In March, the Dean of Students Office interviewed and hired four students for the position of PSR Fellow for Diversity and Inclusion. These students are Deedee Chao ‘17, Casey Garcelon ‘17, Sarah Gissinger ‘17 and Aaron McKinney ‘18.
“The role of the PSR Fellow is to help shape the resource center and create programming for the temporary space, Modular G,” Gissinger said.
This position is unique at CMC’s campus, as it is the first of its kind based within the Dean of Students Office to specifically support diversity and inclusion at CMC. The PSR Fellows mainly operate out of the space designated as a temporary resource center for this semester, Modular G, or Mod G, in the Center Court Offices by the Bauer Center. When the permanent resource center opens during the Fall 2016 semester, the Fellows will be supervised by the Associate/Assistant Dean of Diversity and Inclusion.
Two weeks ago, the Fellows hosted an open house at Mod G, during which they introduced a campaign called “I Pledge,” which asked members of the CMC community to pledge what they plan to do to make CMC a more inclusive and supportive community.
Other plans that the Fellows are looking to implement this semester include community building events for students of marginalized identities, dialogues or educational forums for the broader CMC community and office hours for students to talk to the PSR Fellows about what they want to see for the space.
“For community events in particular, we are concerned about bringing in other people of color or marginalized identities that have not been introduced to this narrative and are not comfortable with engaging in dialogues like this,” Chao said.
Garcelon adds that the Fellows also want to do programming for first-years and help them hold these discussions as soon as they get to campus. “We don’t want this to only be a conversation when something happens in the middle of the semester because when that happens, it produces a lot of pain and misunderstanding,” Garcelon said. “We need to foster an environment where students can not only have these conversations daily, but also be conscious of their own actions and privilege in this space.”
The Fellows have identified a number of areas for improvement in diversity and inclusion on CMC’s campus. Regarding students’ ability to productively discuss these issues, Gissinger explains that the problem might arise when a person gets called out and becomes defensive for not wanting to be wrong. “We’re just trying to help the person have a discussion and as a community, get to the point where they’re able to understand where another person is coming from,” Gissinger said.
Another concern relates to the assimilationist pressure that can be observed here in Claremont. “I’ve seen and felt that many people who come here and aren’t from the already assimilated culture have a difficult time adjusting,” McKinney said. “The resource center can help students feel less alienated in their environment which paves the way for a better learning experience.”
When asked about why she applied, Garcelon replied, “there are two parts of this position that made me want to apply: it is a paid position, so it takes burden off a lot of unpaid mental, emotional and physical labor that was done by a lot of students last semester. Having a paid position also allows for continuity in the work of diversity and inclusion; this conversation won’t end when people graduate or are exhausted from not being heard and not seeing results. Additionally, it is an active position, where our team isn’t just operating amongst us and the space of Mod G. We want to interact and be transparent with everyone in our community. In this position, we’re holding ourselves, our peers and our administration accountable for following the College’s mission for diversity and inclusion.”
Gissinger maintained that she applied because she wanted to support her fellow students, specifically affinity groups and other students of marginalized identities. “I also have a commitment to students and keeping the administration accountable,” Gissinger said. “This includes keeping pressure on the administration to build the permanent resource center. Our vision won’t end until it’s complete.”
“A lot of people think we’re jaded, but we really just want to make a difference in changing this community,” Chao concluded. “Anything you’re dissatisfied with and are actively trying to change shows how much you care about it. You can love a place and still see its flaws and call them out, because you want it to be a better space not just for yourself but for everyone here.”