Tag Archives: Claremont Colleges

Students at Claremont Colleges Refuse to Live with White People

A group of students at the Claremont Colleges are in search of a roommate for next year, but insist that the roommate not be white. Karé Ureña (PZ ’18) posted on Facebook that non-white students in need of housing arrangements should reach out to either her or two other students with whom she plans to live in an off-campus house. The post states that “POC [people of color] only” will be considered for this living opportunity. “I don’t want to live with any white folks,” Ureña added.

Dalia Zada (PZ ’18) expressed concerns to the anti-white discrimination. “‘POC only?’ Maybe I’m missing something or misunderstanding your post, but how is that not a racist thing to say?”

“This is directed to protect POC, not white people. Don’t see how this is racist at all…” responded AJ León (PZ ’18). Sara Roschdi (PZ ’17), a Pitzer Latino Student Union member, stated, “People of color are allowed to create safe POC only spaces. It is not reverse racism or discriminatory, it is self preservation.”

“We don’t want to have to tiptoe around fragile white feelings in a space where we just want to relax and be comfortable,” commented Nina Lee, a Women’s Studies major. “I could live with white people, but I would be far more comfortable living with other poc.”

“White people always mad when they don’t feel included but at the end of the day y’all are damaging asf [as f*ck] and if a POC feels they need to protect themselves from that toxic environment THEY CAN! Quick to try to jump on a POC but you won’t call your friends out when they’re being racist asf,” noted Terriyonna Smith (PZ ’18), an Africana Studies major and Resident Assistant (RA) for the 2016-2017 year. “I’m not responding to NO comments and NOPE I don’t wanna have a dialogue.” It is not clear whether or not this refusal of dialogue represents the approaches to conversation on racism with fellow students encouraged by professors of Africana Studies or the Residence Life staff at Pitzer College.

Another Resident Assistant and Black Student Union member, Jessica Saint-Fleur (PZ ’18) added to the thread of comments, “White people have cause [sic] so much mf [motherf*cking] trauma on these campuses … why in the world would I want to live with that? Bring that into my home? A place that is supposed to be safe for me?”

The Mission and Values section of Pitzer College’s website states, “Intercultural Understanding enables Pitzer students to comprehend issues and events from cultural lenses beyond their own,” and adds that “[Pitzer College] supports the thoughtful exchange of ideas to increase understanding and awareness, and to work across difference without intimidation. We have the right to be heard and the responsibility to listen. Communication, even at its most vigorous, should be respectful and without intent to harm.”

Edit: An earlier version of this story stated that AJ León was a member of the Pitzer College Latino Student Union.

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Image: Flickr

Pomona Students: Campus Safety Tips Are ‘Rape Culture’

On Monday evening, the Claremont University Consortium Campus Safety Office sent out a message warning Claremont students about a potential rash of Xanax and other drug-laced drinks at recent CMC parties.

“Over the past two weeks, the Dean of Students Office of Claremont McKenna College (CMC) has received information that three on-campus parties may have involved students providing Xanax-laced or Rohypnol-laced drinks. While this information is unconfirmed, the allegations alone are serious enough that I wanted to alert our students of what CMC has heard.  We will continue to investigate these allegations, as such behavior is highly concerning to all of us, dangerous to those who consume the drinks, violates the Student Code of Conduct, and cannot and will not be tolerated.”

Claremont McKenna College, among other colleges, has enacted policies restricting unabridged alcohol usage on campus. Such policies have been geared at breaking up large unregistered parties due to safety concerns. CMC has also promoted its “Teal Dot Training Program”, a program that coaches would-be bystanders to intervene in dangerous scenarios and has held forums related to Title IX policy and the responsible use of alcohol on campus. Thomas Schalke (CMC ‘18), a student on the Personal and Social Responsibility Committee for Campus Climate tells the Claremont Independent “In concert with a wide range of other solutions, the college is committed to expanding access to preventative programs such as Teal Dot and more fully integrating them into the student experience.” As awareness of sexual assault on campuses across the country grows, CMC is looking to make such training a key part of its student experience.

The email continues:

“These allegations are a reminder to be mindful at all times of what you are drinking and to keep an eye out for your fellow students.  While this is a small campus and we would like to trust our fellow students, accepting a drink that was made by someone else or that was put in a cup that you did not bring yourself is risky.  If you do not maintain constant visual contact with your cup, something can be slipped in it quickly and without your knowledge even if the drink started out fine.  Being vigilant about the source of your drink as well as the integrity of your cup once it is in your possession decreases the risks of anything being slipped in your drink.  Please help us keep our campuses safer.”

Some students were concerned that the email was an example of “victim-blaming” and “rape culture.”

“This is a message from campus safety in response to multiple students being drugged on Claremont McKenna’s campus. This is disgusting. This is unacceptable. This is rape culture,” wrote one student in a widely-shared Facebook post. “This is textbook victim-blaming, and it is coming right from the people who are hired to protect us.”

Others students argued that while the acts were obviously “deplorable”, the email still served a practical purpose. Another student from Pomona College responded, I agree that it’s frustrating to be told that the responsibility to be safe falls on potential victims but a) when thinking practically about how to deal with the reality of an unsafe campus, I do appreciate these reminders and b) I think that camp sec individuals would probably agree with the sentiment that people should not do things like drug other people’s drinks (and to be sure, the email did include – begin with – a paragraph about how such behavior was deplorable and not to be tolerated).”

While the subject of drugs on campus presented itself at last night’s ASCMC Senate meeting, few had answers. One student noted, “For most of the student body, this incident is the first encounter with reports on roofie-type drugs anywhere on the Claremont Colleges, so information is sparse.” At the time of writing, no further notices from Campus Safety or Claremont Colleges Administrations have been communicated.

The Grinch Who Stole Culture: How We’re Losing America’s Melting Pot

One of the things I value most about America is our unique level of diversity. Our diversity entails more than just having a large portion of non-white US residents. Rather, it relies on both the breadth of different cultures as well as the depth of the personal connections in which we can experience these different cultures. On a practical level, this mean that races, ethnicities, and religions that differ from our own are more than just concepts that we read about in books. Our melting pot in America gives us the unique and direct ability to see, and in some cases experience, other cultures instead of just reading about their eccentricities.

Every day we are surrounded by a diverse array of people and cultures and because of this, I see the United States as a palette of cultures from which we each can personally sample. What I find most valuable about this is that in some cases, we may create a color that we find more beautiful and that we love more sincerely than any one color alone.

In this process of cultural integration, it is true that some of the original culture’s authenticity thins. And it is also true that there are some people that exploit integration or, in poor taste, take it too far. But this is hardly enough to even come close to canceling out the more positive aspects of this integration. Namely, that we are given the gift of being able to share parts of countless cultures in our daily lives. And because we can share in these cultures as a routine and not just a once-in-a-decade trip to a foreign country, we are able to internalize cultures that differ from our own constantly and on a much more profound level.

Many of the students upset about cultural appropriation at CMC suggest that the only way to solve the problem of racism and misappropriation is through intense discussion. These students are fixated on the minute realities of every possible sect of every race and every culture. I would argue that practically speaking, this is not the most effective solution for several reasons.

First, it is a privileged solution in the sense that it assumes everyone has the time and capacity to engage in an endless number of discussions. That is simply not the case. Second, tolerance is something that must be nurtured, and forcing people to sit through lengthy dialogues that are only one-sided may actually leave them with a distaste for diversity. Furthermore, if these dialogues are channeled in a way that is overly detailed, students will leave with a sense of confusion and with no real personal connection or love of the cultures surrounding them. What I have witnessed are methods of politicized discussions and angry protests to promote cultural sensitivity, but these methods depend on always creating a new attacker or oppressor who is worthy of being shunned.  All this does is create fragmentation.

In the process of fragmentation, groups turn away any potential outsiders. In the height of protest, for example, student activists rejected and laughed at the CMC administration for pledging to do its best to heed the students’ requests and accused President Hiram Chodosh for trying to “derail” the movement by sending an email of support right before the protest. Student activists also created a students of color-only Motley event, and they even went so far as to say that white students hadn’t done anything to help promote diversity and tolerance on our campuses.

However, what is equally disturbing is that in addition to turning away alleged outsiders, student activists have also turned away members of their own “marginalized” groups who didn’t wholeheartedly agree with the movement’s opinion. In a dialogue that took place on the CMCers of Color Action toward Dean of Students Facebook page, a student of Latino descent from Cornell University expressed the opinion that he did not find the CMC students’ Mexican costumes problematic. He was soon scolded for participating in a conversation that he could not understand since he was not present at the 5Cs.

Interestingly, an earlier Facebook post for this event featured screenshots of messages from students from other countries which were meant to show that CMC protesters were gaining international support. This was, of course, met with pride as it was seen as a symbol of validation. The hypocrisy is evident.  If a Latino student from the United States was excommunicated for being incapable of understanding the campus-specific struggles of the group, why would people who are not of Latino descent and not from this country have any greater ability to understand and support this group?

We are not fighting for the support of a marginalized group, but rather for a political ideal that attempts to expand the traditional definitions of racism and oppression. The fact that certain members of the group disagree with one another does not mean that the expansion itself is incorrect, but attempting to silence dissent should not be viewed as a means of achieving tolerance. It is creating a fragmentation that is contrary to the value of experiencing our American melting pot, and it will ultimately divide us not just between groups, but within groups as well.

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Image: Flickr

San Bernardino Shooting Rattles the Claremont Colleges

Last Wednesday, students across the Claremont Colleges received an alert bulletin from Campus Safety, reading:

The City of San Bernardino is currently responding to an active shooter scenario in the approximate area of Waterman Avenue and Orange Show Road.  The area is being responded to by several first-responder agencies.

The Claremont Colleges are not at immediate risk or endangered by this emergency and the Department of Campus Safety continues to monitor the situation.  Campus community members are encouraged to avoid this region of the City and County of San Bernardino and to also follow local and regional news for additional updates.

The attacks on the Inland Regional Center, less than thirty miles from the Claremont Colleges, claimed sixteen lives, including fourteen civilians. While initially eyewitness accounts suggested at least three shooters, the police later identified the two as a married couple, Syed Rizwan Farook, a native of Chicago, and his wife Tashfeen Malik. During the attack, Malik posted a since-removed Facebook status pledging allegiance to the Islamic State. The two died the same day as the attack in a shootout with the police later that day two blocks east of the original shooting site. Three of the fourteen victims had come to the United States to escape violence, religious persecution, and poverty in their home countries.  

In the aftermath of the attacks, the FBI announced on Friday that it was treating the San Bernardino attack as a terrorist case, remarking that the case was inspired, but not directed by the Islamic State. President Obama, in his address on Sunday reiterated this sentiment, promising continued vigilance against the Islamic State. President Obama reminded viewers, however, that the Islamic State “does not speak for Islam”, and that his top priority is still the “security of the American people.”

A cursory investigation showed that the handguns were legally obtained from federally licensed dealers in the Inland Empire. While searching the couple’s Redlands townhouse, police found large stockpiles of weapons, including twelve pipe bombs. Though further targets remain unknown, investigators suspect that the couple had planned multiple attacks throughout Southern California.

No students or faculty of the Claremont Colleges were injured or killed in the attacks.

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Image: Source

Dean Spellman Resigns Following Student Protest

Earlier today, Mary Spellman resigned from her position as Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students at Claremont McKenna College. The resignation occurred in response to a protest that took place yesterday, which was centered on the idea that Dean Spellman had not done enough to create a safe space on campus for students from marginalized backgrounds. The protests were catalyzed by an email Spellman sent to a student in response to an article that student had written for The Student Life earlier this week.

“Since 2010 I have been privileged to serve as Dean of Students at Claremont McKenna College,” states Spellman in her email resignation. “Today I am submitting my letter of resignation, effective immediately. I do so with sadness beyond words, because these nearly six years have been the most rewarding and fulfilling of my life, but also with the conviction that it is the right thing to do for the school and the students I care about so deeply.”

Though many students pushed for Spellman’s resignation—including two students who went on a hunger strike—not everyone on campus shared this sentiment. In her email, Spellman notes that one student wrote to her, “You’ve inspired me in my time at CMC.  Please stay strong and realize students like me need you to stay here…I will always be honored to consider you a mentor, a role model, and above all, friend.”

Additionally, a faculty member wrote, “I also recognize how much you have worked to make our community more inclusive… I know I join many fellow faculty members and students in expressing my full support and confidence in you as Dean of Students here at CMC.”

Spellman closes her email by stating, “To all who have been so supportive, please know how sorry I am if my decision disappoints you.  I believe it is the best way to gain closure of a controversy that has divided the student body and disrupted the mission of this fine institution.  Most important, I hope this will help enable a truly thoughtful, civil and productive discussion about the very real issues of diversity and inclusion facing Claremont McKenna, higher education and other institutions across our society.”