Tag Archives: Claremont Colleges

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.

Dear CMC: Stop Treating Our Social Scene like a Case Competition

On August 30, the CMC administration and ASCMC announced their “new strategy of responsible moderation” that will be implemented this year. In this strategy, students are given tactical guidelines for how, when, and where to socialize on campus. Framed as a way to support a “healthy, inclusive, and respectful residential culture,” this new strategy is the heaviest set of rules and regulations enacted at CMC to control student behavior and social interactions.

First, I want to fully acknowledge the real and serious concerns that CMC is trying to address. No one disagrees with the administration’s basic premise: all students should feel safe and act responsibly when they go out. And there is no doubt that in these past few years, high-risk alcohol and drug consumption has been a problem that has put students at risk and caused harm to our community. However, the individuals that engage in such dangerous behavior constitute a small minority of us, and the latest policy changes are a classic example of administrative overreach that infringes on CMC’s most cherished freedoms.

There are a lot of things that make CMC special, but our vibrant and inclusive social scene is a point of pride that distinguishes us from every other college in the country. Unlike other schools, all of our parties are planned by our student government, rather than through an exclusive Greek system. From 6:01 to Pirate Party, everyone is invited and welcomed with open arms—no matter your class year, background, or whether or not you choose to drink. It is not just our high-caliber academics and engaging courses that make us a strong community; it is our unparalleled social scene that makes everyone feel included and comfortable to be themselves.

The administration’s new guidelines are highly inconsistent with CMC’s character in this respect. The guidelines are divided into two parts: formal and informal activities. If students are in groups of more than 15 people and alcohol is present, they must register with the Student Activities Office at least two business days in advance. The event is limited to 30 people and must comply with the “Guidelines for the Use of Alcohol at Formal Activities or Events.”

The “Informal Activity Guidelines” focus on the day-to-day activities of students, such as gatherings in dorm rooms and residential lounges. These “gatherings” are limited to 15 students who are allowed to drink alcohol, as long as they are not being disruptive. Students were told that if their informal gathering grows to 16 people, they must “reduce the number of people at the gathering to 15 or less or the gathering will be shut down.”

The problem with this policy, in particular, is that it promotes exclusivity. A gathering of 15 people or more could easily form by accident from students just hanging out in their dorm hall, friends inviting their friends, and others who walk by and feel welcomed to join. Instead of encouraging these students to intermix and mingle, the 15-person limit forces students to kick other students out of their gatherings and bar anyone new from coming in. In effect, these policies encourage negative, cliquey behavior—which is antithetical to CMC’s traditionally open culture.

Furthermore, these “informal gatherings” can only occur at designated times and spaces. They are permitted between 5:00 PM to midnight on Sunday through Thursday, and from noon to 1:00 AM on Friday and Saturday. They may only take place in residential areas, such as dorm halls, designated lounges, BBQ areas, and the Senior Apartments. (The Dean of Students created a map to clarify these parameters.) In these “designated areas,” you can carry an open, single use serving of alcohol. Outside of these areas, such as in North Quad and Parent’s Field, you can carry alcohol, but only “if you are headed somewhere.”

As for activity regulations, beer pong is permitted in six designated spaces (north side of Beckett, Green BBQ area, Wohlford BBQ area, Claremont Hall amphitheater, Apt. 681 BBQ area, and the Wagner BBQ area south of Kramer Walkway). Other drinking games, high frequency shots, loud music, and discourteous behavior that infringe on others’ right to use those spaces are violations. By designating the times, spaces, and activities for student interaction, the administration can more easily manage CMC’s social scene.

This comprehensive strategy sounds like the most optimal method to minimize CMC’s legal liabilities. CMC is now given full control over almost every aspect of how students interact in public spaces. The problem is that it hurts students more than it helps them by setting the most unnatural, unrealistic guidelines for students to follow.

These policies do little, if anything, to mitigate the high-risk alcohol and drug problems on campus that this strategy was intended to address. The administration has not shown any positive correlation between group sizes and levels of alcohol or drug consumption. The drinking problem is a cultural problem: if people want to drink, then they are going to drink, whether they are with 15, 30, or 100 people. These restrictive policies are more likely to encourage students to privately binge drink in their rooms and go out heavily intoxicated, so they can avoid breaking any new guidelines for carrying alcohol or drinking at unregistered events. Instead of cultivating an open, safe environment for students, or addressing the root cause of these problems, these guidelines incentivize students to engage in more dangerous behavior.

The worst part is that the administration and ASCMC are acting as if these new guidelines are actually in the best interest of students. How is it in our best interest to limit how many people we can interact with? How is it in our best interest to create exclusive guest lists? How is it in our best interest to be treated like walking liabilities, rather than human beings?

We do not need a “strategy” to interact with our friends. We are not just another component of what seems like CMC’s ongoing case competition to find various ways to minimize as much legal risk as possible for our institution. 

It is clear that we are never going to have the same open culture and social freedoms afforded to us in years past. I, along with many other students, have come to terms with that. But for the administration to say that it is trying to create a “healthy, inclusive, and respectful residential culture” through its new policy is naïve at best, and disingenuous at worst.

So cut to the chase, CMC. What are you actually trying to achieve through this policy? We want your honest answers, not your calculated strategies.

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Image Source: Flickr

Five Financial Tips for Freshmen

We all know that being on your own for the first time can lead to spending temptations. Whether through mismanaged bills or adventurous desires, it’s very easy to overspend while in college. With new opportunities and new costs, first-year students often find themselves exceeding their allotted budgets. However, there is good news. By following these five easy tips, I can guarantee your success as a new financially responsible adult!

First, for those who don’t live within driving distance of campus, your biggest expense will be plane tickets. These can range anywhere from $100 to $500 one-way (even higher for international students). You should absolutely book all flights you plan on taking well before the semester begins. Not only will this help solidify your schedule, but it will also drastically reduce your costs. Let’s say for example, that I planned on flying back to St. Louis for both Fall Break and Thanksgiving. If I booked all six of my necessary flights for the fall semester right now, my estimated cost would be around $900, but if I waited to buy the tickets until the month before each trip, I would be looking at an estimated total cost of $2,400. Therefore, by simply booking flights well in advance, you can more than halve the total cost.

The second largest expense you will incur are textbooks. For those of you who don’t know, all the necessary textbooks you’ll need for your classes can be found on your school’s portal. My first rule for textbook purchasing is to NEVER buy them from the on-campus bookstore. You are likely receiving the highest possible price by buying them in the 5C bookstore even though they may tell you that the rental program is a bargain. The cheapest alternative is to purchase the least expensive “used” option on Amazon well before the semester begins. While this may be difficult to do your first semester, this policy is definitely one to adopt in the future. The Pomona College financial packet that everyone receives describing the estimated net cost of attendance lists the average textbook cost to be about $900 for the academic year. To be frank, if you’re spending more than $200 a semester on textbooks, you’re being ripped off and throwing away money. By simply using the ISBN numbers provided by your teacher on the portal, you will be able to buy the books you need on Amazon, or other third-party sales companies, for a fraction of the cost. If you buy used, and buy early, you will be able to drastically reduce your total textbook costs.

Now that the basics have been covered, let’s delve into day-to-day money-saving opportunities. First and foremost, always use all the meals you have on your meal plan before paying for meals either on or off campus–remember, you have already paid for your meal plan through your room and board payment at the beginning of the year. Every meal you don’t use is money thrown away. Make sure to use all of your meals and take a piece of fruit or other small item on your way out of the dining hall, which will serve as a “free” snack later in the day. That way you’ve made the most of your pre-paid meal plan. This may seem like simple and common sense advice, but you would be amazed how many 5C students don’t fully utilize the meals they’re allotted.

Next, limit your off-campus meals to at most one per week. I know it’s tempting to eat out frequently since the options are very enticing and the dining hall food can eventually get repetitive, but I implore you to resist. Eating out is the easiest way to see a planned budget disappear. If you allot about $10-15 per week for a meal off-campus, that sum is a very manageable monthly expense. However, even if you simply double that figure by going out twice a week, you’re looking at a monthly expense of close to $100. Use the dining halls to your advantage and make going out to eat an event to remember as opposed to simply another meal. That will augment both your experience and bank account.

Last but not least, keep a precise budget of your spending for the semester. Personally, I use an Excel spreadsheet to document my every cost, but I realize that’s probably overkill and too tedious for most college students. With that in mind, I recommend finding one of the hundreds of budgeting apps on your phone to keep track of your expenses. Just as keeping track of everything you eat will reduce the amount you consume, the same effect applies to spending. If you get into a habit of recording all your costs, you will naturally be more mindful of your budgetary needs.

These five tips will help you manage your college spending and create good habits for life outside of academia. Don’t fret if budgeting seems daunting at first. Just slowly try to implement as many of these tips as possible to reign in your costs. Using this advice, you can cut your total living expenses in half each semester and save upwards of $12,000 over the course of your undergraduate education.

 

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Image: Flickr.

Who We Are: A Survey of the Claremont Independent Staff

Between the George Will disinvitation at Scripps, the Allan Cunningham controversy at Harvey Mudd, and the one-sidedness of political discussions at the Claremont Colleges as a whole, it was a rough year for those who made controversial statements at the 5Cs. It is no surprise, then, that the Claremont Independent has experienced unprecedented growth this year, doubling the size of its staff to 40 writers. While CI writers used to be almost exclusively CMC students, all five schools are now represented, with the majority of our writers (56%) hailing from one of the other four Claremont Colleges. 

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The CI often gets a bad rap around the 5Cs—many people consider us to be a group of crazed right-wingers trying to spread our propaganda around the campuses. In reality, we are an independent publication in all senses of the word. We do not receive any funding from any of the colleges, and we have no official political affiliation. As an independent magazine, we have the autonomy to write articles about things that other Claremont publications cannot or will not comment on. As a result, students are often drawn to us because we can provide them with an outlet to express opinions that would be frowned upon elsewhere.

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Consequently, our staff is predominantly conservative: 63% of CI writers describe themselves as either Moderate Republicans or Republicans, and 96% of our staff identifies with a political ideology that is typically considered “conservative.” Almost everyone on our staff supports a Republican candidate for the upcoming presidential election, and nobody on our staff is planning to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

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To gain a better sense of the CI staff’s political leanings, I took a survey asking about our writers’ opinions on twenty different major political issues. The issues surveyed included economic, social,
environmental, and college campus-related topics. The responses revealed that the majority of our staff supported the conservative stance on sixteen of the twenty questions. The issues where our staff’s collective stance leaned more toward the traditionally liberal side were gay marriage, the legalization of marijuana, abortions, and income-based affirmative action.

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On the whole, the respondents were conservative on fiscal issues and split on social issues. This is to be expected, given that approximately one-third of the CI staff identifies as either a Libertarian or a Classical Liberal, both of which tend to be socially liberal.

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For eleven of the twenty issues surveyed, at least 20% of respondents fell on each side of the debate. For all but five issues, at least 10% of respondents held the minority opinion. There was only one question that every CI survey respondent agreed upon: “Should able-bodied, mentally capable adults who receive welfare be required to work?”

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While the CI staff remains divided on several issues (such as the death penalty and gun control), we are much less divided on more prominent issues (such as sexual assault adjudication policies, minimum wage, and Obamacare) that are frequently brought up in conversations around the 5Cs. Those who feel like their opinions are left out of these common campus conversations are more likely to join the CI to articulate and reflect on their ideas without getting shut down, which explains why our staff’s opinions are more homogeneous on the more popular topics and more divided on those issues that are discussed less often.

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Though the CI staff is not especially diverse on the “Democrat vs. Republican” front, there is still plenty of variety in the different types of conservative ideologies our staff members hold. At schools like the Claremont Colleges, where there are ten or more students who support the Democratic Party for every student who supports the Republican Party, most politically conscious students can easily distinguish between a liberal, progressive, and centrist Democrat. However, it is harder for students who lack exposure to conservative thought to immediately recognize how various types of conservative opinions differ from one another.

Democrats typically advocate for social and economic equality through a combination of progressive income taxes, government regulations, and interventions. In general, Democrats believe the best solution to economic and social problems is the institution of more government programs. Therefore, most Democrats support universal health care, environmental regulations, and labor unions.

The Republican Party’s platform is based on conservatism, advocating for a free market capitalist economy, small government, strong military, and social conservativism. Like Republicans, Libertarians, who are not designated as either Republicans or Democrats (although Libertarian politicians tend to run as Republican candidates), support the free market and limited government. However, Libertarians differ from Republicans by calling for a more limited military, unrestricted migration, and social liberalism.

Classical Liberals’ political opinions are quite similar to those of Libertarians, but they arrive at their conclusions for different reasons. As perhaps best explained by Richard Epstein, the main difference between a Libertarian and a Classical Liberal is that Libertarians tend to focus on ensuring that the government acts in accordance with its designated role (or, more often than not, its lack thereof), while Classical Liberals are typically more concerned with the consequences of governmental interventions.

At schools where there isn’t usually more than one conservative in the room, it is easy to ignore the vast array of right-of-center perspectives. Being pro-life does not preclude one from supporting gay marriage, and favoring lower taxes does not require one to oppose a reduction in military spending. Political opinions are a spectrum, and the CI strives to provide a look into those opinions that often go ignored.

Full Gallery of Responses (25 Slides):

Religion in Retreat at the 5Cs

It won’t shock anyone to hear that college is not a religion-friendly place. According to the McAlister Center here on campus, “The Perception on many liberal arts campuses across the country is that there is less support for the religious and spiritual identities of students and that it can be difficult for students to ‘out’ themselves as religiously identified. Students describe their experiences both in the classroom and in the social settings as often being difficult if they talk about their faith or even are identified/perceived to be of a particular faith by what they wear, how they look, or their name.”

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Pomona College’s original seal.

Secular institutions dominate the higher education scene, and with that comes a difficult line to walk: balancing the needs of religious students against the secular identity of the college. Some do this better than others. California State University schools “derecognized” the CSU Stanislaus Chi Alpha chapter, also known as the Stanislaus Christian Fellowship (a part of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship), this past fall, denying it the free access to rooms, access to student activity programs (including student fairs), and standing across their 23 schools that every other student organization receives. The universities based the decision on the claim that InterVarsity violated school policy by requiring the group’s leaders to be Christians. “What they cannot be is faith-based where someone has to have a profession of faith to be that leader,” CSUS Associate Vice President Tim Lynch told CBS Sacramento. “Every club is allowed to establish its own standards for how leaders are selected – as long as its non discriminatory – and then they are voted on by the members. Fraternities and sororities must comply with all the requirements there of but there is a gender exemption [sic throughout].”

Besides the obvious logical issue of how one can, well, discriminate between potential club leaders without being “discriminatory,” the fact of the matter is that religion, as a standard, is targeted. One level of categorization, gender, is acceptable but religious affiliation is not. With this outright religious discrimination by the official University administration as a context, the 5Cs look downright reverent.

The lineup of religious resources has changed significantly over the history of the 5Cs. Generally, the religious options have multiplied and diversified from a core of Christian services to what is available today. The McAlister Center provides a significant chunk of the options. It conducts Zen meditation times, Church of the Latter-Day Saints services, Quaker Friends meetings, Shabbat service and dinner, Catholic mass, and Jum’ah prayer every week. There are 21other organizations on campus which offer their own services, large group meetings, lecture series, and even publications. They range from the Claremont Colleges Bahá’í Club to Queers of Faith to the Muslim Student Association to Hillel to P.A.G.A.N. (Prayers About Gods and Nature) to the Soka Gakkai Budhists to the Hindu Society to the 5C Spirituality Club. All are listed on the McAlister website. Members of these groups even arrange small groups meetings that exist outside the range of the club and, of course, there are the non-school institutions like the Islamic Center of Claremont, the St. Ambrose Episcopal Church, and the Wat Bhuridattavanaram.

Throughout this expansion, the 5Cs have repeatedly reaffirmed their commitment to serving the religious, as well as non-religious, students on campus. Judy Sahak, who now runs Denison Library and previously attended Scripps, told the CI in an interview that “[t]here have been several occasions when the council of Presidents… or CUC… have questioned the need for the chaplains but it has prevailed.” However, the official mantra of expansion and diversification has been accompanied by a distinct pressure from the 5C community for religious groups to recede from the discourse on campus in the interest of tolerance.

Part of this is from the campuses’ general avoidance of straightforward, possibly offensive dialogue. Minority opinions and experiences go undiscussed because it could discomfort others and the pain of accounting for all potential offense is too much trouble. This intolerance in the name of tolerance clearly cuts down discourse, particularly for students who are genuinely experiencing emotional distress on campus. Religion happens to be a topic labelled by popular campus culture as potentially offensive so issues relating to it go widely undiscussed in mixed circles. The result is a growing, but insulated religious community.

Michael Stalcup, a leader of the Intervarsity chapter that serves CMC, Scripps, and Mudd (3CIV) cited the 5Cs as a remarkably safe space for religious observances compared to other institutions of higher education. But he also spoke of the changing definition and acceptability of proselytizing on campus. Stalcup rightly pointed out that “proselytizing” used to mean genuinely coercive forms of conversion, like offering food to a starving child only when they agree to follow your doctrine. Now, the definition has shifted to mean simply evangelizing. So policies against proselytizing, like that of the McAlister Center, mean something different today than when they were created. The distinction between rejecting religious oppression and oppressing religious discourse is a precarious one.

The intensity of secular hostility has shot up only recently. Sahak recalled that “until about the mid-2000s, one of the [5C] chaplains came to [the Scripps] commencement and gave an invocation.” This is reflective of a wider pattern across liberal arts colleges. According to the McAlister Center, “The research indicates that there is more religious bigotry and intolerance on the college campuses as well, especially in recent months.”

The McAlister Center told the CI that, while “[t]here are vibrant, enthusiastic, diverse religious groups and widely inclusive religious/spiritual observances ranging from a variety of religious/spiritual clubs through McAlister Center and in the greater community… there have been painful and demeaning acts and expressions of religious bigotry and prejudice on campus which reflects growing trends of anti-Semitism, Islamaphobia, and negative views of Christians, Hindus, and other religious people. The Administrations of the Colleges have been concerned and responsive to these behaviors, but this does not always resolve the fears and concerns some students are experiencing.”

That being said, the 5Cs are in a much better position than most secular colleges. The McAlister Center is a powerful resource for students who are religious or want to explore existential questions. Nearly all services provided by McAlister or the 21 other organizations on the campuses are open to all comers. It’s up to the community at large, students and faculty, to encourage open and honest conversation, to wear down the divide between secular and religious conversations.