Why I'm Still Proud of My College

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.