Forum Editor-in-Chief Michael Wilner '11 moderated the discussion with the Council of Presidents for the Claremont Colleges.

The presidents of the five undergraduate institutions of the Claremont Consortium, as well as the CEO of the Consortium, met for the first time in fifty years on February 28. Pitzer College’s president Laura Trombley was unable to attend, but sent a substitute member of Pitzer’s administrative staff in her place. The six school leaders came together to form a discussion panel which discussed a number of current policy issues at the 5C’s, as well as the future of the consortium as a whole.

(Watch a video of the event here.)

Organized by the Forum and the Pomona Student Union, the event took place in the Little Bridges Auditorium on Pomona’s campus, and was moderated by CMC’s Michael Wilner, editor-in-chief of the Forum.

The event was organized into two sections. First, Wilner asked each of the presidents to respond to three preplanned questions, then students in the audience were allowed to ask questions of the panel.

In the first portion, Wilner first asked the Presidents to comment on the nature of competition between the schools, specifically whether or not it limits the schools capabilities to publish research papers as separate entities rather than as one institution. Robert Walton, CEO of the consortium, pointed out that “There are times when [the five schools] are very competitive with each other, … but they are equally as strong in their collaboration. I do think that the competition actually adds a lot of value.”

Presidents Oxtoby (Pomona), Bettison-Varga (Scripps) and Gann (Claremont McKenna) answer questions on social interaction and substance policy.

In response to another question, this time regarding the different alcohol policies of the different schools and how they play off against each other, Claremont McKenna’s President, Pamela Gann, discussed the school’s alcohol policy, which can be described as one of the most liberal of the colleges. She stated, “I do think one of the inevitable roles of college is socialization of students to appropriate uses of alcohol.” Harvey Mudd College’s President Maria Klawe added that “We have really upped the alcohol education” as a means of keeping students safe.”

The candor of the event was exceptional, and each of the Presidents was professional, while at the same time demonstrating some of the same good-natured competitiveness that the students of the 5C’s know and love so well. Mr. Walton summed up the shared attitude of the Presidents best when he offered his closing remark, saying “I’m sure in thirty years, all these great colleges will be better but, right now, this is the number one consortium in the United States, hands down.”

  • Gravity

    The first two sentences of the article directly contradict one another. How could all the presidents have met if the president of Pitzer had to send an envoy? And was this really the “first time in fifty years” that the presidents met? Isn’t there something called the Presidents’ Council? I’m fairly certain they have met more recently than 1961.

    Props to the Forum for putting together an interesting event (with a less than interesting moderator), but maybe a little humility is in order about just how momentous the event was.

  • Interlocutor

    I am rather offended that the Forum and PSU made it seem that Pitzer had to send an envoy at the last minute. A source inside the Pitzer administration made it clear to me that Mr. Wilner had be notified at least a few weeks before the event that President Trombley would not be able to attend the event.

    When can we expect a response to this claim?

    Beyond that, this event lacked substance; although it was useful for students who are not well-versed in Consortium politics, for me the event only reaffirmed that our colleges are taking a “free-market” approach to the consortium rather than one which emphasizes “the sum being greater than its parts.”

  • Batman

    Wilner’s approach to the issue of the Scripps alcohol policy was so off base and ruuude.