Co-written by Pallavi Deshpande and Bhavika Anandpura
On November 16, President Chodosh, three Chairs of the Ethnic Studies Department at the Claremont Consortium, and a coalition of students of color pursuing degrees in Educational Studies at the Claremont Graduate University (CGU) released separate letters affirming their support of marginalized students at Claremont McKenna and dedication to finding long-term solutions to the problems we face as a community.
The Chairpersons who released the letter from the ethnic studies departments include: Hung Cam Thai, the Intercollegiate Department of Asian American Studies; Sheila Walker, the Intercollegiate Department of Africana Studies; and Miguel R. Tinker Salas, the Intercollegiate Department of Chicano/a-Latino/a Studies. In their letter, the faculty members first noted that the protests “have much deeper roots in Claremont’s history” than former Dean Spellman’s email to a student and the controversy over Halloween costumes. They further demanded a long-term plan to combat institutional racism instead of “a simple list of promises at the level of rhetoric.”
In addition to these department chairs, another group from the Claremont Consortium — a group of students of color at CGU — reached out to affirm solidarity for the students organizing at CMC. In a public letter addressed to CMCers of Color, the CGU students expressed their support, writing: “As scholars of education, we understand that foundations of higher education have a history embedded in racism and exclusivity, and that dark history repeats itself in our institutions… CMCers of Color, we are inspired by your courageous and tireless acts to combat exclusive structures that purport to be inclusive of students of color.” The letter further encourages the administration, students, and faculty to recognize, name and take action against institutional racism in our community.
The week also began with a new email to the CMC community from President Chodosh, with the subject “Our Imperatives” (capitalization added). President Chodosh addressed the importance of racial equality to our community, steps the administration is taking to achieve this ultimate goal, and the importance of maintaining an open, respectful dialogue as we navigate these difficult issues. To synthesize his perspective, he highlighted two major priorities: “unyielding support for the growth and success of our students” and “unwavering commitment to free speech, active listening, and the educational mission of the College.”
President Chodosh additionally detailed several actions the administration has recently taken and continues to implement in order to promote student collaboration. These include appointing Jeff Huang to serve as the acting Dean of Students, inviting diversity and inclusion experts to review the Dean of Students Office and work directly with students, identifying an appropriate temporary space as they work towards a permanent space for marginalized students, and expanding the Personal and Social Responsibility committee on Campus Climate.
President Chodosh also reminded students that Chief Civil Rights and Title IX Officer Nyree Gray has helped provide additional, free counseling resources for students. In an email sent to the student body on November 13, Gray said that new counselors have been recruited to meet on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9:00am to 1:00pm starting Wednesday, November 18, 2015 to supplement Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services, which has been backlogged.
In his discussion of free speech, President Chodosh emphasized the importance of a respectful, constructive public discourse. He also revealed that faculty have met and will continue to meet and discuss the events of the past week. Finally, he applauded the dinner discussion that took place at the Athenaeum on Friday, November 13, and clarified that although hurtful or disrespectful speech is protected by the First Amendment, threats of violence are not. Such actions will be subject to an investigation by the College and any necessary disciplinary action.