Somewhere between my Collins breakfast and my Economics seminar, everything fell apart. In mere hours, Claremont McKenna College was launched onto the national stage— as the poster child for everything that’s wrong with the U.S. college ranking system.  Our beloved institution somehow blundered its way into headlines: the public attention we so ardently desired is suddenly, painfully, ours– in the most tragic of circumstances.

It isn’t fair. And it hurts.

Needless to say, this has been a rough couple days for CMC. Not only was the news surrounding the fudged SAT reports a poor moment for the administration, but it was also a difficult moment for the Claremont community. After all, we are the ones who love this place. We serve as its principal defenders and advocates. We devote inordinate amounts of time to explaining our institution to relatives and job recruiters– even strangers on the street.  It’s an incredible place, we argue. You’ve just probably never heard of it.

Now they have. It is a great irony that we receive so much attention for an issue that is so far removed from the hearts and minds of CMCers. Rankings are not necessarily what drove us here as prospective students, nor are they what we seek to take away with us as graduates.

I did not choose Claremont McKenna College for its name recognition; I came here in spite of its nonexistence.  I chose CMC because, despite knowing it was small and little-known, I had a feeling in my core it was worth the risk.

Let’s be clear: the unethical move highlighted in the press today was made by an administrator. It was one singular employee.  Perhaps he was moved deeply by his passions for the school, but nonetheless, his actions were his and his alone.  The bad news was honorably self-reported by the administration.

Our community, on the other hand, is innocent. This incident is by no means indicative of our school culture.  After three years here, I can tell you firsthand that Claremont McKenna College is not a hyper-competitive learning institution. The students here are scholars and leaders, not grimey grade-obsessed teenagers. Where I go to school, people do not try to sabotage their peers over grade point averages. Rather, they derive pleasure in seeing their peers succeed, in every venture.

The most important thing we can do as students in this moment is simple– we must defend the community we hold so dear.   Now is not the time for internal competition, rumors or conspiracy theories. We should take this moment to reaffirm our values as Claremont McKenna College’s finest, by supporting our classmates. This is an opportunity to reevaluate who we are as members of the CMC community. No matter what your major may be, we can all agree that, as students enrolled in this institution, we are part of an incredible organization.  This community is a caring one, founded on our ability to support each other regardless of our yearly U.S. News and World Report ranking. We do not find value in petty competition for competition’s sake. Claremont McKenna is better than that.

The CMC they’re writing about? That’s not my school. What happened this week– it is not who we are. Let them not extrapolate their opinion of our admissions office to that of us as a community. While it is clear that the administration needs to make some changes, it is important to remember that our college culture is not what is coming under fire.  Professors and students alike, continue your good work. Our educational policies are not the problem. Please don’t change a thing; you’re wonderful the way you are.

Here on the front lines in pleasant Claremont, California, one fact rings true: competition does not consume, nor define us. What happened on Monday is not reflective of our school community. Claremont McKenna College is a top-tier liberal arts college unlike any other in the nation– I maintain that opinion regardless of the news that broke this week.


    • While your doubt and cynicism towards the administration (which is shared by many of us) is valid, I think your comment shows that you have missed the point of the article. This situation could be the result of one person or four, but Caroline reminds us that at the end of the day that person(s) does not reflect who we are as CMC. We can ask the administration to take more accountability, but let’s not allow this frenzy diminish our pride and our love for this college.

      Well done, Mimbs.

      • But it does. It does reflect who we are as Students. Hyper competitive, always looking to get ahead, and the administration’s myopic focus on rankings is exactly what got us here.

        • Even if we are hyper competitive, it wasn’t students who had anything WHATSOEVER to do with this falsification.  Why does this reflect on our student body?

        • The whole point of the article is that we are not hyper competitive among ourselves. In my whole experience at CMC I never encountered the sort of cut throat competition described to me by friends at other similar institutions. The sense of camaraderie among the student body is a strong asset of the school that must not be lost in this wave of scrutiny. And let’s be honest, most people did not choose CMC due to it’s ranking, we chose it because it is unique in so many ways. 

  1. I don’t know how much weight I’d give the fact the administration self-reported. I could very easily see a situation where a whistle-blower in the administration or outside had an ultimatum, something along the lines of  “report this or I go to the LA times”. The fact of the matter is that we don’t know what happened and may never know. There’s no incentive here for transparency. I have no idea who decided it was a good idea to report admissions data directly and deal with these things internally, but once again, it skews incentives in a weird direction. This was bound to happen eventually and I’d wager his probably happens a number of institutions without external audits. That’s not apologism. That’s a comment on the flaws of the system. 
    And that’s the kind of conversation we need. There’s a lot of opportunity here for good, hard analysis of the situation. Now is not the time to blindly pat each other on the back. This is a chance for us to sit down and evaluate the myriad things wrong with CMC as an academic institution. I’m not saying we should be jerks. I’m not saying we should have crises of identity and sob ourselves into a pulp over what’s happened. But I do think that this article sounds like a public attempt at self-soothing and rationalization. This is one of the few moments that both institutions and people get in their lives to reevaluate and think. What we don’t need is an ego boost. What we need is a good hard look at the priorities of the college and the policies that exist because of them.

    It seems to me that lots of things at CMC aren’t all that transparent. There’s an obvious but unstated gap between the rules and their enforcement. Look at we handle alcohol and substance. And that’s just the start of it. Don’t even mention the issues we seem to have with misconduct in clubs and sexual harassment. 

    I love CMC. If I had to make the choice again, I’d come back. If I could, I’d never leave. But sometimes loving something means you’ve got to be tough with it. Love is more than worshiping the distorted, graven image of a thing. 

    • I agree with CE; I think it is somewhat wrong to take this tone so soon: that we can move on, we can overcome, because CMC is a wonderful place. I am truly thankful for the education I’m getting here, but now we have an opportunity to look at some of the things the school is not so great at. For one, whether CMC students are competitive or not, they are undoubtedly ambitious, and things like rankings do matter to many people here. It’s a symbol of status, when the only reaffirmation we should need is knowing that we found a good fit in choosing to come here.

      Nobody’s blaming the student body for what happened, nor has much changed on campus, so there should be no reason to question the good things CMC does for its students. That said, we don’t need to be made to feel warm and fuzzy and validated. We should BE leaders, and address some of the questions that this situation has raised, such as how this can be prevented in the future (perhaps a dual dean of admissionship?), and how CMC can regain the respect of the academic world, now that our name is actually (much more) out there.

  2. This would be a great op-ed submission in any of the many newspapers that covered the story.  It would need to be modified a bit for a different audience, but this is exactly what the public needs to read.

  3. CMC students need to stop complaining about how no one has heard of their school. No one’s heard of Mudd either; if you cared so much about name recognition then you should have gone to UCLA.

    • Actually, when I say I go to cmc, nobody knows where it is. If I say Harvey Mudd, or Pomona, they recognize it.

  4. Excellent piece. Still incredibly proud of our school, and I think most of us are and should be.

    Unless you’re Charles Johnson, probably the only alum who actually hates his alma mater (because he’s disliked by 90% of the student body in general.

    • There’s no need to insult him, especially since he neither appeared in this article nor commented on it.
        That being said, excellent article!  

      • Ashley, you might want to take at his just written piece, sliming CMC and writing a pretty racist article.

        • I did, and I do believe that his article could be the most xenophobic piece I’ve read from this century, replete with all sorts of faulty logic and general offensiveness.  
          However, slinging mud at him (anonymously) in an article that has pretty much nothing to do with him is quite petty and giving him even more attention.

  5. Spot on, Mimbs! CMC’s largest indiscretions lie with members of our administration not our students or faculty. Keep your heads up CMCers. The only thing that has changed is that we now know that we are even more disproportionately successful relative to our SAT scores than previously thought!

  6. What up Caroline! Still killing it on the
    Forum, making me proud! CMC was a huge part of my life and can’t be replaced.
    The lessons I learned, the values I picked up along the way, and the remarkable
    friends I met along the way are all apart of who I am now. Don’t ever stop
    CMC!! RAGE ON!


    Much Love

  7. Nice article, Caroline.  I agree that you, as students, must undertake to “defend the community [you] hold so dear.”  To that end, what about posting some of your thoughts about the CMC experience on the CMC and Parents forums at  Many prospective students and families are reading these threads right now, and it’s important that they hear of your experiences and your love for your school.  Contribute to the public dialog about CMC!  Right now, your voices are missing from wider press coverage.

  8. This is an eloquent endorsement of a wonderful institution that merits respect for reporting the dishonesty within its ranks. Those who resort to cheap tricks in an effort to win attention often accomplish nothing more than to bring discredit to their institutions and themselves. But Claremont has produced too many wonderful achievements to be damaged for long by this embarrassment. Its greatest accomplishment is the idealism, dedication, and work of students like Caroline Mimbs Nyce.

  9. If this is the most scandalous thing that can be reported about CMC, in light of recent national news addressing serious ethical lapses at several institutions of higher learning, then I’m not too upset.  CMC supports excellence (whether or not a part of the administration felt that inflating SAT scores was vital to CMC’s national standing).  My over-riding thought when I saw the story on the CBS Evening News was how crappy the decaying CMC signage looked in the opening shot and how poorly it represents the institutuon!

  10. A college is judged primarily by the quality and humanity of its graduates. If that is still the case, and I believe it is – then Claremont McKenna has nothing to worry about. The administration’s reaction to this unfortunate revelation has been prompt and forthright. As a graduate of Sewanee, I am used to puzzled looks from self annointed intellectuals who have never heard of the school and are too oblivious to see what this says about them. Claremont’s honor has been earned through real contributions to the betterment of our world. If anything, this minor scandal is a perfect illustration of the foolishness of “seeking the bubble reputation.”

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