Tag Archives: Pitzer College

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.”

#TheChalkening Hits Pitzer College

Yesterday, a student wrote the phrase “Make America” (presumably the beginning of Republican frontrunner Donald Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again”) in faint letters on a mural at Pitzer College. Additionally, the word “Trump” was spray painted on Pitzer’s clock tower.

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In a widely shared Facebook post, one student government representative described the statement as a “hate crime,” and calls for the student who painted it to be prosecuted. Pitzer College joins Scripps, Emory, Michigan, and other schools in protesting recent pro-Trump messages.

“A ‘post-racial America’ is far from what we have,” the student writes. “Instead, we face hate crimes like this across the nation and in high frequency. This isn’t simply vandalism. And, in case it’s too difficult to read, the mural with the flag and faces has, ‘Make America’ scrawled on it. This is a clear attempt to intimidate students of color at Pitzer College. I’m honestly in disbelief at how light the response has been.”

“We are a community with a core value of ‘social responsibility,’” the statement continues. “Yet the perpetrators most likely committed these acts in broad daylight? I have seen campuses across the country deal with similar attacks, and felt a great anger, but the proximity of these atrocious acts shake me to the core. This isn’t a lighthearted joke we can simply laugh away, this isn’t a drunken mishap that can be solved with a sheepish apology. Under California law, this is a hate crime and I hope the individual/s responsible are dealt with not only by the institution, but by the law of the state as well.”

The student does not state which California law he thinks defines writing part of the likely Republican nominee’s slogan as a hate crime.

Other Student government representatives expressed opposition to the Trump phrases as well. “Whoever wrote ‘Make America Great Again’ on a permanent Pitzer art piece – you are a f*cking piece of sh*t, lower than filth,” noted a Pitzer Student Senator in an email to the student body.

Some students were more concerned by the outrage in response to the Trump postings than by the actual postings themselves. “Many students today do not want to see their thoughts and opinions challenged by the opposition,” Patricio Aguilar told the Claremont Independent. “In many cases they call out the opposition by saying it is ‘offensive’ and ‘unsafe.’ Instead of embracing the opposition as what it is, students now want to silence others for beliefs that are different from what they agree with and with what is considered PC.”

Update: April 3, 2016 at 2:01pm

An earlier version of the story said the “Make America” slogan was written on Pitzer’s Free Wall. We’ve been informed that it was written on a permanent mural, and updated the story accordingly.

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Image Source: Facebook

Pitzer Students Vote To Ban Bottled Water

On Sunday evening, the Pitzer College Student Senate voted unanimously to ban bottled water on its campus. In its official statement, the Senate affirmed:

“The Pitzer College Student Senate recommends that the College take the necessary steps to discontinue the purchase, sale and distribution of bottled water on campus and at College sanctioned events, including vending machines and campus cafes and eateries… the Pitzer College Student Senate recommends that the College provides reusable water vessels for all members of the Pitzer community, including staff and faculty members.”

The document does not articulate what Pitzer College’s current bottled water consumption is, nor does it identify the impact of such a ban. While the Senate presented a myriad of reasons for its rejection of bottled water, its primary concern involved the environmental impacts of bottled water. “Americans used about 50 billion plastic water bottles last year, yet the recycled rate for plastic in the United States is only 23%, which means 38 billion water bottles – more than $1 billion worth of plastic – are wasted each year,” the Pitzer Senate argued. “Public tap water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which requires multiple daily tests for bacteria and releases this information to the public, while the Food and Drug Administration, who regulate bottled water, only requires weekly testing and does not share its findings with the general public (National Resource Defense Council).”

Pitzer College reasoned that a college-wide ban on water bottles would reduce the American footprint on the environment and increase the quality of the consumed water. However, when the University of Vermont enacted a similar ban in 2013, students still bought water bottles online and had them shipped to campus, creating an even greater environmental footprint than before the ban. Furthermore, student consumption of unhealthy sugary drinks increased by 25% as students sought alternatives to bottled water. When debating this policy, the Pitzer College Senate did not identify the economic and environmental costs of such a ban.

Many other schools, including the University of California at Berkeley, Cornell University, and Brown University have banned bottled water for similar concerns. When Harvard was debating banning bottled water, one student wrote in the Harvard Crimson a defense of keeping plastic water bottles legal, arguing that a better solution would be to raise the prices on plastic water bottles, creating an incentive to use eco-friendly materials without coercion. The argument proceeds, that “the University could then use some of the tax revenues to supplement employee pay to ensure that the tax does not result in lower salaries for student-employees.” In this context, Pitzer’s ban on water bottles could hurt the dining hall workers’ salaries or increase student fees due to lost economic revenue.

Over this past Academic Year, the Pitzer Senate has repeatedly curtailed liberties within the college in the name of social justice. Last fall, the Senate voted to forbid students from forming a yacht club because it deemed the word “yacht” to be “offensive” and “classist.” Shortly thereafter, the Senate refused funding to a proposed Pitzer College branch of the DreamCatchers Foundation, a charity that works with terminally ill hospice patients. The Senate reasoned that though the founders and current owners of the DreamCatchers Foundation were Native Americans themselves, the organization was deemed “cultural appropriation.” Pitzer College’s self-proclaimed mission, “environmental sustainability [and] social responsibility” has now manifested itself through this ban.

The ban on bottled water comes to Pitzer even though bottled water is safer than tap water in the event of a natural disaster. As the Claremont Colleges are located near the San Andreas fault, it is wise to take the threat of earthquakes seriously. Moreover, the ban on bottled water is not accompanied by bans on other eco-unfriendly materials, such as aluminum soda cans, or non-fair trade chocolate and coffee. The Pitzer Senate articulated that “producing single use disposable bottles to meet America’s demand for bottled water uses more than 17 million barrels of oil annually” without identifying the impact of alternatives. The Pitzer Senate mandated that Pitzer College “install more hydration stations” and “provide reusable water bottles for all members of the Pitzer Community, including staff and faculty”, but did not articulate the funding source for such endeavors.

 

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Image Source: Flickr

Pitzer Senate: DreamCatchers Foundation “Tabled Indefinitely” Due to “Cultural Appropriation”

Last night, a student proposal to start a DreamCatchers Foundation affiliate club was “tabled indefinitely” at the Pitzer College student senate meeting. Senators expressed concerns that the term “dreamcatchers” was a form of cultural appropriation towards Native Americans. The club was intended to be a campus branch of the national DreamCatchers Foundation, an organization that helps create happy experiences, or “dreams,” for terminally ill hospice patients. The club was initially proposed to the Pitzer Senate by Janu Patel (PZ ’19) on November 1, where it was tabled for one week. At last night’s senate meeting, the proposal was tabled indefinitely by a vote of 16 to 9.

“Last Sunday, during our weekly meeting, the legislature had the opportunity to review a student organization application for the DreamCatchers Foundation,” stated Senate Treasurer Chance Kawar (PZ’ 17) in an email to the student senate obtained by the Claremont Independent. “Some student senators indicated that Native American community members ought to be consulted about the legitimacy of the organization’s name, prior to approving the application.”

Following the senate meeting, Kawar received a statement from Scott Scoggins, the Native American Pipeline Director and Outreach Liaison for Pitzer College. Scoggins said that the DreamCatcher Foundation “seems like a worthy organization in their goals and mission,” but “their choice of logo and name is problematic and is, I believe, an example of cultural appropriation.”

Additionally, Scoggins pointed out the fact that “the DreamCatchers Foundation does not explicitly indicate that it serves any Native nation or group in the Los Angeles area.” He continued to argue that “a corporation with a logo containing explicit Native imagery that doesn’t serve Native communities or affiliated with a Native organization is cultural appropriation.”

Some senators felt that these arguments were sufficient enough to provide evidence of cultural appropriation. In an interview with the Claremont Independent, Gregory Ochiagha (PZ ’18), a Special Constituency Representative, stated, “We have the Native American Liaison saying he believes it is cultural appropriation. We have a Native American student representative saying that it is cultural appropriation and that he feels uncomfortable. So to the question of whether it was cultural appropriation: yes, to Native American people, it’s cultural appropriation.”

Other senators were concerned about how the senate would look if it approved the DreamCatchers Foundation. “The name ‘DreamCatcher Foundation’ would appear next to Pitzer College on their website, as well as student senate’s,” said Lora McManus (PZ ’18), a member of the senate’s Diversity Committee, in an interview with the Claremont Independent. “Are we as a body ok with that? Is this how we want our school to be represented?”

Kawar also emailed Caitlin Crommett, the founder and CEO of the DreamCatchers Foundation. Crommett, whose family is part of the Penobscot tribe of Maine, replied that she is “a bit surprised by your [the senators’] concern regarding cultural appropriation.” Crommett stated that she has collected dreamcatchers for her entire life, and that her organization gives patients dreamcatchers as reminders of their experience. “For these reasons alone,” Crommett continues, “I believe that our foundation’s name of DreamCatchers is highly relevant to our work, and not at all cultural appropriation because of the respectful way in which we conduct our work.”

“We have in fact granted Dreams for Native American patients and spoken with them at length about the name,” noted Crommett. “In these cases, they have been fully supportive and interested in our name, and have in no way expressed a distaste or disappointment in the use of an element of Native American culture to represent the positive, beneficial work we do.”

Patel, who has been involved with the DreamCatchers Foundation since she was in high school, offered to partner with Native American groups on campus and help them with their events. Patel emphasized that the club would be doing good things, and that she wanted to further the organization’s mission at Pitzer.

Despite these efforts, student senators did not support the club proposal. “I do think a club like that needs to exist,” stated Ochiagha. “But because it is a cultural appropriation issue, and additionally because I don’t think the national organization is doing that much really to support a Pitzer College charter, I think we should just create a Pitzer club with the same exact purpose, with our own name that’s PC-friendly.”

The Pitzer Senate told Patel that they might be able to approve the DreamCatchers Club if she were able to use a different name. “I did try to talk to her [Crommett] about changing just the name for Pitzer,” Patel said in an interview with the Claremont Independent. “They said that since I want it to be a chapter of their organization, I have to keep the name.”

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Image Source: Flickr