Tag Archives: Amelia Evrigenis

What’s in a feminist? Implications of the Roe v. Wade 40th Anniversary Celebration

On Tuesday, Jan. 22, the CMC “E-memo Digest” announced a Roe v. Wade 40th Anniversary Celebration to be held the following day. The flyer appended to the memo invited students to join Professors Amanda Hollis-Brusky and N. Ann Davis of Pomona College for a conversation followed by a question and answer session, and specified “Cake and refreshments provided!”

The Pomona College Gender & Women’s Studies, Intercollegiate Women’s Studies of the Claremont Colleges, Pomona College Women’s Union, and Pomona College Student Affairs Office jointly sponsored the event.

After four long months, I have finally garnered the boldness to express my unease with the Roe v. Wade 40th Anniversary Celebration. The mere occurrence of this event provokes in me great concern regarding the discourse surrounding reproductive rights at the Claremont Colleges. I write out of serious concern that the feminist dialogue at the Claremont Colleges has deemed it appropriate to celebrate abortion rights in a party atmosphere with cake and refreshments.

I do not intend to provoke debate about the ethical questions surrounding abortion and whether the government should control it. However, I do intend to question whether a party that celebrates abortion rights with cake is consistent with the sensitivity and respect for human dignity that the 5C community proclaims to uphold.

Whether we believe that abortion should be legal or illegal, federally funded or unfunded—that doesn’t really matter here. What matters is the nature of the circumstances that lead women to seek abortion in the first place.

It is tragic that any woman should ever find herself in a position in which she feels that she must or should terminate a pregnancy—whether because of a heinous crime that caused the pregnancy, a danger the fetus poses to the mother’s life, concerns about the baby’s health and well-being as potentially severely disabled, or circumstances such as poverty and destitution that render child-rearing an unfeasible task.  Sometimes the circumstances are less dramatic—a woman who could feasibly raise a child simply doesn’t want to, and thus terminates the pregnancy. This still does not seem to me a reason to celebrate.

To celebrate the right to procure an abortion with cake and refreshments trivializes the sadness and despair so frequently associated with the procedure. Abortion is not a decision made lightly, and often involves extensive suffering in a woman’s life. Whether we believe that the woman should be free to terminate the pregnancy isn’t relevant. What is relevant is that the circumstances that so often accompany the procedure render abortion hardly a cause of celebration.

But it’s not so much the event itself that concerns me. If a 5C pro-choice activist student group had hosted a Roe anniversary celebration on its own, I would find myself much less distraught. What is particularly offensive about this event is that Pomona College and the Intercollegiate Women’s Studies departments themselves sponsored it.

Such a department-sponsored “celebration” of abortion rights stifles the educational goals of creating dialogue and discourse regarding reproductive rights. The consortium’s educating authority on women’s studies hosting this event suggests that proper feminism necessitates the glorification of abortion rights to a degree at which it’s appropriate to celebrate with cake.  It’s to suggest that one cannot be a feminist or a scholar of women’s studies without enthusiastically supporting abortion. It’s to suggest that there’s a “right” way to do feminism—and that the way is to adopt a hard-left stance on reproductive rights.

The wealth of philosophical, psychological, medical, ethical, and theological scholarship that is less-than-enthusiastic about abortion rights and the Roe decision demonstrate that, in fact, there is currently no established “right” way to do feminism. To sponsor a Roe v. Wade 40th Anniversary Celebration party disregards such scholarship. This is not education, but rather ideological indoctrination. It should thus come as no surprise that the general consensus pervading the Claremont Colleges is that feminism necessitates enthusiastic support of abortion rights.

The Claremont Colleges proclaim to be bastions of women’s empowerment, but the Roe v. Wade anniversary celebration, complete with cake and refreshments, leaves me feeling anything but empowered.

Dean Spellman on the sexual violence procedures

After initially responding to our request for an interview with a statement entitled “Regarding Title IX,” the Claremont McKenna Office of Public Affairs granted the CI an interview with Dean of Students Mary Spellman to discuss the college’s Title IX sexual violence grievance procedures.

Claremont McKenna College implemented new Civil Rights Policies and Civil Rights Grievance Procedures, which apply to cases of sexual violence, in accordance with a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) issued by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. The DCL, sent to all educational institutions in the United States that receive federal funding, stipulates numerous Title IX requirements to which recipients must adhere in investigating and resolving complaints of sexual violence. The most controversial of its contents is a requirement that schools use a preponderance of the evidence standard of proof in evaluating complaints of sexual violence. The preponderance standard is met if it is more likely than not (a greater than 50 percent probability) that the offense occurred. The DCL explicitly states that schools are not to use the clear and convincing standard (i.e. it is highly likely or reasonably certain that the offense occurred).

When asked if Claremont McKenna College held any opinions about complying with the Department of Education’s ultimatum regarding the preponderance standard, Dean Spellman responded that the decision-making standard is a minimally important aspect of the college’s grievance procedures. She said, “The decision-making standard is the least important piece, I believe, in how we handle sexual violence cases or any kind of student conduct case. It’s really about, ‘Do we provide a fair and neutral and equitable process to all parties?’ The decision-making standard is a small piece of that larger process.”

When asked more specifically if the college was concerned that the use of such a low standard would produce wrongful findings of guilt, Spellman responded similarly, saying that the low decision-making standard should not be of great concern. She said,

“The [decision-making] standard is one piece of a very important process, so we need to make sure we have a process that’s fair, that it has appropriate due process for all the parties, that the individuals, particularly the respondent, understands what their rights are and has a process by which the college has as much information as possible about the circumstance so that the trained investigator or trained hearing officer is able to make a fair, neutral and informed decision. So I think that that is the most important piece. We could have a higher decision-making standard, and if our process didn’t have all of the robustness that our process does, you could still have a problem. It could be a different problem, but you’re going to still have a problem. So the decision-making standard—you know, preponderance or something else—really, what’s crucial is the process that you get to that. With preponderance of the evidence, if you have a process that is as robust as we want ours to be and we hope and think ours is, then the decision is easy at that point, because you have all the facts. The decision is either you do have enough information, or you don’t. That’s, to me, the most important piece.”

In other words, if the college institutes robust grievance procedures that offer appropriate due process for all parties involved, it doesn’t really matter whether the college uses a preponderance standard, a clear and convincing standard, or even a beyond a reasonable doubt standard. You either have enough information, or you don’t.

For a perspective about why the decision-making standard does matter, and why the preponderance standard is a troubling aspect of CMC’s grievance procedures, see our previous article “Title IX, sexual violence, and the preponderance standard.”


An interview with Professor Norman Valencia

The Claremont Independent is pleased to introduce Professor Norman Valencia to Claremont McKenna College.

Professor Valencia joins us next fall as CMC’s first full-time, tenure-track assistant professor of Portuguese. We had the opportunity to interview him about his academic background, research interests, the courses he will teach at CMC, and more.

For more information about Professor Valencia and the role he will play at CMC, read our previous coverage of CMC’s new Portuguese program.

Please join us in welcoming Professor Valencia to our community!


Tell us a little bit about yourself. What is your academic background in Portuguese, and what sparked your interest in the language and in Brazilian literature?

I am Colombian, and I have always been in love with literature and literary studies. Because of this, I did a Literature Major in my native Bogotá. After this, I finished a Master’s in Humanities and Social Thought at NYU, and a Ph.D. in Spanish and Portuguese at Yale. Since my undergrad years, I discovered that Brazil had an amazing cultural production, especially in terms of literature. I started to read some Brazilian poets in translation (Manuel Bandeira, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, João Cabral de Melo Neto) and I soon realized that I needed to learn the language to really get to know them. Throughout my Ph.D., I went to Brazil every time I could, especially in the summers, to learn Portuguese and to do some research. There, the beauty of cities like Rio de Janeiro, Ouro Preto and São Paulo moved me to consider Brazil as a major focus of my research and my academic life.

What drew you to Claremont McKenna College?

I can answer this with a short anecdote: when I was coming to CMC for my campus visit, I had a layover at the Houston airport. A gentleman at a desk asked me why I was headed to Ontario, California. I told him I had to give a talk at CMC, and his answer was: “Well, then you must be a very smart man… That is an excellent college!” This just confirmed that Claremont McKenna is an extremely well-known school throughout the US. The college’s students are also known for being extremely driven, which is a professor’s dream. Finally, it was very exciting to see that the department of Modern Languages and Literatures needed someone to start a Portuguese program. I saw this as a very appealing challenge, something I would really like to undertake.

We understand that your focus at CMC, both in language and in literature, will be on Brazil. What does this mean for your language and literature classes? 

Portuguese is spoken in four continents, and this means it has a number of varieties. In my language classes, I will focus on the Brazilian variety of Portuguese, although I will try to include some of the differences between American and European Portuguese. In terms of literature, my main focus will be not only on Brazil, but on the relationships between Brazil and the rest of Latin America. For a number of reasons (historical, linguistic, political), the academic field has not produced many comparative approaches between these two traditions. I really think this needs to change; today, thinking about Latin America without including Brazil is like thinking about Asia without considering China.

Why would you recommend that CMC students enroll in Portuguese?

Portuguese today is spoken by an estimated 230 million people in very different parts of the world, making it a truly global language.  Brazil is the 5th largest country in the world (both in terms of size and of population), and it has become an emerging economic and political powerhouse. It is one of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) which, according to several economists, could become dominant world economies by the year 2050. As I mentioned, it is also a very culturally rich country, with outstanding contributions in the fields of literature, plastic arts, music, architecture, and film. Oh, and if you are a sports fan, it is very strong in soccer, basketball and volleyball, and it will be the host of the next soccer World Cup (2014) and the next Olympic Games (2016). In the coming years, Brazil will be at the center of the world stage for a number of reasons, so it is really a great moment to get to know its language and culture.

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

An academic’s research is usually driven by hidden, personal reasons. For me, my interest in Brazil was also driven by my love of its music. Not only is it extremely rich, harmonically and rhythmically speaking, but it also has a number of amazing singers and songwriters, like João Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso, Maria Rita, Marisa Monte, Adriana Calcanhotto, and the list goes on. I am an amateur guitar player, and for the last couple of years I’ve decided to try to learn a few songs. It has been really hard (so many complex chords!), but I already have a small repertoire… I will try to bring my guitar to class a couple of times in order to share a bit of Brazilian music with my students, and teach them some vocabulary and grammar in the process.


CMC hires assistant professor of Portuguese

Claremont McKenna College recently hired its first full-time, tenure-track assistant professor of Portuguese to the Department of Modern Languages.

Professor Norman Valencia holds a Ph.D. in both Portuguese and Spanish from Yale University, where he wrote a dissertation on patriarchy and power in the Latin American novel. He has published several articles about Latin American literature and co-edited a book of essays on the topic of Brazil. He currently serves as the Academic Subdirector of the Instituto Caro y Cuervo in Bogotá, Colombia.

Professor Lee Skinner, Associate Professor of Spanish at CMC, explained that the decision to hire a professor of Portuguese manifested from the growing relevance of Brazil in international affairs. She said, “The decision to add a professor of Portuguese came about because there was interest and recognition from a lot of people that Brazil is an increasingly important area of focus and that CMC should offer students the opportunity to study Portuguese and to take content courses on Brazil as well. Brazil is the largest country in Latin America and the fifth-largest country in the world; it is a very important trading partner for the United States; and more immediately, it will host the 2014 World Cup in soccer and the 2016 Olympic Games.”

She explained that although CMC and Scripps have previously offered occasional courses in introductory Portuguese, “having a full-time, tenure-track assistant professor of Portuguese and Spanish allows us to systematically build a Portuguese program for CMC and the 5Cs. So the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures proposed to the administration that we begin teaching Portuguese and that we hire a tenure-track assistant professor.”

The History Department has also hired a professor of Latin American history who specializes in Brazil for similar reasons. Both the History and Modern Languages Departments received a grant from the Mellon Foundation for the Humani- ties to fund the first three years of the respective positions.

Professor Valencia will teach both Portuguese and Spanish classes at CMC. The program will begin next fall with PORT 22 (Accelerated Intensive Portuguese) for students who have already studied another Romance language (Spanish, French, or Italian). In spring 2014, Valencia will teach PORT 33 (Intermediate Portuguese). As the program grows, the Modern Languages Department will add upper-division courses as well as introductory Portuguese for students with no previous experience in another Romance language.

Professor Skinner concluded by saying, “This is really a great opportunity for CMC and the Claremont Colleges and we’re delighted to welcome Prof. Valencia to our community.”

Look out for an interview with Professor Norman Valencia himself, to be published to claremontindependent.com in the near future.