Tag Archives: diversity

Safe Space Shut Down After Anti-White, Anti-Male Statements Leaked

Recently, the Independent obtained screenshots from the “5C Women of Color” Facebook group. According to its description, the group—accessible only to its 1,100 approved members—is “for 5C students and alumnae who identify as women of color to reach out and serve as resources/support for one another.” Many of the page’s most popular posts mock those who do not identify as women of color.

In response to her adoptive white father making jokes at her expense, Sarah Weiyun Otterstrom (SC ‘17) posted “I just need to get this out. I hate having white parents so much.” Another student responded by instructing Otterstrom to tell her father that “his pale ass is worthless and the sun doesn’t even like him. Talk about his receding hairline, the fact that he probably looks 20 years older than he actually is, and that he probably has a small penis.”

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Additionally, Namrata Mohan (SC ‘16) stated that her family “ha[s] THE ‘white person voice’ they use when they want to make fun of white Americans.” Later, she continues to justify this “white person voice” by stating that although “it’s soooo lowkey shady,” it’s acceptable to “make fun of white Americans” because “like white people created #colonialism so i’m not mad.”

Rachel Song (PO ‘18), who posted in the group for advice on classes, stated that she was concerned about taking “PSYC141: Leading Entrepreneurial Ventures” because she is “afraid [it] is going to be a class full of white, male business bros.” Lanna Sanchez (PO ‘19) noted that she is “kinda scared to take a politics course in general since this space is typically dominated by white men.” Sanchez added that a class taught by a “conservative POC [person of color] professor” also “raised a red flag.”

Catherine Chiang (SC ‘16)—who was elected by her peers to be the senior class speaker at Scripps College’s commencement ceremony this year and who is an acting intern at the Scripps Communities of Resources and Empowerment program—stated, “asian boys r a social issue,” to which other students responded “esp [especially] the nerdy ones who can just hide in their tech caves” and “they get all angry when it comes to how Asian men are asexualized/emasculated.” Kristine Lee (PO ‘17), a staff member of the Pomona College Asian American Resource Center who sits on the “Production” and “Mental Health” committees there added, “F*ck your masculinity whiny Asian cis bros this is why I only hang out with femmes.”

“As a feminine gay Asian woman,” Kristine Lee told the Independent, “I’m not interested in surrounding myself with the kind of possessive, toxic masculinity exhibited by the type of Asian American men we were discussing in the post.” In response to these discussions, Ji In “Kit” Lee (PO ‘17), another Pomona College Asian American Resource Center staff member, wrote “mehehehe I love this group.”

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Not all students of color agree with the page’s sentiments. Carlos Perrett (PZ ’18), who spoke with the Independent, expressed his disapproval of the statements made on the 5C Women of Color page. “Facebook groups like the 5C Women of Color not only lack inclusion, but also fail to meet their purposes of creating a space of support. Instead these groups have become the perfect outlet for shaming, hostility, and discrimination.” Earlier this year, Claremont saw similar safe spaces intended to be “pro-POC, pro-black, and anti-white supremacist” established with clauses stating that “[w]hile you may want to invite a white friend or ally, to make this a safe and comfortable space for other POC, we ask that you do not.”

After the Independent reached out to members of the 5C Women of Color group for additional comment, the page was shut down. “We found out that screen shots of our interactions were taken by people who work for the Claremont Independent, and they’re geared to write an article,” wrote Kit Lee (PO ’17). “In order to preserve the confidentiality of past conversations and healthy discussions that have occurred in this group,” she continued, “we will shut down the group … to prevent whoever is the mole from leaking more screenshots to the CI.”

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Image Source: Facebook

Student Leaders: Diversity Proposal Remedies “Unsafe Academic Environments”

Under pressure from student leaders, the Pomona College faculty voted last week to include a consideration of a professor’s “attent[ion] to diversity in the student body” in the College’s criteria for promotion and tenure.

The move follows the circulation of an open letter in support of the addition which received hundreds of signatures and the backing of several high-level officials in the College’s student government, including the current and former Student Body Presidents. According to the letter, the new language will ensure that faculty members must demonstrate a sufficient commitment to “diversity, equity, and inclusion” in order to be a successful candidate for tenure, promotion, or reappointment.

The letter also praised the motion as a significant step toward the realization of Pomona College’s diversity objectives as laid out in a document released last year by the President’s Advisory Committee on Diversity. According to the letter, the new criterion will help to alleviate the “unsafe academic environments” which have had a deleterious effect upon “students’ well-being and everyday lived experiences” by making diversity one of the top considerations for faculty advancement, thereby recognizing that “meeting the needs of a diverse student body” is “an essential component of exceptional teaching and service.”

Under the former guidelines for promotion and tenure, faculty members were required to demonstrate “intellectual leadership” (i.e. “good teaching”); “professional achievement” (i.e. scholarly productivity); and “effective service to the College,” its student organizations, or to professional organizations. The new guidelines qualify “good teaching” as teaching which “is attentive to diversity in the student body” and adds a requirement that faculty members seeking promotion should demonstrate competency or excellence at “fostering an inclusive classroom” in addition to the superior teaching skills which the College’s promotion criteria already mandate.

Potential candidates for advancement also must “specifically address their efforts to create and maintain an inclusive classroom.” These efforts might involve, as the new guidelines suggest, the “inclusion of scholarly and other works emerging from the perspectives of underrepresented groups” in the courses taught by the candidate or “any other classroom practices that support inclusivity and diversity.”

Student reaction to the change has been generally positive. The open letter in support of the new language has garnered hundreds of signatures from Pomona College students. “I support this criteria,” said one supporter, who asked to remain anonymous. “I appreciate the lengths to which the campus faculty and student body went in order to get input and consensus from so many people before implementing this criteria.”

Others, however, are less pleased with the new policy. “Professors should be hired and later given tenure because of their teaching abilities,” another Pomona student told the Independent. “When it comes to promotion, identity politics should be left at the door.”

My Political Views Do Not Make Me a Traitor to My Ethnicity

When I decided to go to a liberal arts college in California, I did so knowing that my political views were not going to match those of the majority on campus. I didn’t mind this, because the benefits Claremont McKenna College had to offer appeared to outweigh this seemingly minor detail, and I had assumed that my views and I would be treated with at least some respect.

When I arrived on campus in the fall, I decided to join the Claremont Independent. Unlike the other newspapers on campus, the Independent is self-funded, beholden to no campus administrator or bureaucrat, and has made reporting the truth its primary responsibility on campus. Despite the many differences in political opinions among the Independent’s staff, every member was accepted, treated with respect, and encouraged to express any contrarian views. Supporting a certain political candidate or having a dissenting opinion was welcomed, not shamed. And naively, I hoped that my college, with a diverse student body holding a wide range of political views, would thrive on intellectual debate and the exchange of ideas just like the Claremont Independent staff.

But ultimately, my hopes were dashed. Instead of a lively, respectful battle of ideas, I have witnessed the utter mistreatment of those with minority opinions. In one incident, Jose Ruiz (PO ’16), the Managing Editor of the Independent, was ordered to leave a protest– which he attended in support of a close friend–simply because of his association with the Independent. A few months later, he was attacked on social media for being a “shady person of color.”

The term “shady person of color” (SPOC) gets thrown around a lot at the Claremont Colleges. When students of color do not share the prevailing liberal worldview, our peers use this phrase to dismiss our ideas and separate us from the group. Even students whose job is to help students of color feel comfortable on campus participate in this conservative shaming culture. Timothy Valdez (CMC ’19) who will become a student mentor for the Chicano Latino Student Affairs office (CLSA) this fall, called me a “SPOC” after commenting on a Facebook thread relating to a post in which a CMC student threatened to bully another CMC student out of school. My political views do not make me “shady,” and I will not be cowed by efforts to silence my voice as an independent person of color on this campus.

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Silencing students with opposing views poisons the intellectual climate on campus for everyone, especially people of color. Calling those with dissenting views “shady” encourages groupthink by creating an expectation that all students who look the same have to think the same…or else. As a result, those who have not yet formed their own opinions or have dared to form their own are verbally beaten into submission, forced to side with the majority lest they be cast aside as an outsider or a traitor to their race. Race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation do not and should not necessitate a certain worldview, and it is an insult to the agency of every individual on this campus to say otherwise.

Mr. Valdez and his ilk suffer too when they silence their opposition on campus. Where there is no room for intelligent discussion on campus, their own views never have an opportunity to engage with and benefit from the marketplace of ideas. When we are not constantly challenged or questioned, there is no reason to modify our views, even if they are indefensible, weak, or self-contradictory.

I believe in personal freedom, small government, and a free market economy. However, I recognize that silencing and invalidating the opinion of a pro-government, fiscally liberal student by calling them “shady” or their calling their ideas “unsafe” would do nothing to advance my ideas or produce a healthy campus discourse. In reality, it is when I converse with someone with whom I disagree that I try my hardest to understand their reasoning and their beliefs, because it is in these moments that I experience the greatest growth and strengthen my arguments for my own beliefs.

I find it quite ironic that Mr. Valdez is going to be a mentor for CLSA next year, as this position is meant for students who will serve as role models for the Latino/a community. How will he be able to help incoming students find their place at the 5Cs if he vilifies anyone whose opinions contradict his own? Non-liberal students can also come from marginalized backgrounds and they need to feel comfortable with all the staff and mentors at CLSA. We are human beings, and one of the virtues we have is that of free will. We are free to choose how we behave, with whom we associate, and what we believe in. If people who share my ethnic background ostracize me because I don’t always agree with them, they are robbing themselves of an opportunity to benefit from a vibrant exchange of ideas and to appreciate the incredible diversity within the Latino/a community.

Why I Haven’t Enjoyed Claremont

When I came to Claremont, I hoped to find a loving community and an extended family. Unfortunately, what I found instead is an environment in which professing a commitment to social activism is often more important to my fellow students than actually connecting with the people around them. Many of my progressive classmates concern themselves with berating their peers for their ostensible insensitivity or privilege, rather than with expressing sensitivity to each other.

I have a message for these students: Expecting others to accept your conception of morality—one in which tolerance and acceptance are supposedly paramount—while treating dissenters with disdain is hypocrisy at its finest. You are trying to show people how to better society, which is admirable, but you have forgotten that a better society must start with ourselves. Society is not some vague entity – it is all around us in our dorms, in our classes, and in our libraries. If we are to demand that others embrace certain ideals, we are obligated to take on these same ideals ourselves and live them out as fully as possible.

When we willfully ignore this obligation, however, our community suffers. Deep and lasting relationships are no longer possible; instead, our relationships depend upon whether or not we agree with each other ideologically. When activism becomes more important than establishing sincere, genuine connections with people from different ideological backgrounds, no reasons remain for listening to those who cannot help our political goals. We thus become indignant of even respectful dissent, blinded by a sense of moral superiority that deems any disagreement a moral violation. In this way, we dehumanize each other based on ideology and create a highly judgmental culture that absolves us from needing to treat each other with respect and or consider alternative perspectives.

This last point is what most upsets me about the Claremont community. Students encourage each other to believe that highlighting the immorality of others is of far greater importance than actually practicing the values which they claim a person must support, accept, and live by in order to be morally good.  How can we improve ourselves if we see only good in ourselves and our opinions and only evil in those who deviate from our worldview? How can we become better people if we rarely place ourselves in a position to contemplate our wrongs? The fact is that no one is perfect, consistent, or correct all of the time, and rather than becoming indignant and aggressive when faced with dissent, students should do better for the community and for themselves by showing each other sincere kindness and understanding.

Activism should not strangle our relationships or limit the compassion we show to others.  If it does, the activism which truly matters—the radical task of loving and accepting one another in spite of our differences—will be left behind, and we will have lost sight of what’s truly important.

To Burn in the Melting Pot: How Can We As Students of Color Better Address Diversity?

“I’m in awe of the diverse backgrounds, talents and academic abilities of the new members of the Class of 2020,” Pomona College’s Dean of Admissions proudly stated in an announcement introducing the admitted class of 2020. “And I look forward to welcoming them to the Pomona community.”

Students and faculty alike are thrilled about Pomona’s admission of the most racially diverse class to date, and understandably so. Racial diversity is certainly something that should be taken into consideration when celebrating a year’s admits and in looking at the progress we as people of color have made in academia. However, race is not the be-all end-all for defining diversity on campus, and nor should it be the sole cause for rejoicing; it is ultimately the diversity of thought that is praiseworthy in building an interconnected, catenated community. Being eager to learn about others’ experiences, I will not feel excited about Pomona’s “diversity” until the ideologies, political and ethical contrasts, and upbringings of students are as dissimilar, yet still communicable. As a person of color myself, I feel more entitled to confront the number of issues I see with how we as students of color talk about race—not how White people should act—and because I evidently don’t identify as White, I am more concerned about what we can do to start the dialogues about race. The diversity of Pomona’s student body as it stands now is only skin deep, and to make these differences more than a pat-ourselves-on-the-back statistic, we as students regardless of race have to undertake a shift in how we address identity.

The dynamic diversity of thought begins where the now hollow definition of “diversity” ends: once the students are admitted and become members of the community. Among those celebrating this historic moment are the current Pomona students of color who push for “safe space” communities built to avoid confrontation with those of dissenting viewpoints—including those within their own demographic(s). Speaking from experience, this alienates people of color with different experiences who may come to a school as diverse as Pomona to seek out dialogue among people with similar identities, yet varied points of view. Defenders of the safe-space phenomenon often argue that it is needed as a coping mechanism as a form of self-preservation, but the reality is that any method resulting in removing oneself from opportunities to reach out to other people will, whatever one calls it, make both parties less likely to connect.

Creating a vibrant conversation between different identities and experiences is the only way to take the fullest advantage of diversity on campus. But so far, this conversation has not seemed possible. The endless “discussions” on campus engender a warped sort of echo-chamber validation that further incentivizes students to avoid conversations with those who hold conflicting views or opinions. Student-led discussions, such as the sustained dialogue on silencing and “tone policing” held at Scripps last semester, have amounted to nothing more than a way for students to express aggressive hostility to opposing views while silencing any kind of rebuttal or challenge to their beliefs. To these students, as Sophie Mann so aptly put it, feelings assume the role of facts, and both the vilified and the vilifying parties go their separate ways bereft of intellectual growth.

While I have witnessed both White and non-White students distancing themselves from conversations regarding race, White students do not expect the same sort of understanding of, and empathy towards, their identity that many students of color do. This sentiment makes sense, as White students’ racial identities are generally not challenged nor made vulnerable by the presence of their counterparts, as it is such the other way around; this is to say that White people do not need the kind of consolation many students of color have come to necessitate. Their desire for commiseration is unmet because they are seeking a number of paradoxical and mutually incompatible forms of treatment from White students. In looking to White students for validation and affirmation of their racial identity, they simultaneously believe White students are unable to comprehend the very concept of racial identity. They then embrace a self-victimizing mentality which garners only pity, not respect, from White students. Though much of their unease and uncomfortability is legitimate and warranted, the fellow-feeling they receive from White students, ironically in the form of pity or subtle patronization, is not as respectful or as congenial as they would like.

What confuses me the most is how although students of color want White students to look through their eyes, they expect that White students come into conversations about racial identity already looking through the eyes of a person of color, or at the very least with an adequate amount of knowledge about race. After conjecturing that many White students do not have the faculty or the background to discuss race, they insist on White people “educating themselves” because they have Google and, as has been explained to me on countless occasions, they have “the necessary researching skills, given that they made it to such a prestigious college.” But how can students of color seriously expect White people to even care about their issues when they push and pull White people so much? White people are not under any actual obligation, and have no need to, become more racially sensitive and aware. When students of color will not take the time to explain what race means to them, they then  give up the right to complain about how ignorant they believe White people to be, given that their silence is contributing to it. These antinomies result from both insecurities of the racial identities of these students of color, along with a feeling that if somebody—against whom these students are biased—legitimizes a belief system that may prove conflicting with their own, then their beliefs are somehow of more merit and thusly more authoritative accounts of the “person of color experience.” The problem is that although a few White students may genuinely not want to discuss race, or even spend time with people of color, the rest are quite receptive and open to hearing about people of color’s racial experiences, but are made less so by the exasperating struggle to even know where to begin learning.

But this is not only the fault of the students; the administration is also involved in further lowering the impetus of White students heeding racial issues with serious consideration. Given the recent push on campus for college-approved, racially-segregated safe spaces, the Claremont Colleges have become complicit in furthering the self-congratulatory, mutual admiration society that limits the discourse they claim to want to promote by having students of so many unique, yet dissimilar identities. What’s worse, the colleges play no role in preventing what comes from these delineations: entitled, one-sided demurring where even people of color are humiliated and silenced when their views do not fall in line with the progressive narrative. If admitting such a racially manifold group of students results in their self-removal and lack of ideation from exposure to other identities and experiences, does racial diversity warrant celebration at all?

In their efforts to diversify the student body, Pomona recently adopted a strategic plan created by the President’s Advisory Committee on Diversity entitled “Lighting the Path to 2025: A Vision for Diversity.” In this document, the word “diversity” is defined as “the multiple, intersecting dimensions of difference that help distinguish one individual or group from another.” This plan does include a section on seeking to “foster a climate that welcomes dissenting views,” though the only strategy proposed to do so is to “promote social spaces of interaction between faculty, staff, and students.” But in practice, these spaces—such as the sustained dialogues—are not settings where discourse is encouraged. Rather, they provide a bully pulpit for those students who have no interest in considering or internalizing others’ opinions, and discourage students with different views from contributing to the discourse on campus. As far as I have seen, it is the students of color who are reluctant to adapt to a climate of dissenting views. Within the echo chambers of these race-specific communities, an aversion to the consideration of opposing viewpoints  is glorified.

Much of this vision only seeks to integrate a greater number of people of color into Pomona without addressing the already present and crippling fissures disuniting the student body: students of color’s feelings of disregard towards their identities, White students’ feelings of being villainized despite them making their best efforts to engage in a dialogue with students of color, and neither party having a successful means of communication. Students of non-minority demographics are expected to embrace and embody these other identities while remaining silent about their own, even though they themselves contribute to the diversity of Pomona. They are asked to internalize the experiences and opinions of marginalized students, yet there is no reciprocation of this sentiment on behalf of “non-marginalized” students. If even as diversity stands now there is this much dissonance, how can we expect the community to develop with even more variation in the student body?

While the administration of Pomona itself can create as many resources, opportunities, and conversations from the top down as it wants, it is up to the students to challenge and better themselves and their perspectives. Before we begin to focus on admitting more diverse students, we need to establish a culture of discourse so that those already here can freely express their beliefs in a dialogical manner. What we need to do as a community is to understand that each and every student admitted to Pomona has their own unique and equally-valuable narrative regardless of race. With these various upbringings, creating conversations that may be uncomfortable or objectionable to some—yet pivotal for expressing the identity of others—may help bridge the gap because there will be less hesitation to have challenging discussions. Much of the diversity that we as a community seek will come from our exposure to the diversity of thought, not the diversity of superficial qualities.

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Image Source: Flickr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Image: Flickr

Let’s Agree to Disagree: Calling a Truce to the Abuse

The Claremont Colleges, like nearly every other liberal arts college in America, are a bastion of liberal and progressive thought. You don’t have to read our other articles to realize this; the Claremont College Democrats outnumber the Claremont College Republicans nearly five to one (according to their Facebook page subscribers), with the lion’s share of Republicans attending CMC.

This political imbalance is understandable to an extent; young voters favored President Obama in the 2012 elections more than any other age demographic. Compared to the rest of the country, however, the Claremont Colleges are lopsidedly liberal, a reality on display when students this semester packed Pitzer’s Benson Auditorium to see Martin O’Malley speak, leaving standing room only. The majority of tenured faculty at the Claremont Colleges are Democrats.

Nevertheless, the problem is not necessarily the excessive Democratic numbers. Liberal, even progressive thought, is not inherently opposed to free speech. Rather, the problem is the silencing of opposing viewpoints. Students with pro-life or capitalist views get shot down without being heard, branded “racist, misogynist, and bigoted” for disagreeing with the mainstream Claremont consensus. In the aftermath of the recent protests, friendships have been destroyed and reputations have been ruined. In the discussion on campus racism, it becomes clear that we, as college students, don’t want friends. We want sounding boards and echo chambers.

The intense backlash from overly politically correct culture has gone from present to dangerous. Here in Claremont, students verbally attacked their peers for not joining in on a protest march against the CMC administration, screaming “silence is violence.” We’re no longer allowed to recuse ourselves from the discussion if we disagree; we’re expected to strongly agree with the PC movement. In a world where “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all” is no longer accepted, the PC movement not only polices your words and actions, but also your thoughts. Perhaps President Obama said it best:

“I’ve heard some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who is too conservative or they don’t want to read a book if it has language that is offensive to African-Americans or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women. I gotta tell you, I don’t agree with that either. I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view. I think you should be able to — anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with ‘em. But you shouldn’t silence them by saying, ‘You can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.’ That’s not the way we learn either.”

President Obama is right. Silence does not educate. The way to convince people whom you disagree with is to engage and debate with their ideas. The PC craze silences the discussion before it even starts. Because the discussion ends prematurely, the “offensive” party never has their opinions changed. They merely learn that their views could be considered racist, sexist, or homophobic. Even if the end goal is progressive thought, silencing the discussion cannot convince someone that their views need to be changed.

Unfortunately, the PC craze has implanted itself firmly in the consciousness of the Claremont Colleges. The recent campus protests are far from the first sightings of political correctness run amok in Claremont. Refusing to engage an entity in discussion, however, does not change anyone’s opinions. Though I’m not about to defend George Will’s remarks, Will and other silenced voices are, if anything, more stubbornly convinced of their opinions. There’s no room to expand students’ horizons by listening to other views, considering the arguments, and agreeing to disagree with peers. In PC culture, if two people don’t agree on a hot-button issue, we are taught not to separate the idea from the person but to link the two inextricably.

I don’t want to equate the PC craze with left-wing thought, especially in light of President Obama’s remarks. Classical liberalism, in its purest form, advocates for universal liberty. The Democratic Party, unlike the Republican Party, yields significant support for legalizing marijuana and abolishing the death penalty. The Republican Party can be just as guilty of silencing minority voices as the Democratic Party.

I remember, as a junior high school student, my pastor would invite a resident political enthusiast up to the microphone. The speaker would talk about the upcoming election, throw in a line about how she had prayed about each and every proposition and had “laid hands on her ballot” and told us how she felt God was leading her to vote. The speaker would instruct each member of the congregation which propositions to vote yes and no. We received brochures with the church’s logo stamped in the corner with a voting guide for the propositions and candidates. The dialogue carried over into the parking lot, and people who didn’t agree with the church’s narrative were looked down on. The right wing can also be guilty of subduing discussion by imposing its own narrative and agenda on people. Nevertheless, in light of recent events (particularly at the Claremont Colleges), the right wing is far less culpable of silencing discussion than the left.

Colleges ought not to shy away from discussions surrounding race, sexuality, and gender. In order to have a healthy discussion about tough, sensitive issues, we need mutual respect between the parties. Calling someone a communist, a racist, a homophobe, a flaming liberal, or any other slur ties the person to their ideas and fosters feelings of bitterness between both parties. Currently, when a student engulfed in PC culture encounters someone whom they disagree with, the response is to either convince them that their opinion is wrong or reject them from friend circles. The third, more reasonable, option of remaining friends with that person and simply agreeing to disagree is completely foreign. If we are willing to reacquaint ourselves with people who hold views that we don’t agree with, we keep an open mind to considering the prospect of being wrong. A friend once told me “If you don’t change at least one belief in college, you’re doing it wrong.”

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Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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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