Over the summer of 2015, two Scripps College students spent approximately 500 hours creating the “Unofficial Scripps Survival Guide.” The 217-page guide, intended to help new students acclimate to the college, features lengthy discussions of topics ranging from food and money management to gender identity, race, and privilege.
The authors state that the term “Preferred Gender Pronoun” (PGP) should be replaced with “Gender Pronoun” to avoid offending students whose gender identity differs from their biological sex. “While it may seem new and positive, PGP is actually not a good thing,” they write. “There’s nothing wrong with Gender Pronouns! However once we say ‘preferred’ we’re invalidating the entire idea. How people identify is how they identify; it is not a ‘preference.’” Another section dedicated to being a “Trans* Ally” prompts new Scripps students to ask for each of their peers’ gender pronouns in order to avoid unwittingly enforcing the gender binary when they interact with others. The guide also sets forth what is required to become an authentic “ally” to marginalized groups: “Enacting a life of accountability and ownership over your own domination and privileges is the only way you can exhibit allyship.”
The Scripps Survival Guide defines “White Privilege” as “the set of unearned benefits white people gain as a result of systematic racism and discrimination” that “benefits even those white people who are disadvantaged by other forms of institutionalized oppression like ableism, classism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia.” The authors add that “asking people of color to educate us about racism,” “asking people of color to absolve us of our guilt,” and “identifying the ways that we are engaging in the perpetuation of white supremacy” are all things that “we need to stop doing right now.” In a section titled “Dear white students,” the authors explain that “[r]everse racism cannot exist because white people maintain power over people of color” and “because there are no institutions that were founded with the intention of discriminating against white people on the basis of their skin [color].”
Since the guide’s publication, several student movements across the 5Cs, including a “Hurting and Healing” event held by The 5C Students of Color Alliance, have advocated for racially segregated spaces (called “Safe Spaces”) which are off-limits to white students. The Motley, a student run café on Scripps’ campus, has already held events exclusively for people of color. The guide justifies this segregation by speaking to the “political” and “harm[ful]” nature of the “space” for people of color, as well as by arguing that creating segregated spaces is simply “the least we can do” for non-white students. Throughout the sections regarding racism, the authors of the guide agree that “a general distaste or hatred of white people” is a legitimate response to “oppression.”
Sections of the Survival Guide addressing “Mindful Language” and “Inclusive Language” tell students to watch what they say inside the classroom, identifying “capitalism and consumerism” as concepts which “can lead to [the] dangerous promotion of certain ideals and widespread circulation of stigmatizing information.” The guide also castigates “those who oppose trigger warnings,” accusing these people of being uncaring and “potentially sexist, ableist, homophobic, racist, classist, etc.”
The survival guide also roundly condemns ableist language, denouncing the use of words like “insane” and “stupid” as “using disability as a metaphor to describe something negative” and “reinforcing [the idea] that mentally ill people shouldn’t be listened to, believed, or valued.” Students also are urged to use the term “differently abled” rather than “disabled” when referring to those with physical disabilities because “differently abled” represents the idea that “disabled people are just as valid as everyone else” and that “being disabled in a [sic] ableist world means lack of power and access.” The authors conclude the section by urging students to replace words such as “crazy,” “dumb,” and “stupid” with words like “unruly,” “moody,” and “dismantled.” The authors also advise against describing young people as “kids” or “teens,” observing that such terms are “patronizing” because of how they “belittle and demean young people’s power” and play into the assumption that “teens are incapable of certain leadership roles or don’t have the mental capacity/self control/understanding to articulate or make good decisions.”
Though the Survival Guide is unofficial, administrators at Scripps College have expressed support for it. “This student-conceived and student-authored publication is an excellent example of how serious Scripps students are about supporting the newest members of the Scripps community,” stated Charlotte Johnson, Scripps’ Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, who recently described the phrase “#Trump2016” as “racism” and “intimidation.”
Edit: An earlier version of this story misquoted the survival guide’s suggestions for addressing white privilege.
Image: Scripps College