I knew very little about CMC when I first arrived on campus last August. I knew it was a well-regarded liberal arts school, part of an academically-powerful consortium, and located in the most beautiful place I had ever seen. There was a bit of a culture shock in those first weeks, but CMC quickly presented itself to me as a fun, friendly, engaging, and accepting school. Parts of it seemed too good to be true—the constant summer sun, the mountains watching over us, the cacophony of longboard wheels and “how are you?”s—and other parts were, for better or worse, precisely what I had anticipated—the social anxiety, the homesickness, the finding-your-classroom-on-the-first-day stress, and the staggering workload.
As I was acclimating to CMC, I also started hearing a specific phrase being used around campus: “Camp Claremont.” I first encountered this in an email from my dorm’s RTA within the first or second week of classes last year. The email ended with: “WELCOME TO CAMP CLAREMONT!” Next came an email that introduced the first-year class to one of the members of last year’s ASCMC Executive Board. This email began with: “Welcome back to Camp Claremont.” Both of these emails were early correspondences from older students that caused me to wonder why the school I had chosen to attend was being characterized in such a way.
Over the remainder of last year, I heard people use the phrase ironically to comment on some unnecessary expenditure, on a warm, sunny day in December, or on a North Quad beer pong game happening on a weekday afternoon. I started to perceive the phrase as a joke: it was an expression of disbelief about the “too-good-to-be-true” aspects of CMC or sometimes an ironic jab at students who go out every night and never seem to do any work.
Because I had come to see the phrase as ironic, I was surprised when the CMC admissions department’s various social media pages began incorporating “#CampClaremont” into their promotional posts, often ending each post with the hashtag. The Admissions Instagram profile urges students: “Show us your photos by using #CampClaremont!” and their post about the newly-arrived Class of 2020 ends with: “Welcome to #CampClaremont!” This phrase has also been used on the Facebook and Twitter profiles of the Admissions department or of the school. This year’s first “Club Inform” email also began with: “HELLO CAMPERS! Welcome back to Camp Claremont!”
My confusion surrounding this phrase—which I saw as funny but not as a serious or accurate representation of the school—led me to think about what message it sends, especially to prospective and incoming students. What picture does it paint of our school, of our student body, our campus culture, and the of type of student CMC is looking for? From my perspective, “Camp Claremont” paints CMC as a summer camp: a place to have four years of non-stop fun paid for by your parents’ quarter-million, an 8-semester avoidance of the real world complete with maintenance staff to clean your room and make your bed. That is not the college I want to attend. I want to attend the college that prioritizes academics and encourages scholarly dedication, the college that markets itself as a place to learn and become a responsible adult, the college that recognizes the hardships and struggles of its students and does not paint them all as “happy campers.” I want to attend the college that does not take for granted the opportunity for personal and intellectual growth that these four years constitute.
This is not meant to be an attack on the Admissions department, on CMC, or on its students. Rather, it is an attempt to begin a dialogue about our school’s culture, priorities, and the way we present ourselves to others and to new students. It is also an attempt to portray CMC as a real place—a real, amazing, difficult, inspiring, overwhelming, and enriching place where we relax and have fun but also struggle, push ourselves, succeed, fail, and experience all the ups and downs of real life.