Tag Archives: Claremont Colleges

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.”

The Silent Majority Isn’t Silent Anymore

It’s been about a year since I joined the Claremont Independent staff. I wrote my first article about an America-themed party that students protested heavily a few months before. I had been upset about the protest for quite some time, but I was too nervous to say anything about it for fear of social ostracism. As a result, I kept my opinions to myself for a long while. However, when George Will was disinvited from speaking at Scripps last year, I hit my tipping point. I was fed up with the way non-progressive ideas were shunned at the 5Cs, and decided to finally join the CI.

When I wrote that first article, I was surprised by the response. People had favorable things to say about it on social media, and many people approached me in person to tell me that they appreciated my article and that they had been thinking the same thing. For the most part, this trend has continued throughout my tenure with the CI. When I write an article—whether about Yacht Club, Mudd Goes Madd, Pomona’s Forbes ranking, or anything else—many students voice their support and agreement. This type of reaction was puzzling to me: at a school where  92% of students describe themselves as Democrats, how was it possible that so many of my peers agreed with my relatively right-leaning positions that “the campus left” seemed to so adamantly oppose?

The answer is simple. Political ideologies can be thought of as a bell curve spectrum: some people are more liberal or more conservative than others, but most people fall closest to the middle. On college campuses (perhaps especially so at the 5Cs), there is a bit of extra weight toward the progressive tail, as a sizeable proportion of the student body has a political ideology that is many standard deviations to the left of the mean. By contrast, there are virtually no fringe right-wingers. Aside from perhaps the College Republicans, the CI staff is the most conservative group at any of the schools. And yet, the vast majority of our staff supports gay marriage, abortion, and the legalization of marijuana, in stark contrast to the views that most on the far right hold. As a result, many Democrats on campus find that their moderately liberal views are more similar to the moderately conservative views of our staff than they are to the outrageously liberal views of progressive Social Justice Warriors on the far left, even if we may check different boxes on the 2016 ballot.

Unfortunately, fringe leftists have tremendous power in shaping the climate for discussions on campus. Part of this is because 5C administrations generally cave in to anything these students claim is “offensive,” and that list extends almost infinitely. As we saw recently with the “Mudd Goes Madd” party, for example, the term “Goes Madd” was deemed so offensive to students with mental health disabilities that the party could not be funded. Students are afraid to voice opposition to fringe leftists at the 5Cs because they will inevitably be labeled “racist,” “sexist,” “bigoted,” or some combination thereof, since any disagreement with progressive ideas is immediately dismissed as intolerant.

Contrary to what certain students seem to believe, the Claremont Independent staff consists of some of the most tolerant people at the 5Cs. We see and hear things that we strongly disagree with every single day. Rather than crying “offensive!” or trying to end the conversation, we engage with these opposing views and try to understand them, even when we take issue with them.

The fringe left, on the other hand, has a tough time dealing with opinions it opposes. When Hannah, Taylor, and I posted a picture of the three of us wearing our “Always Right” CI shirts, people called us white supremacists, racists, and sexists, and said things like, “I wish I could shut them [the Claremont Independent] down” and “If you’re trying to convey everything your comments say about how open you are to discourse you need to burn those shirts, or never wear them again.” Nothing in any of our articles is racist or sexist, of course. Which is why, when we asked for instances of racism or sexism in our stories, our detractors came up empty-handed. This sort of rhetoric is antithetical to the goal of tolerance. Rather than trying to slander us with ad hominem attacks, we would prefer that Social Justice Warriors be more open to actually reading and respectfully considering our thoughts—even when they vehemently disagree with us.

Of course, we recognize that there is no shortage of students in Claremont whose opinions differ from the views we typically express in our articles. And we understand that our columns are not going to convert staunch Democrats into staunch Republicans. Our hope is merely that the Claremont Independent will give students who are not especially familiar with conservatism—that is, most students at the 5Cs—a better understanding of why we think the way we think. We hope that our articles will enable students here to be tolerant of conservative opinions, rather than reflexively writing them off as uninformed, insensitive, or evil.

The fringe left has scared many of the more pragmatic Democrats on campus into silence. There are plenty of students at the 5Cs who oppose trigger warnings, current sexual assault adjudication policies, and race-based affirmative action. Radical progressives make a lot of noise, but they do not come close to representing the views of students at the 5Cs as a whole. It’s exciting to see that the silent majority is finally beginning to speak up. Every day, more and more students are speaking out against the increasingly McCarthyesque political correctness movement. What started out as merely trying to remove blatant racism, sexism, and homophobia from polite society has morphed into students trying to turn every tiny misstep into an example of “institutionalized violence.” Many college students who were once proponents of PC culture are no longer able to support what the movement has come to stand for.

Over the past few weeks, as more and more national media outlets have covered our stories, I’ve grown increasingly optimistic about the future of the Claremont Colleges. Several liberal students have joined our staff, and we have received a tremendous amount of support from left-leaning students at all five colleges. These students have told us that they don’t often agree with the viewpoints we express, but they respect our opinions and our willingness to share them. In reality, that level of understanding is all that’s needed for a productive, civil conversation to take place between students who hold different views from one another.

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Image Source: Wikimedia Commons, David Shankbone

Pomona College Faces Discrimination Lawsuit

Matt Harris, 18, is suing Pomona College for $20 million on charges of discrimination. Harris, of Portland, OR, claims that the school violated federal law for failing to recognize his right to self-expression. The lawsuit, filed yesterday, asserts that Pomona College discriminated against Harris based on his identity and barred him from participating in school activities with his peers.

Upon arriving to campus for orientation, Harris was surprised to find that he had not been assigned to a room and was not on the roster for any of Pomona’s Orientation Adventures. When other freshmen were matched with sponsors and given a scheduled time to register for classes, Harris was not. Concerned, he stopped by the Admissions Office in search of an explanation.

“Basically, they told me that they didn’t think people like me belonged at Pomona,” recalls Harris. “They thought I was different from the other students, and somehow inherently worse. It was really unbelievable to hear comments like that from an administrator at a school that touts itself as so tolerant and open-minded.”

Pomona administrators felt that the treatment of Harris was perfectly justified. “These activities were for Pomona freshmen only,” said Assistant Dean of Admissions Will Hummel. “Matt Harris was not admitted to Pomona. He graduated with a GPA of 2.3 and scored a 1240 on his SAT. While we do use a holistic admissions approach, there’s only so much we can do in situations like this. On his letter of rejection, I recommended that he consider applying to Scripps instead, as he might be better able to contribute to diversity there.”

Harris insists that this is not an issue of qualifications, but rather a classic case of bias. “What I don’t understand here is why nobody cares at all about my identity,” said Harris. “I raise my own sage grouse in my backyard, I gave up showering and drinking water long before the drought even started, and I am committed to taking down the colonialist cisheteropatriarchy. I even wear a Che Guevara t-shirt every single day. I self-identify as a Pomona student, whether the admissions office likes it or not, and nobody can take that away from me.”

Harris’ lawyer, who at the time of this writing is named Atticus Larson (Larson is still in the process of having his first name legally changed), noted that he believes Harris’ case has strong precedent in cases pertaining to workplace discrimination.

“Essentially, Pomona rejected my client despite his superior qualifications. Pomona claims that Harris’ grades and test scores make him less capable of succeeding at Pomona, but this is clearly false,” Larson began. “My client’s credentials show that he is even better qualified than most Pomona students to smoke weed and sleep through his 1:15pm classes while whining about the oppression he faces. The evidence could not be clearer, and I have no doubt the judge will agree.”

Vice President and Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum explained that, in response to the controversy surrounding Harris, Pomona is currently in the process of revising its policies pertaining to bias and discrimination. “At Pomona, we make a conscious effort to avoid discrimination based on one’s race, gender, sexuality, and socioeconomic status,” Feldblum wrote in an official statement. “However, it has come to my attention that—for the entire history of the school—we have discriminated against people based on their academic credentials, and that needs to stop. We are currently working toward a solution for a more inclusive Pomona.”

                                                                              

Image: Flickr

 

Faith and Religion at the 5Cs

At the 5Cs, conversations about faith and religion are rare. Perhaps this is due to our generation’s perception that believing in God is anti-intellectual or has no place in modern academia. This perception may have stemmed from the notion that religious people do not believe in certain scientific truths, such as evolution, or that they are not skeptics who are able to critically question ideas but instead believe in moral Truths devoid of logical reasoning.

I myself have struggled to bring my faith and intellectual curiosity together. Through my Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) seminars and tutorials, I have had the valuable opportunity to engage in rich discussions of human nature, ethics, morality, and justice. But it has not been without challenge, as many of these questions were directly related to my views as a Christian. I struggled to bring something as personal to me as my faith into conversations that are built around factual evidence and reasoned arguments. However, my personal revelation stemmed from this Bible verse: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). I am to love God through the willingness to think deeply and critically about matters of my faith and through the internal struggles of answering my own and others’ questions. Others may argue that personal faith has no place in academic settings, but I’d like to disagree.

In my classes, when I read literature and documents with biblical references and Judeo-Christian values, I often felt the need to detach myself from views that are grounded in my faith. For instance, when I read John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government for my PPE philosophy seminar, I sometimes felt that I ought to leave my faith at the door when Locke used biblical references, such as the story of Adam to make his argument about private property rights and the state of nature. I struggled to be as objective as possible and tried not to discuss his work from a personal viewpoint. I came to realize, however, that I had value to add to the conversation because of my perspective as a Christian. One of my favorite professors once brought up a memorable quote from the movie, You’ve Got Mail:

“It wasn’t personal.”

“What is that supposed to mean? I’m so sick of that. All that means is that it wasn’t personal to you. But it was personal to me. It’s personal to a lot of people. What is so wrong with being personal anyway? Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.”

The professor stated that even people who claim to be objective are coming from subjective, personal perspectives. We all have our biases, and we each experience the world differently. Personal experiences and backgrounds make us who we are. Striving for objectivity can sometimes strip away the unique and valuable element in each one of us that add depth to the conversations we are able to have with one another.

Many of my peers at the 5Cs who do not ascribe to a faith came from families that did. Some went to religious services regularly before coming to college, perhaps simply because it was a part of their family’s routine. However, after we come to college and become independent, the decision to continue practicing our faiths or attending religious services becomes solely our own. For this reason, whether because of the busyness of college life or because our faith was never truly our own, it is easy for us as college students to stray away from our religion.  Generally, however, people underestimate the immense value of religious or spiritual experiences, and this is what perhaps causes the lack of conversation about them.

Dialogue about our religious and spiritual experiences and questions about faith are what ultimately leads us to think about the greatest questions that define our existence. Such conversations need not be either divisive or contentious. It most importantly ought not to be political, with religion–or a lack thereof–being used as a tool to further an agenda. Such discussions should lead us to think more deeply about the most important questions we could ever ask ourselves—the meaning and purpose of life, reasons behind one’s motivation and drive, and one’s ethical and moral values. These are definitely questions that are not exclusive to religious people, but it is true that people’s religious and spiritual experiences can add unique and in-depth insights that would be otherwise left out.

Some of the best conversations I have had about faith were with friends who are not religious or who come from different religious backgrounds. As I talked with them, I gained insight and knowledge about where they were coming from and was able to respect the diversity of values at the 5Cs. Often, it is through such conversations that both parties are able to learn something new and gain a better understanding of each other. Such conversations ought not to be one trying to force one’s ideology on another. It should be an open conversation about why we believe in the things we do.

For Christians, the Bible teaches us to be gracious, understanding, and humble as we engage in such conversations. I strive to be this way though I am far from perfect, as I believe in a God that has shown me so much forgiveness, love, and grace.

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Image: Flickr

 

Minimum Wage Promises, Maximum Wage Problems

“There was this young boy about eleven years old… and he said, ‘You know, my mom makes the minimum wage and even though it went up, her hours were cut. So we’re not making any more money. Can you help her?’” – Hillary Rodham Clinton

It is a sad reality that young children who grow up in poverty have to worry about whether their parents can make ends meet on a regular basis. Instead of focusing on developing friendships, exploring their surroundings, and experiencing extracurricular activities, kids who grow up in poverty are deprived from fully enjoying these activities, and instead, cope with negative household experiences.

Ever since middle school, I was aware of my family’s poor income and lived with that reality throughout high school and college. Poverty has significant negative effects on child development since high levels of adversity heavily stress the brain as it tries to develop. Some kids, like myself, succeed in life despite this adversity, but others remain in poverty for most of their lives.

I call my parents at least once a week to check on things at home. They are low-skilled, low-wage workers. So far their work remains steady, but I worry about the impending increases to California’s state minimum wage that will put their jobs, hours, and government benefits at risk. Work-study students, including myself, will likely see minimum wage boosts from $9 to $10 per hour on January 1, 2016. Those whose parents are from California and are similar to mine risk losing their jobs, in exchange for some students getting paid to sit at the Rains Center or the library and do homework on the clock. Minimum wage increases are not fair for my parents or for the millions of poor citizens trying their best to escape the perpetual cycle of poverty.

Despite the negative effects of minimum wage hikes, many new minimum wage laws were enacted across the country. In Los Angeles (city and county), New York City, Seattle, and the University of California system, employers must pay workers $15 an hour within a couple of years. These raises are mostly seen as a success for working-class Americans holding multiple jobs for a living. Each law is different and affects different demographic make-ups. New York’s increase, for example, only affects fast-food workers, and Los Angeles County’s increase only affects unincorporated areas.

Lack of support in Congress has led minimum wage advocates to support state and local initiatives for minimum wage increases, but many of these changes were accomplished using questionable methods. New York arbitrarily raised fast-food worker wages using an advisory board, while LA City Council held debates for only a few days before pulling the trigger. Input from the business community and other opponents to minimum wage increases was widely ignored. Whether or not one supports minimum wage increases, or minimum wage laws in general, the methods used by cities and support groups to achieve these increases are creative at best and manipulative at worst. Preventing further increases to minimum wage rates is the best way to mitigate its several negative effects.

Most arguments on both sides of the minimum wage debate focus on jobs and potential increases in family income. For instance, the Congressional Budget Office’s report on raising  the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour included an estimated average loss of 500,000 jobs (0.3% of the workforce) and a bigger share of increased income being distributed to families already earning more than the federal poverty level. Advocates’ cries for a $15 minimum wage will more than double the current federal rate of $7.25, meaning the effects of this raise will be drastically worse than those in the report.

Minimum wage hikes increase unemployment because they make labor more expensive relative to other inputs like machines and technology. Expensive inputs reduce profits for firms, which leads to lower productivity, higher unemployment rates, and higher prices. Jobs at these income levels are not meant to be retained for long periods of time, but really should function as the first step toward transitioning to work that requires leadership experience, specialized skills, or higher levels of education. The faster people transition into better work, the tighter the low-wage market becomes. As a result, companies are pushed toward natural wage increases like those that McDonald’s and Wal-Mart enacted earlier this year.

The most destructive and ironic impact of minimum wage legislation is that its negative effects disproportionately affect the people minimum wage advocates claim to help. For example, higher minimum wages do not alleviate poverty for single mothers. It actually reduces employment and hours worked for low-skilled and low-income single mothers. In fact, evidence shows that it fails for almost all groups who work at or near the minimum wage, especially the working poor, minorities, and blacks. Higher prices that result from artificially higher wages function like a value-added tax (very similar to sales tax) that is regressive, meaning a higher burden of the tax is paid by poor people. In the long-run, the costs of a higher minimum wage are evenly spread on all demographics, hurting the poor and minority communities instead of helping them out.

In Seattle, workers are asking for fewer hours in response to higher minimum wages so they can retain their welfare benefits and other forms of government aid. I remember my parents talking about losing our Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid) coverage if my mom accepted a minimum wage job while my dad claimed unemployment insurance after the recession. Excessive savings in bank accounts would have also disqualified us from Medi-Cal and prevented us from building wealth. Minimum wage increases would exacerbate the flaws in low-income insurance and welfare programs for millions of Americans, which are already serious problems. These negative effects, along with the ones listed above, would run rampant if the federal, state, or local minimum wage was raised to $15 per hour.

Minimum wage work and welfare benefits have their importance, but they are not meant to adequately support a family. During my junior year of high school, both of my parents were either out of work or moving between temporary jobs. My younger brother, older sister, and I lived in a single room; my parents in another; and the master bedroom and garage were rented out to cousins and other family members. We also depended on food stamps in addition to unemployment insurance, Medi-Cal, and other forms of aid during this time. Knowing that you are dependent on someone else to provide you basic necessities is the worst feeling in the world, but it was better than moving back to my parents’ hometown in Mexico. Low-wage work will not get families out of poverty, but it will provide hope and the first building blocks to earning a better standard of living.

Human creativity and ingenuity is the true way out of poverty, and my family has embraced that ever since. Over time, my dad has earned wage increases and better healthcare in response to building his skill set at work. He has also turned his love for music into extra income for my family by playing in a local band. We no longer need to rent out extra rooms, so now my sister has her own room and we enjoy extra space in the garage. My siblings and I have the opportunity to attend college at very low prices because of our low income. Using these opportunities to our advantage will help us build wealth after graduation and help our parents retire comfortably. This is how the American Dream is earned. It will never be obtained from artificial and undeserved government minimum wage increases.

 

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Graphic by Nina Kamath.

Featured Organization: ISI Claremont Society

Last fall the issue of political diversity took center stage at the Claremont Colleges as a result of two separate events. The first was the release of a 40-year study that measured the political attitudes of students and faculty at the 5Cs. The study found that over 70 percent of CMC students, and over 90 percent of students at the other colleges surveyed, identify as Democrats – a rate far above that of the American voting population. Of the 532 Claremont Colleges tenured faculty, there are only 16 registered Republicans (half of which come from CMC). The survey highlighted the glaring lack of political diversity at each school, with little to no response from any of the 5C administrations.

Shortly thereafter, conservative pundit George Will was disinvited from Scripps College, where he was slated to give a speech as part of the Malott Public Affairs Program. The program typically brings in one conservative speaker a year, noting that  “a range of opinions about the world – especially opinions with which we may not agree, or think we do not agree – leads to a better educational experience.” Will was disinvited because of a column he wrote that shared his conservative view of the college sexual assault adjudication process.

The Malott Program’s failure to uphold its commitment to bring in speakers with opposing viewpoints, and the 5C administrations’ lack of effort to address these concerns, sparked the formation of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) Claremont Society. Through the ISI Claremont Society, students are able to access the ISI Speakers Bureau to bring in renowned conservative scholars to campus, connect with other ISI Society members, and attend national conferences and educational seminars.

The ISI Claremont Society’s inaugural event will feature Pete Peterson, the 2014 Republican candidate for California Secretary of State and interim director of Pepperdine’s School of Public Policy. The event will be held on Tuesday, September 15 at 6pm in the Athenaeum Parents Dining Room. If you would like to attend, or if you would like to get involved in the ISI Claremont Society this year, please email claremontisi@gmail.com.


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Photo courtesy: Pete Peterson.

Editorial: Welcome to the Claremont Independent

Dear Class of 2019,

Congratulations! This week you have officially entered “The Bubble.” You now belong to one of the most intellectual, elite liberal arts institutions in the country—where reasoned discourse and thoughtful debate are not just encouraged, but actively kept alive by your many bright and vocal peers.

The Claremont Independent is the catalyst that drives our most lively, heated student discussions. We are the leading outlet for students whose views differ from—and often oppose—mainstream liberals and progressives. We also report campus news and, importantly, serve as a check to 5C administrations. As the only independently funded student publication, the Claremont Independent is in a unique position to criticize administrative decisions and policies, ranging anywhere from unnecessary free speech infringements under the guise of “political correctness” to blatantly biased curriculums that propagate liberal agendas.

We are a small but quickly growing organization with influence that extends beyond the Claremont Colleges. Last year, our stories consistently made national waves and were picked up by prominent news outlets, such as the National Review, Newsweek, and the Daily Caller. Over the summer, we received the Collegiate Network’s William F. Buckley Award for Outstanding Campus Reporting.

Traditionally, we have always been a right-leaning organization with the majority of our members subscribing to some variation of conservative ideology. At the heavily left-leaning Claremont Colleges, we provide students with the opposition needed to engage in critical thinking and intellectual debate—two key pillars of a traditional (and meaningful!) liberal arts education.

So welcome to the Claremont Independent, where you can find the most politically diverse set of opinions, thought-provoking arguments, and significant campus commentary at the 5Cs. We hope you enjoy these next four years with us.

Sincerely,

Hannah Oh

Editor-in-Chief

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Photography by Wes Edwards.