harm could be done to Pomona graduates by failing to post the ranking. It is the responsibility of the college to do everything in its power to help its students succeed, and by removing the ranking from its website, Pomona has failed in that responsibility.

At Pomona, our culture assumes that anyone with a complaint has a legitimate grievance. This is simply not true, and it will be to the detriment of the school if we continue to allow anything that bothers even the tiniest fraction of our student body to be banned.

_____________________________________________

Photography by Wes Edwards.

Coming This Fall: Changes to RDS

Much like the distraught Prince Hamlet, nearly every CMC sophomore has hit an existential fork in the road: to RDS, or not to RDS? Okay, so perhaps that is overstating it, but the underlying sentiment is there. At one point or another, the thought of applying to the prestigious Robert Day Scholars (RDS) program has entered the minds of many CMC students, and the program has had an increasingly influential presence on campus. President Hiram Chodosh and Mr. Robert Day (CMC ’65) have recently discussed ways to improve the program, which resulted in the Chodosh administration’s introduction of a new “RDS Amendment” that will be discussed at the first CMC faculty meeting this fall.

On July 13, 2015, in a CMC faculty-wide email, President Chodosh and newly appointed Dean of Faculty Peter Uvin laid out the three goals of the RDS Amendment. First, the amendment will create an Administrative Director position to streamline the internal and external workings of the program. Michelle Chamberlain, the current RDS Director of External Relations, was temporarily appointed to this position for the summer. Second, the amendment refocuses the program’s attention to CMC and other Claremont College students by allowing the program to no longer recruit MA students from outside the Claremont Colleges.

The third change is perhaps the most consequential for students (at least, directly). The amendment permits the program to “admit Robert Day Scholars at any point in their CMC academic cycle” and creates more flexibility in “the design of the monetary level, the timing of the awards, and how they may be tied to the productivity of the scholars.” In an interview with The Claremont Independent, Michelle Chamberlain explained that right now the scholarship is given only in a scholar’s senior year. So even though scholars are selected as sophomores, they are not given their monetary award until two years later. Chamberlain suggested that the amendment could potentially create a distribution structure for how the scholarship is awarded over time. For instance, the award can be distributed in a scholar’s sophomore, junior, and senior years, and some of those distributions could be tied to something concrete, like starting an enterprise or funding a research opportunity. She emphasized, however, that everything is still in flux, and this is only one potential option for how to redesign the awards.

When asked why this third change in particular is being made, Chamberlain responded that the college is interested in making sure that the RDS program gives students the transformative experience that Mr. Day originally sought to provide. After donating $200 million––one of the largest single recorded gifts in liberal arts college history––to establish the RDS program in 2007, Mr. Day, the founder and former chairman of Trust Company of the West, said that he attributes much of his business success to his transformative CMC experience and that the program is his way of giving back.

The faculty committee created to work on the amendment has only met twice, and the RDS staff has only met once, so a lot more work needs to be done before any of these changes are finalized. For now, the administration has encouraged CMC professors to share their thoughts and suggestions for the amendment. Stay tuned for more updates this fall.