Tag Archives: Hiram Chodosh

The Enemies of Diversity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Image Source: Flickr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Image Source: Flickr

The (Non) Party Inform!

Hey guys and gals, my name is MSpellz and I’m your new SAC for this semester. YAY! My friends, Big Huang and Chodeman, and I have got some great ideas for your new (non) party week!

Tuesday: Tuesday Night Rulings (TNR)

  • A mandatory four hour meeting where we go over our new drug rules and have hearings for all those pesky rabble rousers who broke them last week

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Wednesday: Pub(lic) Shamings

  • We get to throw rotten vegetables at those who broke the rules. Organic fun! lulz

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Thursday: Thursday Night Cleanse (TNC)

  • My fave day of tha week! Our biffles at the CPD come by with their sniffer dogs and cleanse every dorm of its drugs. SO CUTE!!!1

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Saturday: “Got 99 Problems, But a Legal Liability Ain’t One” Party

  • My friends and I share a glass of bubbly to celebrate the new, super fly social scene. Students share in the moment through silent studying and repentance (no shenanigans allowed)

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Your bfff,

MSpellz

 

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ASCMC and the Social Responsibility Resolution: A Call to Action

On September 26th, the Associated Students of Claremont McKenna College (ASCMC) introduced a document titled “The Resolution on Social Responsibility.” ASCMC has encouraged students to review the document and subsequently sign it, or at least offer constructive criticism so the document can be improved. The resolution marks another step in the yearlong journey to foster an atmosphere of inclusivity and increased personal responsibility.

Last year, the Dean of Students Office and President Chodosh raised concerns over extreme student behavior during CMC social events. These concerns did not extend to the occasional, almost inevitable errors that are made under the influence of alcohol. Instead, the administration was more alarmed by the disrespectful behavior that resulted in physical harm to students as well as the destruction of school and student property.

The administration’s recent effort to crack down on student behavior culminated in a series of conflicts and controversies over White Party, Rage in the Cage and routine North Quad gatherings. Many students felt that DOS supervision of parties was becoming too intrusive and counterproductive. As a result, the administration gave ASCMC the choice of taking steps on their own towards a solution, or essentially conceding to DOS changes with little to no input.

In response to this ultimatum, ASCMC held several round tables on social responsibility this past spring. These events included Athenaeum discussions, the Mirza Summit, and even the opportunity to converse with President Chodosh. Many of the opinions and viewpoints from these discussions were heavily contemplated during the drafting of the Resolution on Social Responsibility.

The resulting resolution focuses on the three main concerns of the administration regarding CMC’s social culture. First and foremost, the document asks that students respect each other’s bodies, identities, and property. Students are also asked to respect the campus and refrain from vandalizing school property. Finally, the resolution seeks to welcome everyone into the CMC social scene, regardless of whether or not they consume alcohol.

In order for ASCMC to present the resolution as a success to the administration, a minimum of three-fourths of the student body must sign the document. However, it is important to note that the document itself is not binding. A signature merely indicates that a student promises to uphold the ideals reflected in the resolution to the best of his or her ability.

Since its drafting, the resolution has received a wide range of feedback and commentary. ASCMC held an open forum discussion during Senate on September 29th, in which all CMC students were invited to attend. After the meeting, students had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with ASCMC members regarding the resolution.

It is important to remember that the resolution is still a work in progress, and students’ feedback and suggestions will be critical to the success of this initiative. Cole Mora, president of the Class of 2017, urged his class to take action, stating, “We have an opportunity here to decide what we want CMC to be going forward. Our administrators, faculty and trustees have put the ball in our court, and I’m excited to show them what we’re capable of.”

ASCMC has gotten the ball rolling. Now it is in the hands of CMC students to show the administration that they are capable of addressing issues in a thoughtful, responsible manner.  The Resolution on Social Responsibility will decide much more than just the future of CMC’s social climate. It will determine whether or not students have a meaningful voice in future discussions regarding important campus issues.

What’s up, Pam Gann?

Former Claremont McKenna College President Pamela Gann gave way to a new era at the college and the Chodosh administration on July 1, 2013, stepping down from her post after 14 years on the job. Rumors as to what Gann has done post-presidency have swirled around the campus ever since then, ranging from climbing Mt. Everest and base-jumping the Shanghai Tower, to quelling and starting Third-World uprisings. The Independent contacted Gann about taking part in an interview April 5, and all of her responses were sent via email. We hope to set the record straight on CMC’s own “Most Interesting Woman In the World.”

CI: It has been almost a year now since you left for your sabbatical. CMC students have been curious as to what you have been doing and where you have traveled to during this time. Would you mind sharing your experience with us?

PG: I really love high altitude trekking, and I experienced two trips to the Himalaya. In August, I spent three weeks in Ladakh, which is in Northern India. We first acclimatized in Leh and the Indus River Valley and learned a great deal about Buddhist culture. Our trek of two weeks included over a week of camping above 16,000 feet and crossing a pass at 19,200 feet before arriving at Tso Moriri, a large sacred lake at 15,000.
In October, I left for a month in Nepal. I spent a full three weeks in the Mt. Everest area, including trekking through three valleys, hiking to the Ama Dablam and Everest basecamps, and crossing the Cho La pass (17,870 feet) in deep snow. This trip was the finest trekking experience in my life, and I would very much like to go again to this part of the Himalaya. Many years ago, I also trekked in northern Pakistan in the area leading to K2 and up the Hispar Glacier, another amazing experience.

CI: During your 14 years as CMC’s President, you instituted a number of different changes. Many of these changes were major endeavors, such as raising over $635 million in a five-year fundraising campaign, establishing the Roberts Day Scholars Program, and creating a Master Plan for the college. What motivated you to institute these changes? Did you fulfill all of the goals you had for CMC by the time you left office?

PG: A leader works with various constituents, particularly with the Board of Trustees, faculty, students, parents, administration and staff, and alumni, to determine how best to advance the excellence and effectiveness of the institution. We determined that CMC needed to work on all fronts, including support for faculty growth, student financial aid, and co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, a master plan and improvement of the campus functionally and aesthetically, and our outreach to alumni, parents, and friends. The Campaign enabled us to address successfully these variously identified areas of the College. Importantly, our constituents supported the Campaign, for without their enthusiastic and significant support, none of this would have happened. A leader’s motivation comes from many sources, but I was always motivated by wanting to help others in our community be successful and fulfill their own personal and professional goals in life.

One area about which I was disappointed was the inability to make further progress on a second building for the Keck Department of Science. CMC, Pitzer, and Scripps were able to provide additional temporary spaces, continue to hire new faculty, and make many other improvements under the leadership of Dean David Hansen and the Keck Science faculty; nevertheless, the growth in science enrollments clearly justifies another science building.

CI: Looking back, do you wish you had done anything differently during your time as President?

PG: A leader is provided an opportunity to lead at a given point in the history and evolution of an organization. One’s goals are to take advantage, the best that one can, of the opportunities present at that time. I think that it will be easier to answer your specific question in about five years with the benefit of hindsight!

CI: Upon examining the legacy you left behind at CMC, many faculty members and students recognized that CMC’s next President had very big shoes to fill. Since his inauguration at the beginning of this year, President Hiram Chodosh has already introduced multiple new initiatives to CMC, including The Student Imperative and The Mirza Summit on Personal and Social Responsibility. What is your initial impression of the Chodosh administration? Do you have any advice for him going forward?

PG: Fortunately, the CMC Board of Trustees selected President Chodosh in December 2012. Consequently, we had six months to work together on his transition at July 1, 2013. Whatever advice that I wanted to give was communicated during that time period!

The two new initiatives that you mention are very important. Access and affordability to attend college are critical issues being addressed by The Student Imperative. When I was the Dean of the Duke Law School, I would always tell students that they were almost surely experiencing the most “ideal” community that they would ever encounter. It is the role of institutions of higher education to model the most “ideal” communities that they can create, and I’m sure that The Mirza Summit on Personal and Social Responsibility is rightly pursuing this honorable goal for CMC.

CI: I understand that you will be returning to CMC this fall as the Trustee Professor of Legal Studies. What made you want to be a professor again after all this time? What aspect of teaching did you miss most?

PG: I went into the academy as a young professor, and I always enjoyed the core activities of teaching and research. I could not be happier to be returning to these activities. I very much look forward to teaching the students at CMC and the other Claremont Colleges and the relationships that one builds with students through the classroom.

CI: What courses will you be teaching this fall? Is there an area of legal studies that you would like to specialize in?

PG: I am thrilled to be teaching again next year. In the fall I will be teaching a course entitled “What Do Universities Do?: Public Policy and Leadership in Higher Education.” This new course is an outgrowth of my entire professional life in higher education. We will look at many of the most important issues in contemporary higher education: the shifting historical and contemporary concerns; the discrepant purposes, values and responsibilities of colleges and universities and their intentional and unintentional social implications; the economics of the sector including finance and productivity; issues concerning the students’ academic experiences and engagement and the outcomes of higher education; issues pertaining to admission and financial aid, including shifting demographics and access; issues pertaining to accountability and risk; and pathways to globalization. Throughout the course, we will be addressing leadership issues pertaining to the topic and how one would go about leading a college campus through these issues.

In the fall, I will also be teaching a version of this course at the School of Education, Claremont Graduate University, to students enrolled in master and Ph.D. degree programs.

In the spring semester, I will introduce two new courses.

The first is also an outgrowth of my professional work, and it is entitled “Philanthropy, Voluntarism, and Nonprofits: Law, Public Policy and Leadership.” I always tell students that they are likely to work or volunteer for, lead, or govern a nonprofit organization. Why? The nonprofit area is so very broad and important in American society and increasingly outside the United States. It includes foundations, such as the Gates Foundation and the Ford Foundation, think-tanks such as The Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute, museums such as the Metropolitan Art Museum and the Getty Museum, public benefit organizations like The Salvation Army and the United Way, religious organizations, civil rights organizations, and on-line organizations such as www.givedirectly.org or www.globalgiving.org. I am very pleased to introduce this new course at The Claremont Colleges. It will broadly address many key topics including: leadership, governance, accountability, who gives and why, and the appropriate public policy and legal framework for determining ideal allocations of social problem-solving among government, for-profit, and the nonprofit sectors.

The second new course is “International Law.” Citizens of the United States and other nations are impacted by transactions and activities outside of and across their national borders. They are increasingly affected by the norms and activities of international and regional organizations (e.g., the UN, WTO, NAFTA, and EU), and by the obligations of international agreements. Many international activities take place frequently in structured ways (such as cross-border trade in goods), but they may also take place in a more complex context such as economic sanctions against Iran. Collective force may be used in Libya causing regime change, while collective force may not occur with respect to Darfur, Rwanda, and Syria. These international organizations, international agreements, international norms, and international action and inaction may impact U.S. foreign policy and the range of realistic and legal options available to address U.S. strategic interests. International law is a legal system that affects all of these activities. This course is designed to introduce students to a framework for understanding international law, including what it means for anyone today – legislator, policy-maker, human rights advocate, environmentalist – who has an interest in politics and international relations. It will provide a foundation for more specialized courses.

I hope that all of these new courses will appeal to students, and I am thrilled to be teaching each of them.

CI: Once you return to campus, do you plan to still be involved in administrative decisions? If so, which issues would you most like to address and get involved in?

PG: I will not be involved in any governance or administrative decisions.

CI: After your experience as CMC’s President and your time on sabbatical, do you have any advice you would like to offer to CMC students?

PG: I do not think that there has ever been a time more exciting and important to be a student. You are fortunate to be at CMC. I would simply urge you to take advantage of everything that CMC has to offer, to be bold and intellectually adventuresome, and to be engaged with your faculty. Finally, always leave CMC a better place than when you first entered the College; and you should think about how best you individually or in groups can accomplish this.

Beyond Dean-O-Mite: Chodosh on free speech & more

On December 7th, 2012, the Editors-in-Chief of student publications the Forum, the Claremont
Port Side, and the Claremont Independent had the opportunity to interview Claremont McKenna College’s new President-elect Hiram Chodosh.

The Claremont Independent had asked Chodosh some questions near and dear to our publication’s heart.

We asked Chodosh if he saw himself continuing CMC’s tradition of being a politically balanced campus. He replied that much of that tradition is ingrained in participating in the Athenaeum, saying that a number of campuses are not as politically balanced as they should be. Chodosh pointed out that a large part of education can take place among peers and that, if engaged, diversity of opinion is an advantage. The Athenaeum, Chodosh said, creates that forum for discourse and has a tremendous impact on campus engagement.

We also asked President-elect Chodosh about the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s recent change in CMC’s speech code rating from Red to Yellow—whether this change is something that he believes is important, and what steps he plans to take to change the free speech rating as it stands. Chodosh responded that while he was new to the particular context, he believes that it is “very important that there be a strong free speech regime on college campuses.” But, he noted, it is important that the freedom of one person’s speech cannot impede another’s. Chodosh emphasized the need to create a learning environment through the promotion of free speech. Creating a learning moment from offensive speech, entails getting together to talk about the controversies in a way that can produce a deeper understanding of the issues at hand. “It is important that each of us learn our way through these controversies.”

It’s a promising start for our President-elect, but we can only wait to see whether he will properly address the issues of political balance and free speech during his term.