Tag Archives: Claremont McKenna College

CMC President Promises To Punish Policy Violators in Wake of Protest

After protesters at Claremont McKenna College shut down a scheduled lecture and Q&A with Heather Mac Donald, a critic of the Black Lives Matter movement, by blocking the venue’s entrance, Hiram Chodosh, the president of Claremont McKenna College, promised to crack down on some student protesters for violating college policy.

Chodosh observed that, despite the protesters’ efforts, a live-stream of Mac Donald’s talk was viewed by nearly 250 people live and had been watched over 1,400 times at the time of his email. “In the end, the effort to silence her voice effectively amplified it to a much larger audience,” he wrote.

He outlined the college’s decision to not physically remove protesters, explaining that “based on the judgment of the Claremont Police Department, we [the college] jointly concluded that any forced interventions or arrests would have created unsafe conditions for students, faculty, staff, and guests.”

Chodosh also took the unusual step of promising punishment for those who blocked all exits and entrances to the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum, where Mac Donald’s talk was scheduled to take place. “Blocking access to buildings violates College policy,” he wrote. “CMC students who are found to have violated policies will be held accountable. We will also give a full report to the other Claremont Colleges, who have responsibility for their own students.”

Chodosh highlighted the fact that the protest was composed of “a large group of students from the Claremont Colleges, including a small number of CMC students and some individuals from external communities.”

Echoing the statement released Thursday evening by Vice President for Academic Affairs & Dean of Faculty at Claremont McKenna College, Peter Uvin, Chodosh concluded by reaffirming the college’s commitment to protecting free speech:

“Finally, the breach of our freedoms to listen to views that challenge us and to engage in dialogue about matters of controversy is a serious, ongoing concern we must address effectively. Accordingly, we will be developing new strategies for how best to protect open, safe access to our events.”

Claremont Students Plan to Protest ‘Anti-Black Fascist’ Heather Mac Donald

Students at the Claremont Colleges plan to protest and “shut down” a speech by prominent political commentator Heather Mac Donald tonight. Mac Donald, a member of the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal, is scheduled to give a speech at Claremont McKenna College’s Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum.

A photo of the students’ call to protest.

According to the event’s description on the Athenaeum’s website, “The Black Lives Matter movement holds that the U.S. is experiencing an epidemic of racially-driven police shootings, and that policing is shot through with systemic bias. Contending that the central Black Lives Matter narrative is not just false but dangerous, Heather Mac Donald will explore the data on policing, crime, and race and argue that policing today is driven by crime, not race, and that the movement has caused officers to back off of proactive policing in high crime areas, leading to the largest spike in nearly 50 years, disproportionately affecting blacks.”

Student protestors plan to “shut down” the event. “Anti-Black ‘scholar’ Heather Mac Donald has been invited to speak at Claremont McKenna College,” states the protest’s Facebook page. “Join the action with students of color at the Claremont Colleges to shut her down!!”

A Facebook event titled, “Shut Down Anti-Black Fascist Heather Mac Donald” and hosted by “ShutDown Anti-BlackFascists” encourages students to protest the event because Mac Donald “condemns [the] Black Lives Matter movement,” “supports racist police officers,” and “supports increasing fascist ‘law and order.’”

“Heather Mac Donald has been vocally against the Black Lives Matter movement and pro-police, both of which show her fascist ideologies and blatant anti-Blackness and white supremacy,” the Facebook page adds. “Let’s show CMC that having this speaker is an attack on marginalized communities both on campus and off. Together, we can hold CMC accountable and prevent Mac Donald from spewing her racist, anti-Black, capitalist, imperialist, fascist agenda.”

The protest organizers do not state specifically how they plan to “shut down” Mac Donald’s lecture, though they do urge students who attend to carry posters, wear black, and “Bring your comrades, because we’re shutting this down.”

Follow the Claremont Independent on Facebook for live coverage of the protests.

 

DACA On College Campuses

Just under five years ago, on the thirtieth anniversary of Plyler v. Doe, then-president Barack Obama put forth an executive order that created the immigration policy known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). In higher education, this policy has conferred many benefits upon certain undocumented residents of the U.S., including limited protection from immigration officers and access to public and private financial aid packages.

DACA grants immigrants a two-year grace period during which they are treated as temporary residents and are eligible for work permits. The policy is only available to those who (a) came into the United States before their sixteenth birthday before June 2007; (b) are currently in school, are a high school graduate, or have been honorably discharged from the military; (c) were born after June 15, 1981; and (d) are not a threat to American security.

Those granted DACA status have no path to citizenship, yet they still can receive a number of benefits normally exclusive to legal permanent residents of the U.S. These benefits include being able to obtain a driver’s license in all fifty states, having an ‘exempt non-citizen’ status that absolves them from the fines for not having insurance under the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, being granted special tax refunds and credits, and being able to obtain temporary social security numbers.

The benefits of DACA for its grantees, however, go far beyond these basics and extend deeply into the American higher education system. In twenty states, DACA immigrants are allowed to register for public community colleges, colleges, and universities with an in-state resident status, which halves their tuition costs in many circumstances. In six states, they qualify for state-funded financial aid packages for public colleges and universities. On top of any state-sponsored financial aid packages for which DACA grantees qualify, there are many private scholarships and grants available. States like Utah offer private funding through public universities to their DACA students.

Some private colleges such as Amherst College and Columbia University offer the same need-blind admission policy to both domestic and non-citizen applicants alike. Others, such as Pomona College, a member of the Claremont Consortium, go further and do not differentiate between documented and undocumented applicants for either admissions or financial aid. Pitzer College and Scripps College, also members of the Claremont Consortium, each offer full, renewable grants for one undocumented first-year student per year. Scripps also recently announced they will follow Pomona’s example and will begin extending need-based financial aid to all undocumented students, regardless of their DACA status, next fall. Meanwhile, at the other Claremont Colleges, Claremont McKenna College and Harvey Mudd College, undocumented students must apply for external scholarships such as the Cal Grant if they require financial assistance, though at Harvey Mudd, they are encouraged to apply for international student financial aid.

Once DACA students have graduated from their respective undergraduate institutions, state law determines the opportunities available to them. In California, for instance, DACA students may acquire licenses to practice law, medicine, nursing, and pharmacy; can study abroad; and, for the University of California postgraduate programs, they are eligible for all financial aid, grants, and fellowships applicable to U.S. citizens.

Nonetheless, even with all of the benefits of the DACA program, DACA students still fear that their information might be passed along to federal immigration officers. While all DACA immigrants’ information has been shared with the Department of Homeland Security, ICE may not access this information at this time. Many DACA students fear that this could change under President Trump. In response to these anxieties, DACA students and their allies have advocated that colleges become ‘sanctuary campuses.’ Like sanctuary cities, they would protect the local undocumented community from deportation and arrest by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers.

Unfortunately for DACA students, neither of these sanctuary environments have any real legal force, as ICE can still conduct raids on a sanctuary campus. The most that these sanctuary communities and immigration activists can do is to refuse to share information with ICE, to hand over undocumented immigrants, or to coordinate with local police as they attempt to assist ICE. Given that ICE only has around five thousand agents, help from local police departments is necessary for successful ICE operations.

Even within the five-college Claremont Consortium, the magnitude of each school’s efforts greatly differ. Pomona’s president David W. Oxtoby acknowledges that calling the college a ‘sanctuary campus’ is not entirely accurate as Pomona cannot offer either literal sanctuary or legal authority in protecting its students; yet, of the five colleges—arguably of virtually all liberal arts colleges—Pomona offers the greatest amount of aid and support to its estimated fifty to sixty undocumented students. Pitzer and Scripps, on the other hand, have declared themselves to be sanctuary colleges, but the services designated for their undocumented students are much more limited than those of Pomona. Harvey Mudd and Claremont McKenna put even less resources toward supporting their undocumented students, have not changed their nondiscrimination policies to the extent which Scripps and Pomona have, and neither institution has come forward offering to help these students find legal aid if needed.

Colleges have been eager to throw public support behind their undocumented students, as evidenced by strong support for DACA among college presidents. All five presidents of Claremont’s undergraduate institutions, along with the presidents of 634 other institutions, signed a letter put forth by President Oxtoby that DACA should not only be sustained, but should also be expanded. Calling DACA’s expansion a “moral imperative” and a “national necessity,” President Oxtoby goes on to state that undocumented students “represent what is best about America.”

Not all college administrators, even those who signed it, are completely on board with the progressive sentiments President Oxtoby expresses in the letter. Claremont McKenna’s president Hiram Chodosh wrote to the CMC community, “I believe that the Statement’s specific advocacy for DACA may … compromise non-partisan values vital to higher education.” All five schools, however, including Claremont McKenna, have promised to offer counseling resources to their undocumented students and to require that Claremont College Campus Security officers not ask students to disclose their citizenship status.

Student Leader: “I Would Bully That Girl Out of School”

On Friday, the CMC Forum posted an April 26 letter sent by the former head of the Claremont McKenna College Alumni Association, Carol Hartman (CMC ’86), to the CMC administration and board of trustees. “The college setting may be the first time some students have to exhibit empathy, proportionality, responsibility and respect to their peers who might have very differing beliefs, opinions or perspective. It is not the prerogative of a student, who is on campus for 4 years, to change the historical culture and perspective of our college,” Hartman writes. “I do not believe that any majority of the alumni are supporting of the current events and cultural shift at the college.” Hartman goes on to criticize president Chodosh, “A President who leads with his own mission, Social Justice, rather than CMC’s mission. They are not aligned.”

Hartman then alludes to an example where her daughter, Kate Hartman, (CMC ’19) “experienced racism, delivered by those who say they will not tolerate it.” When the junior Hartman posted a link to Obama’s remarks that college students are too “coddled” on her Facebook page, Sarah Gissinger (CMC ’17), who was recently appointed to be a Fellow for Diversity and Inclusion by the Dean of Students office, responded by telling her “since you are white, you have absolutely no business making such a comment.” Ironically, Gissinger later commented, “As a white person, you will never experience racism.”

“Claremont McKenna College was once a remarkable place,” notes the senior Hartman. “My experience as a student was that it was a meritocracy. It is not today.”

“My daughter has applied and been accepted as a transfer to other universities,” she adds. “The culture of inclusion has created a hostile environment for those who have a different opinion and who are not Persons of Color.”

Some students did not appreciate Hartman’s statements. Liat Kaplan (CMC ’17)—the Editor-in-Chief of The Golden Antlers, a student publication—responded to the letter with a Facebook post stating, “Tbh [to be honest] I would bully that girl out of school if she wasn’t already transferring.”

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“It’s such an aggressive environment,” Kate Hartman told the Claremont Independent. “It seems like people really are not willing to sit down and listen to the opinions of others.”

“By choosing to make disagreements on campus climate personal, students undermine the opportunity to learn and grow from differing opinions,” she added. “I think there is a larger trend of people veiling a desire to silence opposing opinions as activism and progressive inclusion.”

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Image Source: Flickr

W. Kamau Bell: “I’m Married to a White Woman with Two Mixed-Race Kids, So I’m a Bridge-Builder”

Last night, the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum at Claremont McKenna College hosted comedian Walter Kamau Bell to give a talk about ending racism. Prior to the event, Bell told the Claremont Independent, “I absolutely have an agenda. It won’t be hidden. And I’m also married to a white woman with two mixed-race kids, so I’m a bridge-builder.” Additionally, Bell noted, “the best thing that ever happened to me was that a friend of mine in Oakland—white woman, lesbian, black kids—just to say, this is a very specific type of person. In Oakland there’s a lot of those. And we were talking about my racism show. And she said, ‘Kamau, you can’t end racism and make sexism worse.’”

Bell, introduced as a “Social Justice Ambassador,” stated that he plans to end racism by instructing white people to form a tighter-knit community and to take pride in their race. “White people, you have to have some pride,” said Bell. “There’s gotta be reasons for white people to have good white pride. Right now, you’re letting white people run rampant, and that makes the rest of us have to work harder. And that’s bullshit.” During his talk, Bell addressed the white audience members. “White people, I can see your faces, the lights are on, the lights are shining. Say it loud, say, ‘I’m white and I’m proud!’ Here we go, white people. This is happening, this is a thing. ‘I’m white and I’m proud!’”

Bell began his show by listing the words he was not going to use during the performance. “Words like ‘minority,’ ‘Caucasian,’ ‘colorblind,’ ‘people of color,’ ‘nonwhite.’ Words like ‘diversity,’ words like ‘multicultural,’ ‘multiculturalism,’ ‘multiculturalocity,’” [sic] the list began. “Words like, ‘Martin Luther King, Jr.’ And finally, the last word you won’t hear in this show is ‘the n-word.’ Oh, don’t be confused—you’ll definitely hear the word ‘nigger’—you just won’t hear ‘the n-word.’ In fact, ‘NIGGER!’” he shouted, displaying the word in all caps on the projector. Bell did not use this word at any other time during the performance, but he did use the word “diversity” despite his initial plans not to.

Bell later stated that he feels sorry for college students because “You’re all on Twitter, you’re all on Snapchat, you’re all on Instagram, and so the world finds out what happens when you’re in college and colleges can’t be these little tight petri dishes anymore.” Though Bell stated, “I feel bad for you guys. I could’ve made a lot of mistakes and you never heard about it,” that didn’t stop him from showing a Facebook photo of a group of current students’ regrettable Halloween costumes and making fun of them in front of their peers. “It’s America, it’s your country. Enjoy your freedom. But there are consequences. That’s how free speech works,” Bell stated.

Bell, whose performance was—as promised—heavy on partisan content, also shared his opinions on Donald Trump. “I don’t give a shit if you’re not voting for him. That’s your boy, and you’re connected through whiteness,” Bell stated. “It’s not about voting, it’s about stopping the speech.” Bell also criticized the staff of the Claremont Independent during his show. “Latinos and black people get killed by police unarmed way more than white people. That’s all facts. But you’re like, I don’t know, I’m still not convinced… I write for the Independent.’”

When the Independent asked Bell about free speech from a comedian’s perspective—specifically, comedians such as Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld citing political correctness as a reason not to perform on college campuses—Bell stated that oversensitivity had nothing to do with the issue. “The story was that somebody told Chris Rock that they had stopped performing at colleges,” he said. “And then Chris told Jerry Seinfeld, and Jerry Seinfeld told the media.” Bell also noted, “Colleges are always more politically correct than real society because when you go to college you’re supposed to learn new things. That’s just how it works.”

Bell said the reason he thinks these comedians don’t perform at colleges is because colleges don’t want them. “At some point you age out of performing at colleges. Colleges don’t necessarily want to hear what a man in his sixties, like Jerry Seinfeld, or a man of Chris Rock’s—in his fifties—thinks,” the 44-year-old Bell stated. Additionally, Bell claimed, “You can’t afford those guys because they’re billionaires. Or millionaires, almost billionaires.”

Chris Rock might disagree with Bell’s analysis of the story. “I stopped playing colleges, and the reason is because they’re way too conservative,” Rock stated just over a year ago. “Not in their political views—not like they’re voting Republican—but in their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody.” Similarly, Jerry Seinfeld recently stated, “I don’t play colleges, but I hear a lot of people tell me, ‘Don’t go near colleges, they’re so PC.’” Fortunately, Bell told the Independent that he is “a big fan also of finding out that I’m wrong about something and having people explain to me how I could be right about it.”

 

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Image source: Flavorwire

The Enemies of Diversity

It’s likely that every single person at CMC would claim to be pro-diversity, yet it is remarkably difficult to find someone who means it. In fact, our greatest self-proclaimed advocates for diversity seem opposed to actual diversity in any form.

At a basic level all diversity of human beings – be it on the basis of race, gender, sexuality, or something else entirely – is heterogeneity of thought. It’s generally accepted that race and ethnicity are social constructs. If we accept this premise, then racial and ethnic diversity boils down to a different experience of life as determined by the mechanisms of cultures and subcultures. The same is true for any trait tied to social status: gender, sexuality, social awkwardness, hair-color, foot-size, etc. That diversity of perspective manifests itself in a diversity of thought. Someone who has been evicted in the name of eminent domain will consider highway construction differently than a trucker who will think differently than a government official and so on and so forth. So it is logically necessary to advocate for diversity of thought if one is to advocate for diversity of race, gender, sexuality, etc. If you are an advocate for diversity of thought, then you must advocate for the idea of different thoughts slamming together.

Instead, our campuses’ advocates of “diversity” want the opposite. These last several weeks the 5Cs have been hit by a series of calls for less diversity of thought in the name of diversity itself. My campus, CMC, in particular fell under fire for being “unsafe” for students of color, queer students, and other “underprivileged” groups. I would argue that the “danger” the protestors cited is an inevitable consequence of multiculturalism. This is in no way meant to deny that the incidents cited were not painful, but simply that they a necessary byproduct of diversity. In fact, the solutions they proposed would amount to creating segregated spaces and programs of indoctrination, effectively reducing, if not eradicating, diversity.

Most students would, at this point, object to my argument. They are likely to say that “diversity” initiatives are not in fact about diversity, but rather a sort of cultural victory. The reasoning would follow like this: certain groups have been marginalized and oppressed in the past (and present) and the way to make amends is to ensure members of those groups end up (in this case) in higher education. To put it bluntly: it does not matter if they mix and interact, just that everyone gets a degree. This is a strange argument in many ways. Oddest of all, it rests on the assumption that if one member of a social group receives something that somehow benefits the whole group. Underneath that lies the premise that these social constructs like race have manifested themselves in a collective well-being.

This argument vastly oversimplifies social structure. Individuals are affected by unique intersections of different cultural forces. Being a black man from Detroit is different from being a black man in San Francisco. While it is conceivable that a black man in Detroit might benefit through a black man from San Francisco attending CMC, it is just as reasonable that he could benefit from a white man attending CMC. The black San Franciscan could serve as a role model to the black Michigander, but if the white man was from Detroit (i.e. if they had a shared cultural identity), he could be a role model too. When we look at the black Michigander’s quality of life more broadly, the claim seems even more suspect. If the white Michigander returned to Detroit, wealthier than when he left, he could very well pour much needed wealth into the economy by employing the black Michigander. To say that this would do him less good than seeing a random black man from San Francisco become successful seems unreasonable to my mind. At the very least, it complicates matters significantly. So I would argue that the variables affecting cultural status are too complex for us to conclude that surface level diversity is valuable in and of itself.

Moreover, nowhere in their demands did the protestors actually call for a more diverse student body. They would have some grounds to do so. Like most institutions of higher education, CMC is distinctly lacking in lower income students. Tuition is very high and the cost of educating students is even higher. That makes it difficult to draw in a diverse student body. Minorities are disproportionally affected by income inequality. Instead of citing this and arguing that CMC should make an effort to increase financial aid packages, the protestors called for increased operational costs. Now, you could make the argument that the spending would make CMC more attractive to the underprivileged. The problem is that not receiving enough financial aid makes it nearly impossible for an underprivileged student attend CMC. That’s just it for them. Feeling uncomfortable at CMC is a softer barrier to entry. Even if it should be addressed, it would not be possible to do so from an institutional level without destroying diversity altogether.

Whether in a sectioned-off resource center or across the whole of campus, it is impossible to construct a “safe space” unless you eradicate all meaningful diversity. People – even of the same race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. – are unique and have their own unique experiences that shape their worldview. Because they are limited in this capacity, people are often insensitive towards one another. This is unfortunate and when individual instances surface, they should be addressed. However, it is an inevitable byproduct of diversity. This is why loving, thriving married couples generally argue fairly often. If you are to partner with another person, to understand and care for them, you have to candidly discuss how you both feel and what you both think. Couples in healthy marriages know how to do so kindly and maturely, but they still do it. Still, neither member is “safe.” The only way to keep an individual “safe” in this manner is to essentially annihilate the root of the insensitivity: diversity. Driving out or silencing those with different cultural experiences is a good place to start, but if you want real homogeny, you have to go deeper and strangle any diversity of thought.

Be it mandatory sensitivity trainings or general education requirements, indoctrination accomplishes this goal in the short term. Now, the proposed programs are nowhere near as Orwellian as Scripps students’ demand for required anti-oppression training to brainwash its student body, but protestors want CMC to become more like Scripps in this regard. They want to institutionalize this social pressure; they want the power to bully students and faculty into agreeing. As someone who attended Scripps College, I can report that this indoctrination does often succeed in ending discussions before they begin and creating a mindless space in which students are generally too afraid to question the views their institution has handed them. The general education requirements make your GPA dependent on submission to their world view. This was my experience in CORE I, where my teacher would cut off questions or comments that were contrary to a particular brand of progressive thought and would grade down assignments that did not match her ideology. You simply agreed for the sake of the assignment, but the class built in the habit of silence and capitulation.

Fortunately, for those like myself who actually desire diversity, CMC has a long stood out as an institution dedicated to individualism. Approximately 30% of CMC students are conservatives. In the range of American campuses, this makes CMC one of the most conservative colleges, which gives you a sense of just how little diversity of thought exists in higher education. Moreover, CMC is actively working to bring in a more diverse student body. Announced last year by President Hiram Chodosh, the Student Imperative is an unprecedented program that adds $100 million to the endowment in order to “create more need-based and merit-based awards in support of our Admission Officers as they push into new neighborhoods, locales, and schools – suburban, urban, rural – in search of those young brilliant minds who just need a chance.”

CMC has nearly reached its goal and, given its rapid success, is preparing to reach $200 million. Such a move would bring in real, meaningful diversity to the campus, rather than a pseudo-diversity agenda pushed onto the CMC administration by the recent protests.

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Image Source: Flickr

I, Too, Dissent

Dean Spellman,

I’m sorry I am part of a community that contorts attempts at reasonable gestures into acts of “violence.”  I’m sorry I am part of a community where every word, gesture, and even campaign contribution is subject to judgment and scrutiny by those who claim their mission is to combat judgment and fight for equality.  I’m sorry that I have failed to stand up for my beliefs and your rights as an administrator because as a white, privileged, cis-gendered, able-bodied, male student my views carry no weight in the eyes of the masses and can easily ostracize me as an unsympathetic bigot.  Please know that there are students like myself who think this movement, while rooted in some very concrete details, was carried to incongruous levels and placed administrators in unfair confrontational positions.  We are humans, we make mistakes. A poor word selection should not incite chaos, but rather a dialogue, acknowledgement of wrongdoing, and plan of action for the future.  You made those attempts, yet had no positive reception.  I am deeply saddened by the stain the public response has left on our faculty and campus name.

I wish you the best of luck on your future endeavors.

Sincerely,

Ben Sacks

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.”