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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