Tag Archives: Harvey Mudd

Editorial: The Importance of Free Expression

Free speech on campus has become a growing issue in the US and internationally as traditionally freer countries place more and more restrictions on speech. As students and journalists at the Claremont Colleges, we have seen the negative repercussions of this trend firsthand—in our classrooms, jobs, places of worship, and even in our coffee shops.

It’s sad what this culture has cost the colleges. We live in a community of bright, engaged students, but fear of radical left wing retribution too often stifles conversations before they start. We are fortunate to study under great professors but, going forward, the quality of many of our tenured faculty will be subject to how well a given professor fits into the Social Justice Warrior mold. Even our peers’ charitable efforts fall prey to the expanding reach of political correctness.

It’s our job as students to shape the community here on campus, but the administration has the power to set the tone and step in when our peers or teachers abuse their power. Too often, our administrations are compliant or even complicit in the destruction of our community’s cohesion and intellectual growth.

Yet last Thursday, President Chodosh and Dean Uvin stood up in favor of our rights in an email released to Claremont McKenna College’s student body and alumni. The email outlined the administration’s commitment to protecting free speech on campus, both inside and outside the classroom. By defending students’ and faculty members’ right to think and speak freely, Claremont McKenna College’s administration has made an important pivot away from the increasingly sensitive culture of censorship and toward a more positive academic community. This will serve students well both in Claremont and outside the bubble.

CMC’s announcement is a strong first step, and we’re hopeful that the administration will take this policy seriously in order to provide students with a well-rounded intellectual environment. We now call on the administrations at Pitzer College, Scripps College, Pomona College, and Harvey Mudd College to adopt the University of Chicago’s policies on speech as well. The Claremont Colleges have a great capacity to influence the world around us, but that can’t happen unless we are allowed to grow as thinkers and as people. We cannot overstate the importance of free expression on campus. Without it, education is impossible.

Steven Glick, Editor-in-Chief

Megan Keller, Publisher

Daniel Ludlam, Managing Editor

The Safest Space in Claremont

My senior year of high school, I established a safe space. Of course, at that point in my life, I had never heard the phrase “safe space,” so I called it the Gay-Straight Alliance. At its best, the GSA was a family for kids who did not otherwise have a supportive community. And in my tiny rural high school, there were a lot of queer kids who needed family.

Still, the GSA struggled to be everything those students needed. It’s hard to build a community that consistently cares for its members. Regardless of their circumstances, people in a group tend to prioritize their standing in the group above the wellbeing of others. And, in many ways, safe spaces come engineered to make that worse. They are supposed to be somewhere members can be emotionally vulnerable and open. So, usually, the leadership is given the power to remove bullies who would pounce on that vulnerability.

The only problem is that this often gets abused.

A friend of mine started a GSA-like organization at her college freshman year and it imploded. New leadership were verbally abusive towards bisexual and pansexual students before ruling to ban them from meetings completely. Since these students could “pass as straight,” they were considered just as threatening to the group’s “safety” as straight people. In reality, their identities just made them easy to bully.

That safe space, like far too many do, allowed no room for dissenting views. The appointed leaders dictated the common good, what was right and wrong, who was pure and who was dangerous. No one could defend the outcasts, for fear of being deemed sinful themselves.

So I didn’t seek out a safe space my first year at Claremont. I visited the Queer Resource Center when I toured the colleges, but I never came back. The staff seemed nice and there were certainly times I could have used a community. I just didn’t think I would find it there, seeing as I was conservative, Christian, and—most importantly—fond of speaking my mind.

Then, last year, my friend dragged me to a 3CIV bible study. I had my misgivings. The people seemed nice but, again, I wasn’t sure I’d fit in. 3CIV is a branch of InterVarsity serving CMC, Scripps, and Harvey Mudd and as such is an Evangelical organization. I was raised as an Episcopalian, which is about as different you can get from InterVarsity stylistically and theologically without being Catholic. I figured I could get past the lack of hymns and stained glass, but did not think they’d be able to move beyond my opinions on scripture. Particularly, I didn’t think they’d get past me identifying as bisexual.

I wouldn’t have really blamed them if they didn’t allow me to join. After all, the QRC and other liberal groups on campus wouldn’t have accepted me for my political and religious views. It wasn’t any stranger for an Evangelical to think my choice to act on my sexual identity made me intolerable. And my personal experience with Evangelicals told me that’s what I should expect.

Then 3CIV blew my expectations apart. No matter how many points we disagreed on, no matter how much I pushed back, this group still treated me like someone with a soul. They prayed with me, talked with me, and welcomed me in as a member of their community. When I talked about my own experiences with homophobia, this Evangelical bible study listened to me and loved me.

That kind of unconditional care set the standard for all of our meetings. I was safe to disagree with someone and they were safe to disagree with me. Consequently, I had some of the best conversations I’ve ever had about healthy relationships and queerness with members of that evangelical bible study.

I was equal parts shocked and horrified last April when the Associated Students of Harvey Mudd College (ASHMC) decided to withdraw 3CIV’s funding on the grounds that it discriminated against LGBTQ students.

According to Carla Becker, ASHMC Senate Chair, while 3CIV welcomes anyone as a member, it requires that its official student leaders “exemplify Christlike character, conduct and leadership,” referring to several biblical passages, including 1 Corinthians 6: 7-11. Among other things, the passage states, “Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers – none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.” Accordingly, leaders must agree that sex outside of a monogamous, heterosexual marriage is immoral. If they disagree, they are asked to step down as official leaders but are still welcome as members.

So, ASHMC explained, in February, two Harvey Mudd leaders of 3CIV were asked to step down: one because of his views on the eternal nature of Hell and the other because of their perspective on sex outside of heterosexual marriage. According to Ms. Becker, “The leaders agreed to step down, but a friend of the members thought the action…discriminatory and went against the nondiscriminatory statement ASHMC requires in the charter of all ASHMC chartered clubs… This sparked discussion in the senate about whether or not leaders of religious clubs can be held to certain beliefs.”

That discussion is still ongoing as ASHMC holds a closed subcommittee this summer to decide exactly what it thinks. For 3CIV, this discourse has already had negative consequences.

On April 17, 3CIV requested $1000 in scholarship funds to send Mudd students to InterVarsity’s regional summer conference and “[a] senate member then motioned to give 3CIV $0 for the conference. The motion was seconded… The same senate member read [Corinthians 6: 7-11], mentioned cases of discrimination they had heard about from past LGBTQ member(s) of 3CIV, and mentioned a booklet published by InterVarsity on how parents can prevent homosexuality.” On April 24 the motion passed with 5 in favor, 4 opposed, and 3 abstentions. Though the alleged mistreatment of LGBTQ students was discussed, ASHMC’s decision ultimately hinged on the idea that 3CIV forces leaders who disagree with its stance on sex to step down.

The only problem is that isn’t factually true. According to the head of 3CIV, Kate Vosburg, “3CIV leaders are not asked to step down if they disagree with the belief that sex outside of marriage is immoral.  However, they are asked not to teach against this belief.  In the last 11 years I’ve been with 3CIV, we have not asked any leader to step down because of their personal beliefs about sex.”

Granted, this could just be a sizable mistake on ASHMC’s part, but it’s fairly large oversight and that makes me wonder why 3CIV came under fire at all. The idea that club leaders should represent their clubs’ ideals is not unusual. No one balks if the leader of a young republicans club is required to be a republican.

ASHMC’s behavior could be warranted if 3CIV were a particularly hateful organization. Though the leaders in 3CIV have much less power than, say, the leaders of my friends’ GSA, they still could be guilty of abusing it. However, the evidence indicates that is simply not true.

The leaders who were asked to step down in February did so amicably. When asked to comment, one of the ex-leaders, Nathaniel Leslie, said he did not feel discriminated against and commented: “I disagree with some of the organization’s theology and the way that they go about spreading it. However, I regard all of the people in 3CIV very highly. They are some of the kindest people that I have ever met.”

The other former leader, who wished to remain anonymous, stated:

“I think 3CIV is a great resource for a lot of Christians on campus, but it sadly does not represent all denominations of Christianity, nor does it claim to. Next year, with the support and good wishes of 3CIV, a few friends and I are going to work on creating another Christian group at Mudd that does not align itself with any denomination, in hopes to provide a welcoming place for Christians of all backgrounds, as well as anyone who is interested in exploring the Christian faith.”

Unfortunately, ASHMC chose to withhold the names of the students who allegedly experienced discrimination within 3CIV so I cannot comment on their experience, but judging only from my own I would be surprised if 3CIVers treated queer students unlovingly.

So it seems to me that the crux of the issue is not how 3CIV treats students or the construction of their charter, but probably ASHMC’s own prejudice against evangelical Christianity.

If that’s the case, it wouldn’t be terribly surprising. I love 3CIV now, but a year ago I would have assumed they were unfriendly towards queer. And I certainly wasn’t alone in that prejudice. Colleges are notoriously unfriendly towards religion and outright hostile towards evangelical Christians, who suffer state-sponsored oppression nationally for expressing their views.

However, what matters now is what ASHMC does to remedy their mistake. Come this fall, ASHMC will review whether or not to recognize 3CIV’s charter. Their decision will not be just a matter of free speech and religious liberty. It will help determine our campus culture.

In reality, 3CIV succeeds where the POC-only discussions and online forums, my friends’ GSA, and every other segregated “safe” space fails. Despite the increasingly common persecution of evangelical Christians, 3CIV opens its arms to every single student like a sister, comforts them like a mother, and strengthens them in the way a family should.

Corrections: The piece previously asserted that 3CIV asks leaders to step down if they disagree that sex outside of marriage is immoral and that the Asian Pacific Islander Support Program At Mudd only accepts Asian Pacific Islanders. Additionally, the articled stated that Students for Middle Eastern Cultural Promotion and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers are live organizations at Harvey Mudd.

These statements have been adjusted since this story’s initial publication.

Who’s the Fairest of Them All?

Ward Elliott
CMC Professor Emeritus Ward Elliott. Image Courtesy Ward Elliott.

With midterm elections just around the corner and a heated battle between Democrats and Republicans over control of the Senate, it becomes imperative to ask the daunting question, “What will you do on November 4?” Instead of having to go around and take a poll, Professor Ward Elliott’s study entitled, “Political Attitudes at the Claremont Colleges,” takes a deeper look into the political trends on the 5Cs throughout the last 40 years. His findings not only give us some insight into party preference, but also dispel some deeply ingrained rumors about CMC culture.

From students to faculty, many would make the argument that CMC is a conservative utopia that looks down on the rest of the 5Cs. However, let’s put aside all the Yik Yak comments and examine the legitimacy behind these claims.

Students

Professor Elliott’s study spends a lot of time on students of the 5Cs in order to get a clear picture on their beliefs and establish a consistent trend.

Rep-Dem preference at CMC
CMC Student Political Preference, 1972-2012

As Figure 1 (above) from the study demonstrates, since the mid 1990s, CMC has seen a huge turnover in political preference with a 45 percent liberal to 17 percent conservative affiliation in the year 2012. Professor Elliott makes the observation that, “Apart from the 1980s, liberal students have outnumbered conservative by more than two to one.” These findings indicate this growing political direction CMC is taking as more and more students identify as liberals. Professor Elliott takes a step further by focusing in on the increase in liberal views on the CMC campus in relation to the other campuses, pointing out that, “% Change (from conservative to liberal) during 1988-2012 was +35%.” If we were to compare that to the percent change from the other 4 campuses, +16% (HMC), +13% (PO), +16%(SCR), and +19%(PI), that’s more than double the amount of any other campus during the same period!

Faculty

The faculty are no exception to the trend that Elliott spotted among 5C students.

5C Faculty Party Breakdown
5C Faculty Republican population, broken down by school

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 4.24.56 PMOnly 16 registered Republicans were found from the entire 532 5C core (permanent) faculty, with only one female among them. In other words, only 6.0% of all 5C faculty members are registered as Republicans. Professor Elliott does point out that “only half of the 5C core faculty were found, so the most likely estimates are twice the numbers found: 14.8% for HMC, 13.0% for CMC, Zero for Pomona, Pitzer, and Scripps, and 6.0% for all the 5C’s.” Although CMC may have a higher percentage of Republican faculty members than the other 5Cs, the number is still significantly lower with a “2.2:1 ratio” of Democrat to Republican. Moreover as Professor Elliott explains, “Claremont’s percentages are not out of line with those of other elite institutions, which are generally thought to be more lopsidedly/purely liberal than less elite campuses.” This is an important fact as outsiders look to CMC and some of the 5Cs as the Ivy League of the West Coast and in many cases, make comparisons between different aspects of each institution. It seems like these thoughts about CMC are not an accurate depiction of the political culture on campus.

Implications

This study raises the question about which campus truly is more tolerant and open-minded when it comes to political views. Contrary to popular belief of campuses like Pitzer and Pomona being tolerant and CMC being the least, based on this study, it seems as though the opposite is true.

Courtesy Ward Elliott
Courtesy Ward Elliott

Figure 2 (above) shows the Student Presidential Preference, 2-Party, from 1972-2012 of CMC, Pomona, and Pitzer. Professor Elliot explains that, “ Since 1972, 65%-98% of Pomona and Pitzer students have favored the Democratic ticket in Presidential elections, 24-52 points more than the general public, and 16-52 points higher than CMC students.” Even though we are only taking a look at one specific factor, presidential elections, these numbers do highlight an important point about the political diversity we see on the campuses. With CMC gaining more liberal students while maintaining a presence of conservative-minded students, an argument can be made about an, if not rich, at least identifiable contrast in political preferences on campus. On the other hand, with such a strong left-leaning population, upward to 98% for students, on campuses like Pomona and Pitzer, and a faculty with no registered Republicans, the notion of political diversity is completely out of the question.

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 4.30.24 PMI was able to attend CMC Professor Jack Pitney’s Athenaeum talk entitled “What’s at Stake in these 2014 Mid-Term Elections,” where he talked about the Democrats’ and Republicans’ chances of victory in Congress. By the end of the speech, Professor Pitney concluded that a victory for the Republicans in both the House and the Senate was likely. However he was careful to point out that these elections still “could go either way.” Unfortunately, the likelihood of students in Pomona and Pitzer voting “either way” is as likely as George Will setting foot on Scripps’ campus. Although Professor Elliott’s study demonstrated how CMC’s political demographics are not nearly as one-sided as its neighbors, that’s really not saying much.

Initiation in Moderation

Nowadays, everyone in the nation knows about varsity sports and their reported propensity for activities that fall under the banner of “hazing.” News stories, movies, and TV shows portray American varsity sport teams as quasi-fraternities, where rookies die from alcohol poisoning and are forced to perform disturbing acts under threat of physical violence. The Claremont Colleges, thankfully, have not seen any such horror story occur in the recent years. This does not mean, though, that many initiation rituals cannot end in emotional, physical, or mental harm.

With that end in mind, CMS Athletics has taken a very strong stance against any action that could be termed as “hazing.” I recently attended a team meeting where Athletics Director Mike Sutton explained the CMS policy regarding initiation and hazing. He explained that any activity, no matter how seemingly mundane or harmless, that singled out one group of athletes from the rest of the team could be defined as hazing. Furthermore, Sutton said that it did not matter if freshmen (or any group/individual) agreed from their own volition to participate in these activities, because they were being, effectively, coerced into participating through strong social pressures.

Under this framework, any activity that could fit under the definition of initiation is forbidden. Even a simple party where freshman were “welcomed” to the team and participate in voluntary drinking with the rest of their teammates could be defined as hazing. Under-age drinking rules aside, CMS would argue that the freshmen involved had been coerced into drinking with their teammates (even if they were not “coerced” into participating in any activity that singled them out as a group). These rules, therefore, place huge limitations on any sort of team-bonding activity, not just initiations. Essentially, the only acceptable alternative of a team-bonding activity would be an activity like watching a movie together (without alcohol, of course).

This seems to go contrary to CMS’ belief in promoting a strong team culture because it so strongly limits the types of activities they can participate in together. This is not to say athletes can only socialize in an alcohol-fueled setting; it just means that, for example, even if an entire team is going to a registered party together on Saturday, they cannot drink together beforehand. Let’s not kid ourselves that this sort of rule will stop under-age athletes from drinking on their own, or be “coerced” into drinking with non-athlete friends. What it will result in, though, is the degradation of the team’s spirit, since every athlete will be forced to socialize only with their non-athlete friends every night that they go out.

CMS’ definition of hazing goes above and beyond the actual legal definition of hazing. According to USLegal.com, the legal definition of hazing is “an abusive, often humiliating form of initiation into or affiliation with a group.” This includes “any willful action taken or situation created which recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health of another” or “any action by any person alone or acting with others in striking, beating, bruising, or maiming… or attempt to do physical violence to another made for the purpose of committing any of the acts.” The term hazing, however, does not “include customary athletic events or similar contests… and is limited to those actions taken and situations created in connection with initiation into or affiliation with any organization.” This definition is much smaller in scope than CMS’, as it only covers activities that were performed under physical threat, instead of the threat of “not fitting in.”

It is curious that CMS has taken such an extreme stance on this issue, especially since the legal definition is so much more limited than their own. While I certainly did not experience any sort of hazing, even under CMS’ definition, as a freshman, I do understand that each team has a different tradition with regards to welcoming their rookies to the group. Therefore, I hope that the increased dialogue and focus on discouraging harmful activities by the Athletic Department prevents any future Stagthena from experiencing any mental, emotional, or physical pain. However, I do not believe that CMS should so harshly shackle the wonderful team spirit that pervades each sport in pursuit of this goal. Consequently, going forward, it would be helpful if CMS reworded their policy to allow athletes to socialize together as friends without fear of punitive action. This would allow athletes to maintain that great CMS spirit while working to prevent hazing from occurring within each team.

[Related: “The Problem with Initiation“]

Class Reviews: Seven Classes to Take Before Graduating

Trying to figure out which classes to take upon first entering college can be a daunting task. Fulfilling GE requirements (for those of you who have them) while still taking genuinely interesting classes is no small feat. Therefore, we at the Claremont Independent have gone around and asked students from across the 5Cs which class they would most highly recommend incoming students take during their time here. In the end, we came up with a diverse list that will hopefully help you navigate through the seemingly infinite amount of classes available at the Claremont Colleges.

Political Philosophy

While CMC is mainly known for its Economics and Government Departments (and rightly so), the CMC Philosophy Department is a hidden gem that every Claremont College student should discover, regardless of major. Even though the Philosophy GE might seem like a chore at first for CMC non-philosophy majors, you’d be surprised with how fascinating these classes can be. As an Econ-Gov dual major, I chose to take Political Philosophy for my philosophy GE, hoping to fulfill my GE with the least pain possible. A few weeks in, and Political Philosophy had become one of my favorite classes at CMC. Although the class was three times a week (including a class on the worst of class days, Friday), it was a joy going to each and every class because I always knew the discussions would be thoroughly enjoyable (not to mention enlightening). By the end of the semester, Professor Schroeder had made a class full of Econ and Gov majors (like myself) appreciate philosophy in a way we would never have expected. My personal highlight was Schroeder’s lectures on Kant, as he made a nearly indecipherable text comprehensible and engaging. There aren’t many classes that I can genuinely say changed the way I think about the world, but Political Philosophy with Professor Schroeder definitely did.

Behavioral Economics

Behavioral Econ at Scripps with Professor Sean Flynn is a once a week seminar you don’t want to miss out on. Professor Flynn (author of Economics for Dummies and the number one seeking Econ text book) is really engaging and encouraging. Students are encouraged to tell personal stories in class, and then he proceeds to analyze and relate them back to behavioral economics. There is often a sizable amount of reading, but you have a week to do it — and though it’s dense, it’s also interesting. Behavioral Econ is a great mix of 5C students and really allows you to think about economics in a completely new way.

Basic Principles of Chemistry

The science requirement: It hangs over the heads of so many whom major in the humanities or social sciences for far too long. Consider eliminating it before it causes trouble. Consider chemistry. Give yourself more flexibility in future semesters, exposure to a different way of looking at the world, and, just maybe, second thoughts about your anticipated major. Chemistry is great not because it’s easy, but because it’s a challenge. It does not rival Organic Chemistry in difficulty, but chances are that it will demand more of you than the average government course. After three 9:00 a.m. classes and one four-hour lab per week, you’ll end up knowing much more about the world around you at its basic level, and you’ll leave with more respect for those whom do choose a major in the sciences, and with it, several such courses each semester.

California Politics

And you thought field trips were a thing of the past! In CMC Professor Ken Miller’s California Politics, students not only read about and discuss California’s government, history, and current political issues, but they also see them first-hand. The class has a long tradition of visiting Sacramento for a couple days of meetings with politicians, journalists, and lobbyists – the people who make Sacramento move (well, at least the Democrats among those) – so students gain experiences that even the Kravis Center cannot provide. California Politics is about more than just a state’s politics, it’s about the struggle of the largest state in the Union to reconcile its dreams with the realities of the 21st Century. Oh, and you’ll leave with plenty of stories about Governor Jerry Brown, the state’s oldest and youngest governor, under your belt.

Ballroom Dancing

One of my favorite classes taken so far is Ballroom Dancing at Pomona with Mr. Paul Roach. Knowing how to dance socially is very useful in life after college for weddings, formal events, etc. and is a sure way to impress friends, family, and even employers. Not only does this class fulfill one of your PE requirements, but you will have lots of fun doing it and meet and dance with some really talented students across the 5Cs.

Intro. to Computer Science

Want to learn to code? Introduction to Computer Science (CS5) with Prof. Dodds is the quintessential Harvey Mudd experience. Taken by Mudders and off-campus students alike, CS5 is accessible no matter your past technical experience. The class is a great blend of hands-on labs and theoretical concepts, teaching programming skills sure to be useful in a wide variety of professions.

Intro. to Accounting

As a freshman, I reviled the idea of accounting: mindless, awful number-crunching. Still, against my better judgment, I took Professor Massoud’s Intro. to Accounting (Econ 86) at my parents’ behest and was shocked to find myself loving it. As Professor Massoud says, accounting is the “language of business,” and whether or not you plan to become an accountant, as I have, it’s pretty likely you’ll be involved in the world of business. Professor Massoud’s class offers insight and clarity into that world, and I guarantee he’ll make it interesting. Just take it, you’ll love it!