Tag Archives: Scripps College

Citing “Exploitation,” Scripps RAs Refuse to Work, Issue Demands

On Thursday, Scripps College students employed as resident advisors (RAs) on campus announced that they will refuse to work in protest of their “exploitation” as “low income students of color” until their demands for extensive changes to college policies and personnel are met.

Though acknowledging that failing to perform their supervisory duties would enable students to “engage[] in unsafe behavior” and deprive students of a valuable mental health resource, the resident advisors insisted in an open letter to Scripps President Lara Tiedens that the college’s “exploitation” of their labor in the aftermath of the tragic death of a fellow Scripps student justified the drastic measures.

“We are now expected to continue to function in our roles while also grieving and trying to fulfill academic and other responsibilities,” the letter explained. “Furthermore, most of us are low income students of color, which further exacerbates the exploitation we are experiencing.”

The lengthy letter demands the “immediate resignation” of the current Dean of Students for failing to “show adequate leadership or support,” as well as significant changes to the college’s mental health, residential life, and financial aid policies.

Central are the changes the RAs are seeking to their own role on campus. They charge that their central duties, such as performing walkthroughs and enforcing college policies on lockouts and room residency, do “not actually model restorative justice” and hurt “marginalized students more than students with money and privilege.”

“For example, students are given two free lockouts per year, and after these free lockouts a student is fined $25 per lockout,” they explain, referring to the college’s policy on students who lock themselves out of their own rooms. “RAs are expected to record these lockouts so if a student surpasses their number of free lockouts, they are charged; this is a classist practice that serves no concrete purpose.”

The RAs also criticize the college’s requirement that students exit residence halls at the conclusion of each semester or face a daily fine. “Charging residents who stay past closing time for breaks is yet another classist practice that we are asked to implement,” they complain. “This [policy] does not allow any consideration of individual personal circumstances that leave students with nowhere to go. These, and all other fines used to disproportionately punish students must be removed.”

Turning to mental health on campus, the RAs’ letter demands that Scripps “increase the subsidy for off-campus therapy,” saying that a “financial burden should not be put on any student who seeks to improve their mental health.”

On financial aid, the RAs insist that the college “allocate[] emergency funding to accommodate unexpected changes in student finances.” They also propose a new financial aid formula that would permit students to obtain outside scholarships without reducing need-based aid granted by the college.

The labor “strike” is total. The RAs say that they “will not perform any of the labor expected of us” — including providing emotional support to students, responding to emergencies in the residence halls, and assisting students who are locked out of their rooms — unless the school agrees to meet their demands by April 20th.

The resident advisor position is one of the best-paying jobs available to students on campus at Scripps. Because RAs are important to ensuring student safety and protecting college property, Scripps College covers the full cost of room and board for all RAs — nearly $16,000 per year.


Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to airfare compensation as a benefit available to all Scripps RAs. In fact, the college chose to offer airfare compensation to some RAs on account of special personal circumstances.

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.

Inside the College #Resistance

Last month, at an event at Scripps College intended to educate students on activism, I learned the art of “solidarity”—helping undocumented immigrants circumvent our nation’s immigration laws, and collectively shouting down opponents in student-led political protests.

Ever since the inauguration of Donald Trump as president of the United States, protests of his administration and other acts of resistance seem to be happening everywhere and every day, from the streets to the town hall meetings of members of Congress. Participation by my fellow college students in the “anti-fascist resistance” (or, in millennial speak, “anti-fascist #resistance”) is the norm, yet I had been puzzled as to how my peers planned to resist and what exactly the #resistance entails.

I finally had the opportunity to find out when I attended the event held by the #resistance at Scripps College with the purpose of teaching the students of the Claremont Colleges how to “resist the fascist and white supremacist policies being espoused and enacted by our current administration” by “[roleplaying] solidarity actions.” Walking in, I only had two questions that I hoped would be answered: Will the methods of resistance taught be legal, and how is this current administration fascist? I hoped that the former would be answered affirmatively, and that someone would at least attempt to explain the latter to me.

The event began with a discussion led by representatives from the labor union UNITE HERE, who explained that they hoped to teach students about the rights guaranteed by our country’s rule of law. Besides the gimmicky antics of the speakers, who called each other “comrade” and urged “students and [the] community to fight capitalism” in one of their PowerPoint slides, the opening discussion addressed the Trump administration’s deportation of undocumented immigrants and the legal rights of undocumented immigrants in a substantive way. The speakers explained, for example, the differences between administrative and judicial warrants, clarifying that only judicial warrants give Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents the authority to search private homes for undocumented individuals, and detailed the legal processes that undocumented immigrants face if arrested.

But this substantive discussion, which lifted my hopes, soon gave way to silliness—the roleplay simulation of ICE arrests, as well as a crash course on how to disrupt and protest in the streets and in the offices of politicians.

To simulate an ICE arrest, some participants (mainly students) were given roles as suspected undocumented immigrants; others were assigned to be ICE agents. When questioned by the ostensible ICE agents, the students who played suspected undocumented immigrants were instructed to pretend to be undocumented—staying silent in the face of ICE commands. This method saddened me; to set a precedent of undermining our rule of law is dangerous, and to expect the people of our country to buy into obstructing law enforcement belittles the decency and respect for the law Americans have. The organizers called this tactic “solidarity”; by pretending to not have documents, citizens and documented immigrants can make it difficult for immigration agents to find the undocumented individuals among them. However, teaching a group of presumably documented students who are mostly citizens how to pretend to be undocumented to show “solidarity” does not seem likely to solve the problems of illegal immigration. The change in content, from explaining the American legal system to obstructing the rule of law, struck me as another example of the organizers’ unconstructive message—teaching students how to hinder the rule of law should not be the answer to perceived injustices—but this message did not end here; the speakers soon started criticizing dialogue, touting uninterrupted protest as a better alternative.

Changing course, the speakers moved to discuss how protests trump dialogue as effective and just means of resisting the Trump administration, even if they block the flow of traffic and affect local businesses. To help students understand how to protest effectively as a “delegation,” the organizers initiated another roleplay scenario. I was assigned to be a member of the “herd,” the backbone of the delegation the role of which is to project numerical superiority. Some students played the role of “speakers,” who deliver the group’s message to a “person of power,” and others played “monitors” and “herders,” who are supposed to keep the delegation together and lead chants whenever the speakers encounter any trouble, which the organizers defined as any attempt to interrupt the speakers from delivering their message, even if it was an offer for constructive dialogue. I was hopeful that my peers would not believe suppressing dialogue is a solution to their perceived problems, but their enthusiasm proved me wrong. Their enthusiasm discouraged me; dialogue, the very foundation of communicating and solving problems with people of different opinions, seems to be shunned now. We simulated storming into a politician’s office and delivering a message, with the monitors leading a zealous chant of “Let them speak!” whenever the speakers were challenged by drowning out any voices of opposition.

After the event ended, I could not help but feel disheartened. Despite the commendable determination my radical peers displayed, it seemed they were willing to shut out dialogue to “deliver their message,” avoid confronting any challenge to their ideas by simply drowning out opposition with chants, and obstruct the rule of law that has served our nation so well. They were willing to divide and label this nation which we all share into groups of “oppressors” and “resistors,” all in an effort to challenge our democratically elected, though apparently “fascist” administration.

After almost two hours of indoctrination and “roleplaying oppression,” I left discouraged with my fellow students’ radical methods and misconceived ideas about the state of America—summarized by a souvenir in the form of a pledge card asking me to “fight back against the fascist policies of this new administration” and “engage in non violent civil disobedience.” However, most importantly, even after those two hours, I still did not have an answer to one of my central questions: “How is this current administration fascist?”

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Image: Flickr

Political Correctness is Destroying Feminism

A few days ago, I awoke to a mass email from Minjoo Kim, the student body president at Scripps College, condemning a “racist incident” that had taken place the night before. The incident in question? A Mexican-American Scripps student had awoken to find the words “#trump2016” written on the whiteboard on her door. The email claimed that the student was targeted because of her race and described the Trump presidential slogan—nay, hashtag—as an act of violence, and a “testament that racism continues to be an undeniable problem and alarming threat on our campuses.” This email was followed shortly by a message from our Dean of Students, Charlotte Johnson, chastising those students who believed that Kim’s email had been an overreaction to the incident. Johnson pointed out that Scripps (in theory) respects the First Amendment rights of its students and community members, but that in this case, the “circumstances are unique.”

Since the same sort of thing happened a week earlier at Emory University, with great cries of racism and threats against students who advocate for particular presidential candidates, it seems that there may be a special, more flexible version of the First Amendment for college administrators.

Scripps’ need to constantly respond to hurt feelings and incidences of racism—whether real or imaginary—meant that residents of the dorm where this happened had to go to a mandatory meeting in which Resident Advisors gave out instructions on how to behave if you see something offensive written on a student’s whiteboard. We were told that if we see something “offensive,” we should not erase it; that would be like pretending it never happened. Instead, we’re supposed to take a paper towel and tape it over the offensive message so that others walking down the hall need not be affected (see: triggered) by the message, then report it. Indeed the student who experienced this “act of racism” did not simply erase the whiteboard drawing and move on with her day, she wrote a notice calling attention to her status as a victim, hung it next to the #trump2016 message and posted it on Facebook. The takeaway? At a college for independent women, victimhood bequeaths status. But that’s nothing new.

For the past few evenings I have been taking part in an immensely detailed congressional simulation, for a government class at neighboring Claremont McKenna College. For this exercise we are simulating a congressional session taking place during the first year of a Donald J. Trump presidency. The simulation has been labor intensive, extremely informative for the students participating, and lots of fun. It plagues me to think that there are students on my campus who would not only be uncomfortable with the simulation, but deeply offended. How is it possible to teach politics and government in an atmosphere like this? How will my classmates survive the upcoming California primary?

Personally, I am a Cruz supporter. I’m just as perturbed as the next person that Donald Trump is a legitimate candidate for President of the United States. But he is just that, a legitimate candidate. Seeing his name (or a dopey political slogan) should not be enough to send an intelligent college student running for her safe space in tears. Scripps, like most women’s colleges, claims to pride itself on educating and shaping women to bravely go out and face a tough world. Does administrative coddling of behavior like this not devalue the Scripps brand? Surely I cannot be alone in believing this event is an embarrassment, and hopefully not representative of the institution as a whole. I would hate to see my school become another nutty, culturally Marxist institution, pushing this bizarrely weak, fainting couch, victim-feminism. Bizarre and coddled reactions like these legitimize the campaign of someone like Donald J. Trump.

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Image Source: Flickr

Scripps Dean: Writing #Trump2016 is ‘Harassment,’ ‘Intimidation’

Last week, Scripps College’s Student Body President, Minjoo Kim, sent an email to the Scripps community describing a “racist incident” that occurred on campus. “A Mexican-American Scripps student woke up to find her whiteboard vandalized with the phrase: ‘#trump2016’.” A similar incident occurred at Emory University where students felt frightened and disturbed after pro-Donald Trump chalkings appeared on campus with the phrase “#trump2016.”

“This racist act is completely unacceptable. Regardless of your political party, this intentional violence committed directly to a student of color proves to be another testament that racism continues to be an undeniable problem and alarming threat on our campuses,” the email continues. “Campus Safety has been notified and we hope to find the person responsible so they can be held accountable for their actions.”

“This is not the inclusive, safe, and welcoming community that we have been striving so hard to create,” notes Kim. “Actions and words have consequences. Think before you act.”

Dean Charlotte Johnson also addressed the incident with a school-wide email.

“Scripps respects the First Amendment rights of its community members, and students who wish to advocate for a political candidate may certainly do so pursuant to all relevant policies and procedures,” Johnson writes. “However, while it is true that under most circumstances the mere iteration of a presidential candidate’s name would not be regarded as a form of harassment or intimidation, the circumstances here are unique.”

She further describes the “circumstances” by stating, “Given that the Scripps incident targeted a Mexican-American, who was the only student in her residence hall to discover the message on her door, the negative reaction registered by many members of the community is understandable and far from extreme. As all who have experienced can confirm, racist acts and intimidation are not always overt. But, for their targets such acts are always disconcerting.”

Dean Johnson ends her email by declaring, “We are all responsible for ensuring the Scripps community is a safe place for everyone.”

The Scripps Guide to Student Life makes no mention of any policies pertaining to whiteboards. Students in all dorms are given public whiteboards placed outside or on their doors, and many leave markers for other students to write on their board with.

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Image Source: Wikimedia Commons