Category Archives: Campus News

Citing “Exploitation,” Scripps RAs Refuse to Work, Issue Demands

On Thursday, Scripps College students employed as resident advisors (RAs) on campus announced that they will refuse to work in protest of their “exploitation” as “low income students of color” until their demands for extensive changes to college policies and personnel are met.

Though acknowledging that failing to perform their supervisory duties would enable students to “engage[] in unsafe behavior” and deprive students of a valuable mental health resource, the resident advisors insisted in an open letter to Scripps President Lara Tiedens that the college’s “exploitation” of their labor in the aftermath of the tragic death of a fellow Scripps student justified the drastic measures.

“We are now expected to continue to function in our roles while also grieving and trying to fulfill academic and other responsibilities,” the letter explained. “Furthermore, most of us are low income students of color, which further exacerbates the exploitation we are experiencing.”

The lengthy letter demands the “immediate resignation” of the current Dean of Students for failing to “show adequate leadership or support,” as well as significant changes to the college’s mental health, residential life, and financial aid policies.

Central are the changes the RAs are seeking to their own role on campus. They charge that their central duties, such as performing walkthroughs and enforcing college policies on lockouts and room residency, do “not actually model restorative justice” and hurt “marginalized students more than students with money and privilege.”

“For example, students are given two free lockouts per year, and after these free lockouts a student is fined $25 per lockout,” they explain, referring to the college’s policy on students who lock themselves out of their own rooms. “RAs are expected to record these lockouts so if a student surpasses their number of free lockouts, they are charged; this is a classist practice that serves no concrete purpose.”

The RAs also criticize the college’s requirement that students exit residence halls at the conclusion of each semester or face a daily fine. “Charging residents who stay past closing time for breaks is yet another classist practice that we are asked to implement,” they complain. “This [policy] does not allow any consideration of individual personal circumstances that leave students with nowhere to go. These, and all other fines used to disproportionately punish students must be removed.”

Turning to mental health on campus, the RAs’ letter demands that Scripps “increase the subsidy for off-campus therapy,” saying that a “financial burden should not be put on any student who seeks to improve their mental health.”

On financial aid, the RAs insist that the college “allocate[] emergency funding to accommodate unexpected changes in student finances.” They also propose a new financial aid formula that would permit students to obtain outside scholarships without reducing need-based aid granted by the college.

The labor “strike” is total. The RAs say that they “will not perform any of the labor expected of us” — including providing emotional support to students, responding to emergencies in the residence halls, and assisting students who are locked out of their rooms — unless the school agrees to meet their demands by April 20th.

The resident advisor position is one of the best-paying jobs available to students on campus at Scripps. Because RAs are important to ensuring student safety and protecting college property, Scripps College covers the full cost of room and board for all RAs — nearly $16,000 per year.


Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to airfare compensation as a benefit available to all Scripps RAs. In fact, the college chose to offer airfare compensation to some RAs on account of special personal circumstances.

Anti-Racism Protesters Segregated Themselves by Race

On Thursday night, protesters descended upon the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum at Claremont McKenna College (CMC) in order to prevent Heather Mac Donald, a political commentator and author, from giving a lecture scheduled for that night. The protesters were ultimately successful, as Mac Donald’s speech was cut short.

The protest was organized on Facebook by a group called “ShutDown Anti-BlackFascists,” and over 250 people—including students at the Claremont Colleges, students at other colleges, and non-students—attended. The Claremont Independent obtained a screen shot from the ShutDown Anti-BlackFascists group describing instructions for the protest.

The page states, “For white accomplices: Please keep in mind that your role at this protest, aside from acting in solidarity with POC students at the 5Cs, particularly Black students, is to serve as a buffer between students of color and the police. That means, if the police come, it is imperative that you stay at the protest with fellow accomplices and engage with cops should it come to that.” Outside the Athenaeum, protest leaders shouted, “White students to the front!”

ShutDown Anti-BlackFascists also discouraged protesters from speaking with the media, stating, “We ask that participants do not engage with CI [Claremont Independent] reporters or anyone else who is trying to derail this action.” When correspondents from the Independent, including this author, sought information from protesters, they were met with silence and often had hands, clothing, or signs pushed in their faces.

The instructions also describe an “accomplice meeting” at Scripps College where protesters can learn more information about how to handle themselves in various situations. “There is a high likelihood that campus security and police will be present,” states the Facebook page. “[S]o please attend the accomplice meeting at the Scripps Student Union today at 3:30 pm to act given that situation or one where counter protesting is taking place. It is very important that there are white bodies at the action – please show up yourself for the entire duration of the event or if not have friends who can be trusted to go in your place.”

CMC President Promises To Punish Policy Violators in Wake of Protest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Protesters Shut Down BLM Critic, Threaten Student Journalists

On Thursday, a raucous crowd of student protesters blocked the exits to Claremont McKenna College’s Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum, shutting down a scheduled lecture and question-and-answer session by Heather Mac Donald, a prominent scholar and critic of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Chanting “Black lives matter here” and “no cops, no KKK, no fascist USA,” protesters massed tightly around the exits, blocking fellow students from entering Mac Donald’s scheduled presentation, entitled “The War on Police.” Even faculty members who sought to enter the building were denied, with waves of protesters screaming and resorting to physical force to repel anyone who drew too close to the building. At one point, a crowd of White students screaming “Fuck White supremacy, fuck White supremacy” pushed an elderly White professor away from the Athenaeum entrance.

When the scheduled start time of Mac Donald’s presentation came and then went, the crowds earned a half-victory: Students wishing to attend the event were unable to hear Mac Donald in person, though her presentation ultimately took place over a video livestream more than an hour behind schedule.

“Student protesters have made it impossible for guests to enter the Athenaeum for the Heather McDonald talk this evening,” wrote Peter Uvin, the Vice President for Academic Affairs & Dean of the Faculty at Claremont McKenna College, in a campus-wide email. “In the interest of safety, Heather McDonald’s lecture will be livestreamed as close to 6:15 PM as possible.”

After Uvin’s announcement, the protests continued to swell. Upon locating the source of the livestream, students stood outside the glass windows and screamed in the hopes of disrupting the presentation. They also gathered outside all the entrances and exits from the building, including the service entrances and fire escapes, to block anyone seeking to enter or exit and to trap the speaker inside.

Protesters targeted observers and student journalists with their ire. White male students watching the chaos were ordered to leave, while journalists — including several from the Independent — found themselves surrounded by a mob seeking to block their coverage. One editor from the Independent reported receiving threats of physical violence for recording video at the scene, while another had to retreat to safety from the mob under the protection of a line of campus security officers.

Protesters also confronted students taking photos on the outskirts of the gathering, demanding that they blur out every person in their photos of the public demonstration.

Campus security was present during the protest, with anywhere from 10 to about 20 officers reportedly on the scene. Though typically unarmed, campus security officers appeared to be equipped with pepper spray in the event of a violent escalation. Despite several direct confrontations with protesters, who pressed forward into officers as they yelled “fuck the police,” the officers remained collected and professional, restraining the angry crowd without resorting to force.

At 7:05 pm Uvin released a statement to the Claremont McKenna community, which criticized the protest’s methods:

“What we face here is not an attempt to demonstrate, or to ask tough questions of our speaker, all of which are protected and cherished on this campus, but rather to make it impossible for her to speak, for you to listen, and for all of us  to debate. This we could not accept.”

Uvin went on to emphasize the importance of open discussion:

“Questions about policing, police brutality, crime, and race matter a lot to our society. Yet precisely because these issues are so important, we must be able to debate them, to acknowledge that there exist different analyses and life experiences about these matters, and to listen carefully to each other.”

Uvin ended the statement with a lengthy quote from the recent statement written by Princeton professors Cornel West and Robert George, including the following:

“It is all-too-common these days for people to try to immunize from criticism opinions that happen to be dominant in their particular communities. Sometimes this is done by questioning the motives and thus stigmatizing those who dissent from prevailing opinions; or by disrupting their presentations; or by demanding that they be excluded from campus or, if they have already been invited, disinvited. Sometimes students and faculty members turn their backs on speakers whose opinions they don’t like or simply walk out and refuse to listen to those whose convictions offend their values. Of course, the right to peacefully protest, including on campuses, is sacrosanct. But before exercising that right, each of us should ask: Might it not be better to listen respectfully and try to learn from a speaker with whom I disagree? Might it better serve the cause of truth-seeking to engage the speaker in frank civil discussion?”

 

These statements have been adjusted since the story’s initial publication to include Dean Uvin’s statement.

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Photo: Jenifer Hanki

Quinn Clarke, Elliot Dordick, Will Gu, and Steven Glick contributed reporting.

Claremont Students Plan to Protest ‘Anti-Black Fascist’ Heather Mac Donald

Students at the Claremont Colleges plan to protest and “shut down” a speech by prominent political commentator Heather Mac Donald tonight. Mac Donald, a member of the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal, is scheduled to give a speech at Claremont McKenna College’s Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum.

A photo of the students’ call to protest.

According to the event’s description on the Athenaeum’s website, “The Black Lives Matter movement holds that the U.S. is experiencing an epidemic of racially-driven police shootings, and that policing is shot through with systemic bias. Contending that the central Black Lives Matter narrative is not just false but dangerous, Heather Mac Donald will explore the data on policing, crime, and race and argue that policing today is driven by crime, not race, and that the movement has caused officers to back off of proactive policing in high crime areas, leading to the largest spike in nearly 50 years, disproportionately affecting blacks.”

Student protestors plan to “shut down” the event. “Anti-Black ‘scholar’ Heather Mac Donald has been invited to speak at Claremont McKenna College,” states the protest’s Facebook page. “Join the action with students of color at the Claremont Colleges to shut her down!!”

A Facebook event titled, “Shut Down Anti-Black Fascist Heather Mac Donald” and hosted by “ShutDown Anti-BlackFascists” encourages students to protest the event because Mac Donald “condemns [the] Black Lives Matter movement,” “supports racist police officers,” and “supports increasing fascist ‘law and order.’”

“Heather Mac Donald has been vocally against the Black Lives Matter movement and pro-police, both of which show her fascist ideologies and blatant anti-Blackness and white supremacy,” the Facebook page adds. “Let’s show CMC that having this speaker is an attack on marginalized communities both on campus and off. Together, we can hold CMC accountable and prevent Mac Donald from spewing her racist, anti-Black, capitalist, imperialist, fascist agenda.”

The protest organizers do not state specifically how they plan to “shut down” Mac Donald’s lecture, though they do urge students who attend to carry posters, wear black, and “Bring your comrades, because we’re shutting this down.”

Follow the Claremont Independent on Facebook for live coverage of the protests.

 

Scripps Students Boycott Dining Hall, Claim Caterer is “Neocolonial,” “Racist,” and “Exploitive”

Scripps students boycotted Scripps College’s Malott Dining Hall during lunch on Thursday in order to protest Scripps’ contract with its dining hall provider Sodexo, accusing Sodexo of racism, exploitation of labor, environmental violations, and management of private prisons. Organized by Scripps student campaign Drop Sodexo, the boycott as well as a simultaneous protest outside the dining hall were aimed at ending Scripps’ contract with Sodexo. Drop Sodexo urged students to eat at other dining halls in the Claremont University Consortium (CUC) during the boycott.

According to the event description, the organizers invited students to “join the Drop Sodexo campain [sic] in protesting Scripps’ contract with Sodexo! This is a boycott of Malott lunch services on the 30th as well as an alternative community lunch event. We want to show the administration that students are serious about ending the Sodexo contract. You showing up to this event will help do that!” Following the boycott, Drop Sodexo claimed success, writing that “Malott was basically empty for all of lunch.”

The Drop Sodexo campaign organized the boycott because it claims Sodexo—a French multinational—is involved in “civil rights abuses…neoliberalism, anti-unionism, substandard food quality…racial discrimination, major class-action lawsuits, ownership of private prisons, and much more.” The students also claim that Sodexo exploits “neocolonial relationships that allow them to acquire raw materials from nations of the Global South.” Drop Sodexo also states that by “continuing business with a company that has such an extensive corporate crime record, we [Scripps] are providing a monetary endorsement for the increasing exploitation of land, people, and communities throughout the world.”

In an interview with The Student Life—the administration-funded student newspaper of the Claremont Colleges –student organizer Rebecca Millberg (SC ’17) accuses Sodexo of having “a history of horrible labor practices and food safety violations and worker exploitation,” adding that “it shouldn’t be hard for Scripps administration to see that it [the contract with Sodexo] goes completely against our values.”

Scripps administration subsequently informed student organizers that terminating Sodexo’s contract before its 2020 expiration could result in over $1 million in “legal fees and a variety of other expenses” that could “reduce funding for other important priorities, such as financial aid and faculty and staff compensation.” In a separate statement in response to students’ calls to end its contract with Sodexo, Scripps administrators stated that “the College does not have a policy of disqualifying contractors based on their client or investment portfolio.”

Drop Sodexo has suggested that “Scripps could choose any number of dining management companies besides Sodexo,” including in-house dining services. But when Pomona College — the flagship institution of the CUC — stopped contracting with Sodexo in 2011, many dining hall staff lost their positions at the College.

It doesn’t help that many of Drop Sodexo’s accusations run counter to Sodexo’s actual track record.

While Sodexo did settle an $80 million lawsuit brought by black employees on the basis of workplace discrimination back in 2005, it has since won numerous awards for diversity and inclusivity, including NBIC’s “2016 Best of the Best Corporation for Inclusion,” DiversityInc’s “2016 Top 50 Companies for Diversity,” and Working Mother’s “Best Companies for Multicultural Women.” The French multinational has also recently received awards for sustainability, its commitment to hiring and retaining military veterans, and LGBT inclusion in its workforce.

Drop Sodexo also charges that Sodexo has “a consistent pattern of interfering with worker rights in many states,” and it has criticized the company’s “anti-unionism” actions against the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). In fact, Sodexo took the SEIU to court for employing illegal tactics to unionize workers, including blackmail and extortion. Faced with the possibility of a highly damaging public relations fiasco and civil liabilities, the SEIU agreed to terminate protests against Sodexo in exchange for dropped charges.

The student campaigners have also criticized Sodexo’s food quality and safety, stating that “to avoid having allergic reactions, many students limit themselves to eating the same foods for each meal because the labeling cannot be trusted.” Malott has been rated as one of the best campus dining halls in the country by the Princeton Review.

According to Drop Sodexo, the French multinational is responsible for the “privatization of the prison industry” and has exploited “unpaid or underpaid labor from private prisons.” While Sodexo divested its investments from American private prison corporation Correction Corporation of America in 2001 — nearly two decades ago — charges that Sodexo has poorly managed private prisons abroad are substantiated, as evidenced by the Sodexo-managed prisons HMP Northumberland and HMP Forest Bank in the United Kingdom.

Sodexo has operations in developing countries such has Colombia, Guinea, Morocco, and the Dominican Republic.

Drop Sodexo did not respond to requests for comment.

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