Tag Archives: Freshman Issue

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.

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.

The Importance of an Open Mind

On April 23, 2014, Charles Murray’s talk to Azusa Pacific University’s students and faculty was cancelled due to the concern that he would offend students of color. He was one of several speakers subject to student protest last spring — a list which also includes the more famous Condoleezza Rice, Christine Lagarde, and Hirsa Ali. The justification offered for each protest was that the speaker held discriminatory beliefs harmful to certain groups of people. It is important to note, though, that while speakers like Murray offended some, they would not have been invited to speak in the first place if the protesters were the consensus voice on the issue.

Brewing in the background of the protests were instances in which colleges and universities were banning Christian groups from campuses all over the country. InterVarsity’s Christian group at Vanderbilt University had their group recognition rescinded, and similar events occurred in April at Rollins College. Each Christian group’s membership policy allowed members to hail from any walk of life, but required leaders of these groups to hold Christian beliefs in order to maintain the group’s unique identity. This reasoning was found to be in violation of anti-discrimination policies at many schools, which resulted in the groups’ termination. This situation poses a bit of a quagmire for schools that choose to condemn these groups because colleges are in effect trying to promote tolerance of different viewpoints and beliefs by shutting down the very groups they aim to tolerate. As you might suspect, the specific hypocrisy in banning political speakers and peaceful Christian groups from a college campus reflects a larger hypocrisy in the political correctness movement.

Shortly after being uninvited from Azusa Pacific University, Charles Murray spoke at the CMC Athenaeum where he was received with little incident. Immediately following his speech, however, the CMC Forum published an article in which the author heavily criticized Murray not for his speech (in which Murray carefully bracketed questions of race from his discussion), but for previously authored works in which he makes potentially racist claims. The article I’m highlighting suggests an important general point: in cases where a speaker’s talk is dubiously objectionable the speaker should be the subject of thoughtful reasoned discussion. After all, the way we arrive at the truth is by carefully refining our views through reasoned discussion. Judging a speaker based solely on his or her past works precludes this kind of refining discussion. It is true that there are speakers who hold uncontroversially racist or harmful beliefs, like Klansmen and Holocaust-deniers. Discourse with these kinds of people usually is not productive. But in cases where a speaker endorses a controversial view, reasoned discourse in the form of a Q and A is the best way to get to the bottom of their (potentially) flawed ideology.

As freshmen, you are entering college with a mostly blank slate. Meaning, for the most part, nobody knows what your political leanings are, or what you personally believe. You’ll be tempted to identify yourself as a liberal or conservative right off the bat, but here’s my advice: don’t. Take advantage of your situation and try to stay away from the kind of ideological rigidity that drives people to attempt to silence voices on the other side of the issue.

Because of the massive number of different policies, which tend to be lumped under the taglines ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative,’ many people who identify strongly with one party or the other (i.e. partisans), prime themselves to think along party lines even about policies they have never heard of before. A recent study done by Emory University Psychologists demonstrated that partisans are more likely to discount any information that challenged their preexisting beliefs than nonpartisans. In other words, calling yourself a Republican or a Democrat will make you more likely to make decisions based on conservative or liberal rhetoric rather than sound reasons. Bearing in mind this psychological predisposition, keeping an open mind has a variety of benefits including:

1. It’ll make you smarter — Forcing yourself to think through thorny political issues with analytical rigor is great exercise for those brain muscles.

2. It’ll make you wiser — Since the main way we figure out whether our beliefs are true is by testing them against opposing beliefs, by discussing complex issues with others you’ll get a better idea of which views are true.

3. It’ll make your professors and classmates respect you more – This is true partly because you’ll be smarter and wiser for your efforts, but also because you’ll craft a reputation for yourself as a fair-minded, thoughtful person.

As a concluding note, I want to make it clear that I realize many of the examples I catalogued in the first part of this article are instances of liberals silencing conservatives. Of course it’s true that conservatives often do the same thing, with Fox News and conservative talk radio being two major culprits. The main reason that I focused on instances where liberals sought to silence conservative perspectives is that I tend to think conservatively. But engaging in discussions in which others objectively listened to my opinions and independently weighed the pros and cons of my beliefs was the crux of a fruitful and enlightening year for me at CMC. As we enter into what is bound to be an interesting election year, try to engage in thoughtful discussions with people who don’t believe the same things as you, and weigh the merits of their arguments independently of your partisan predispositions.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/Image Cropped

What are the Liberal Arts?

By now, you (incoming students) have no doubt undergone the rite of passage that consists of sitting through countless speeches on the sanctity of the liberal arts. This is perhaps especially true of the new students at Claremont McKenna College, a school that boasts of putting the “liberal arts in action.” Understanding exactly what kind of action these liberal arts are planning to take is of some concern; but more crucial is a question that has likely, perhaps surprisingly, remained unanswered to this point: What are the liberal arts?

The idea of the liberal arts is rooted in the writings of Plato, defined as the disciplines that one studies for the sake of knowledge itself, not in order to prepare for a specific vocation (though that may be a side-effect). In Book VII of The Republic, Plato elaborates on several areas of concentration that meet this criteria, which have over time been amended and are today generally thought to include arithmetic, the humanities (history, literature, philosophy, religious studies, and the visual and performing arts), the natural sciences, and the social sciences (economics, political science, psychology, and sociology).

Thankfully, you only have to choose one of them to study – maybe two if you’re an overachiever (which, of course, you all are). I mean, that’s why we have majors, right? Actually, Plato makes his contempt for specialization of study clear in another of his dialogues, The Apology. It was impossible for the Socratics to consider one who had only mastered a single subject to be truly learned, because true understanding comes with examining difficult questions from every point of view and mode of thought imaginable. The idea that specialization is harmful reveals the crucial concept that the liberal arts are, while distinct, all interconnected. Indeed, how can one look at complex topics, such as abortion or healthcare, without considering the scientific, philosophical, political, and economic realities that necessarily accompany them? What can past human experience, documented in literature and history and art, teach us about these difficult questions that reality alone cannot?

While this may seem daunting, fully understanding each of these disciplines should not be the standard by which you measure the success of your liberal arts education. A few hours of concentration every week over the course of a semester is woefully inadequate for becoming completely learned in any particular subject; similarly, four years’ or even a lifetime’s worth of thought is insufficient for mastering the liberal arts. Even Socrates at his time of death admitted to being ignorant of much of the world, but he also regarded the humility that he acquired from fully understanding his own ignorance as one of the great advantages of the examined life. Don’t be surprised if, four years from now, you leave this campus with more questions than answers; even more, be happy – it means you did something right.

So, what does this add-up to? What does thinking the most profound thoughts that have ever been thought, reading the most eloquent words that have ever been written, over a diverse array of subjects and without corrupting bias, ultimately create? Well, it creates you. The liberal arts are ultimately about, through understanding the world, understanding and creating your “self.” It’s about having those Elizabeth Bennet moments, where you don’t recognize the “you” of two seconds ago.

When I read Alexis de Tocqueville, Jane Austen, and the greatest thinkers that humanity has produced, see the way that they make seamless connections between what just prior seemed like completely different worlds, put to eloquent language what I could only describe as shapeless emotions and feelings buried somewhere deep within my soul, it makes me unable to recognize the person who occupied my body just moments ago. It’s a humbling experience, but it’s also an addicting one. These moments demonstrate just how completely wrong you were about a particular idea, show how woefully inadequate your own thought was to a certain problem, and reveal the deep-set flaws in your character; but they also develop within you a passion to read anything you can get your hands on and to push the limits of your thought in order to find the next major breakthrough. And developing this mentality, developing a tireless thirst for knowledge and inexhaustible dedication to thought, is what studying liberal arts is about.

Best of the 5C Dining Halls

Over the past summer, I have been in the awkward position of being unable to complain about dining hall food with my friends from outside the 5Cs.  When you are as spoiled by food choice as we are at the Claremont Colleges, it is sometimes overwhelming to come to grips with all the dining hall options. For those new to the 5C’s, and for those who would like a bit of a refresher regarding 5C food, allow me to introduce you to a list of the “Best of the 5C Menu”and “Dining Hall Tips and Tricks.”(Disclaimer: This information is based off of my culinary explorations at Claremont over the last two years. I cannot guarantee that dining halls, or their respective meals, will remain the same)

Best of the 5C Menu

  1. Personal pizza at Mudd: This is arguably the best meal at the 5Cs, as the long lines will testify.  Go to the Hoch for dinner on Fridays to order your own small pizza with about a dozen topping options: ham, sausage, peperoni, spinach, tomatoes, etc.
  1. Scripps salmon and steak night: Salmon and steak night is a wonderfully filling Saturday night dinner. Don’t limit yourself to steak; try the savory salmon mixed in a baked potato with bacon bits and sour cream.
  1. Pitzer sandwiches for lunch (Monday-Friday): Pitzer’s sandwich bar boasts an assortment of fresh breads, including croissants, pita bread, whole wheat, and other types of bread that can be filled with your choice of roast beef, ham, tuna, turkey, provolone, Swiss, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, pickles, bell peppers, and humus (to name a few).
  1. Frary Saturday brunch: Personal highlights include fresh bagels (a rarity at the 5C dining halls) accompanied by freshly squeezed orange juice, thick oatmeal with frozen peach slices, and banana pancakes.  You can also choose from a variety of quality fruits such as apples, oranges, and bananas.
  1. Jay’s Place: As HMC’s version of The Hub, Jay’s place, also known as the “Muddhole”, offers  sandwiches and pizzas (among other options) at hours when all the dining halls are closed. The variety of foot-long sandwiches, each of which cost about $6 (in Flex), make the long trek up to Mudd worth it.  Technically it’s not a dining hall, but it definitely deserves to be on the list.   

Dining Hall Tips and Tricks:

  1. Innovate at Collins: Make a rich latte or mocha with hot-chocolate, coffee, whole milk, whipped cream, sprinkles, chocolate syrup, and caramel. Enjoy a light desert of Greek yogurt, honey, and dried cranberries. Ask for chicken from the grill and make a grilled Panini sandwich with pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, and melted provolone cheese.
  2. Root beer floats: They could accompany every meal at any dining hall. With great power…
  3. Frary’s Giant Soda Machine: Have some fun experimenting with a variety of soda flavors.
  4. Not all fruit is created equal: Collins and Pitzer fruit is generally not as good as Scripps or Frary.
  5. Cereal Caveat: Cereal is a staple of all the dining halls, but be warned that Collins’ and Pitzer’s cereal is often off-brand (Collins’ faux-Rice Krispies last year tasted like cardboard).  For quality cereal and especially good granola, try The Hoch and Frank.
  6. Cookies at Scripps: Line up at six during any weekday dinner at Scripps to pick out a few freshly baked, deliciously gooey chocolate chip cookies.

Get ready for awkward conversations with friends outside of the 5C’s about dining hall food, because you just might miss 5C food when you go back home.