Tag Archives: Pitzer College

DACA On College Campuses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pitzer College RA: White People Can’t Wear Hoop Earrings

A wall on the side of a dormitory at Pitzer College devoted to unmoderated free speech through art (colloquially named “the free wall”), was recently painted by a group of Latino students who wrote the message, “White Girl, take off your [hoop earrings]!!!”

When one white student expressed confusion about the message, Alegria Martinez (PZ ’18) – a Pitzer College Resident Assistant (RA) and active member of the “Latinx Student Union” – responded in an email thread sent to the entire student body: “[T]he art was created by myself and a few other WOC [women of color] after being tired and annoyed with the reoccuring [sic] theme of white women appropriating styles … that belong to the black and brown folks who created the culture. The culture actually comes from a historical background of oppression and exclusion. The black and brown bodies who typically wear hooped earrings, (and other accessories like winged eyeliner, gold name plate necklaces, etc) are typically viewed as ghetto, and are not taken seriously by others in their daily lives. Because of this, I see our winged eyeliner, lined lips, and big hoop earrings serving as symbols [and] as an everyday act of resistance, especially here at the Claremont Colleges. Meanwhile we wonder, why should white girls be able to take part in this culture (wearing hoop earrings just being one case of it) and be seen as cute/aesthetic/ethnic. White people have actually exploited the culture and made it into fashion.”

Jacquelyn Aguilera (PZ ’19), another student claiming credit for the spray-painted message, responded to the school-wide email thread, “If you didn’t create the culture as a coping mechanism for marginalization, take off those hoops, if your feminism isn’t intersectional take off those hoops, if you try to wear mi cultura when the creators can no longer afford it, take off those hoops, if you are incapable of using a search engine and expect other people to educate you, take off those hoops, if you can’t pronounce my name or spell it … take off those hoops / I use “those” instead of “your” because hoops were never “yours” to begin with.” Aguilera attached an image of herself and the others who spray-painted the wall exposing their own hoop earrings.

Pitzer’s website states that on the free wall  “you’ll find artistic representation of local and global issues that usually spark educational discussion across campus!”

Martinez and Aguilera declined the Independent‘s requests to elaborate on their comments.

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Photo: Elliot Dordick

Pitzer College VP Defends Racist RAs Despite College President’s Condemnation

After several national media outlets covered Pitzer College student leaders’ defense of racially discriminatory housing practices, both the incoming President of Pitzer College, Melvin Oliver, and the Vice President for Student Affairs, Brian Carlisle, issued statements to the entire student body, faculty, and staff.

“Recently, an article in local media quoted Facebook comments made by Pitzer students regarding their preference in race for their roommates in non-Pitzer housing. Specifically, the post indicated that only people of color should inquire about the housing option,” President Oliver stated in his first-ever email to the Pitzer College community. “While Pitzer is a community of individuals passionately engaged in establishing intracultural safe spaces for marginalized groups, the Facebook post and several subsequent comments are inconsistent with our Mission and values.”

“Pitzer College’s Mission is to create engaged, socially responsible citizens,” Oliver continued. “We come together to live and work in a shared learning environment where every member is valued, respected, and entitled to dignity and honor. Our shared goal is to create a balanced approach to engaging complex intercultural issues, not to isolate individuals on the basis of any protected status.”

Shortly after incoming President Oliver sent out his email condemning students who refuse to live with certain people based on the color of their skin, Vice President Carlisle reached out to the Pitzer College community with a different message. “Our dedicated resident assistants have been targeted by Twitter trolls who publicly defame them and attack their contributions to our community,” Carlisle wrote. “Now, more than ever, is the time to come together as a community to celebrate and support our amazing resident assistants and student affairs staff. Please join me in thanking them for their work in furthering our mission and for keeping our campus a safe place to work, live, and study.”

Students were unimpressed with the administrators’ inconsistent responses. “I think it’s important that our administration takes a firm stance on this. What we saw in those Facebook posts and comments was a disdain for a certain group of people, in this case, white people. If Pitzer wants to stay consistent with their values of racial harmony and multiculturalism, they must speak out against comments like this,” stated Nick Toro (PZ ’18). “What’s even more important than racial diversity is the diversity of thoughts and ideas. Only then can we learn to understand each other.”

Students at Claremont Colleges Refuse to Live with White People

A group of students at the Claremont Colleges are in search of a roommate for next year, but insist that the roommate not be white. Karé Ureña (PZ ’18) posted on Facebook that non-white students in need of housing arrangements should reach out to either her or two other students with whom she plans to live in an off-campus house. The post states that “POC [people of color] only” will be considered for this living opportunity. “I don’t want to live with any white folks,” Ureña added.

Dalia Zada (PZ ’18) expressed concerns to the anti-white discrimination. “‘POC only?’ Maybe I’m missing something or misunderstanding your post, but how is that not a racist thing to say?”

“This is directed to protect POC, not white people. Don’t see how this is racist at all…” responded AJ León (PZ ’18). Sara Roschdi (PZ ’17), a Pitzer Latino Student Union member, stated, “People of color are allowed to create safe POC only spaces. It is not reverse racism or discriminatory, it is self preservation.”

“We don’t want to have to tiptoe around fragile white feelings in a space where we just want to relax and be comfortable,” commented Nina Lee, a Women’s Studies major. “I could live with white people, but I would be far more comfortable living with other poc.”

“White people always mad when they don’t feel included but at the end of the day y’all are damaging asf [as f*ck] and if a POC feels they need to protect themselves from that toxic environment THEY CAN! Quick to try to jump on a POC but you won’t call your friends out when they’re being racist asf,” noted Terriyonna Smith (PZ ’18), an Africana Studies major and Resident Assistant (RA) for the 2016-2017 year. “I’m not responding to NO comments and NOPE I don’t wanna have a dialogue.” It is not clear whether or not this refusal of dialogue represents the approaches to conversation on racism with fellow students encouraged by professors of Africana Studies or the Residence Life staff at Pitzer College.

Another Resident Assistant and Black Student Union member, Jessica Saint-Fleur (PZ ’18) added to the thread of comments, “White people have cause [sic] so much mf [motherf*cking] trauma on these campuses … why in the world would I want to live with that? Bring that into my home? A place that is supposed to be safe for me?”

The Mission and Values section of Pitzer College’s website states, “Intercultural Understanding enables Pitzer students to comprehend issues and events from cultural lenses beyond their own,” and adds that “[Pitzer College] supports the thoughtful exchange of ideas to increase understanding and awareness, and to work across difference without intimidation. We have the right to be heard and the responsibility to listen. Communication, even at its most vigorous, should be respectful and without intent to harm.”

Edit: An earlier version of this story stated that AJ León was a member of the Pitzer College Latino Student Union.

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Image: Flickr

Pitzer College Offers Full Scholarship for ‘Undocumented’ Students

In 2012, just months after American college student-loan debt ballooned to over one trillion dollars, Pitzer College began offering a scholarship specifically for illegal immigrants from Latin American countries. “We, every single year, offer one full-ride scholarship to an undocumented student who resides [illegally] in California… It’s called the Arnaldo Rodriguez scholarship, and all of the information can be found on our website,” Pitzer College admissions counselor JR Ramsey told the Independent. The school’s website states, “Pitzer College established the Arnaldo Rodriguez Scholarship in honor of the college’s former Vice President of Admission and Financial Aid” because of an experience Rodriguez had “meeting a high school student who was at the top of her class and had lived in the US all her life but didn’t qualify for any financial aid due to her undocumented status.”

The Pitzer College website states, “the need-based, four-year scholarship is awarded to top-performing students of Latin American descent who attended high school in California and are not citizens or permanent residents of the United States.” These students also must fit a certain ethnic profile. “For people of full European descent, unfortunately [the scholarship] doesn’t apply,” Ramsey said. It follows from this that African and Asian students, too, are unqualified for the award, but Ramsey did remark “if you’re part-Latino, you’re fine” and “if you’re in DACA categorization, that still counts.”

The scholarship covers the costs of full-time tuition, student activities fees, housing, school-provided medical insurance and a meal plan. In total, this sums up to around $70,000 per year—more than a quarter of a million dollars over the course of an undergraduate education. The largest and only merit-based scholarship given by Pitzer, the Trustee Merit Scholarship, offers $5,000 per academic year—a tiny fraction of the amount given to undocumented immigrants—and does not increase with hikes in tuition and student fees as the Rodriguez scholarship does.

Undocumented applicants to Pitzer who do not receive this unique scholarship offer are treated the same as international applicants when considered for standard financial aid. “If your high school counselor is willing to put in a good word for you” in order to help an applicant receive this special scholarship, Ramsey stated, “they can shoot an email to Santiago Ybarra, the director of our office. It’s perfectly fine for them to reach out and talk about all the things you do in the community, the things you do in school, and why they think you’d be a great applicant not only for Pitzer, but also for what is embodied by that scholarship.”

Ramsey noted that few Pitzer students are undocumented. “We only have the flexibility to offer one scholarship [per year] through that fund,” he said, “but I will go ahead and insert a little plug for Pitzer while I’m on the phone with you and say even outside of the admission process, I think [undocumented students] find a lot of support here at Pitzer. The culture of our campus here helps students of that categorization thrive academically.”