By Evelyn Gonzalez ‘18 & Maureen Cowhey ‘19 Staff Writers
With Alexa Muniz ‘16 & Pam Ng ‘16 Guest Contributors
On Wednesday Nov. 11, CMCers of Color called their community and allies to action to demand more support for marginalized students at Claremont McKenna College. Their action took place on the porch of the Hub Cafe, where former Dean of Students Mary Spellman had originally planned to hold office hours. At the demonstration, CMCers of Color listed their grievances, shared personal experiences with institutionalized racism at the College, restated their demands to the community at large, outlined their efforts of the past eight months, and publicly called out former Dean Spellman and President Chodosh to make a formal commitment to follow through with these demands of the previous months.
A separate event focusing on advancing Black students occurred on Thursday Nov. 12. On this day, over a thousand students gathered in front of the Honnold/Mudd Library to march across the Claremont Colleges in the #MillionStudentMarch. This mass action was in tandem with similar marches on college campuses all across the nation calling for free tuition, more resources for marginalized students, and solidarity to the Black community. As the timing coincided with incidences of anti-black racism both nationally and globally, specifically at Mizzou, Yale, and in South Africa, the march for the Claremont Colleges, organized by Black students of the consortium, was in solidarity specifically with Black students’ struggle.
The event called for students of color at the 5Cs and their allies to wear black all day in order to mourn the violence and oppression that Black students experience in many educational institutions and throughout society. According to the event’s Facebook page the march was to show that “we will not stand by as countless institutions and administrations fail to act in the face of gross injustice. We refuse to be your silent, respectable markers of diversity.”
That same afternoon of the Claremont #MillionStudentMarch, Scripps students used the momentum created by both the CMCers of Colors’ demonstration outside the Hub and the march to put pressure on Dean Charlotte Johnson at her extended office hours. They utilized this time in order to express their own concerns about the current campus climate and recent racist incidents. Students wrote demands in an effort to hold the administration accountable for not only supporting the efforts of CMCers of Color, but to also acknowledge the many ways Scripps, too, is complicit in institutional violence and the silencing of marginalized students. In particular, students pointed out the lack of accountability on the administration’s part to publicly acknowledge and follow through on the requests that leaders of SCORE Clorgs presented earlier this semester at the Board of Trustees meeting on the needs of their communities -- needs which have been discussed time and time again.
Their hope was ultimately to have Dean Johnson sign the demands without conditions that would change their intended meaning and impact.
Those demands drafted were as follows:
Dean Charlotte Johnson,
We as a community ask that you honor the following list of demands:
1. Active/formal commitment to solidarity with CMCers of color by pressuring their administration to meet the demands proposed (attached) on the terms of of color. THis formal commitment must use explicit language that will not erase the oppression of people of color, meaning that the words “racist,” “racism,” and “institutional violence” should be present.
2. We demand a letter to the community that explicitly acknowledges that a Scripps student was involved in the racist cultural appropriation that happened.
a) State how Dean of Students held this student accountable, so that people know that DOS will hold students accountable for racist incidents, as well as the process of which it happens
3. We demand semesterly written progress reports on all recommendations that Scripps Students of Color recommended at the Board of Trustees report back
a) For example is faculty/staff training.
We expect a written letter out to the community that acknowledges all of these demands within the next seven days. Thank you for your consideration.
Members of the Scripps community
Dean Johnson made some changes in language to the demands and an amendment to section 2a since she is not at liberty to discuss specifics about students cases, and agreed to speak generally about the ways in which students are educated and held accountable for racist incidents.
Throughout the night, the Scripps community helped support students that were in it for the long haul. Hot drinks were provided by the Motley (which also provided a safe space for student of color at different times throughout the week), Admissions lent out sleeping bags to keep students warm, and Scripps students brought assorted snacks and food for everyone to share. Alexa Muniz ‘16, who was involved with the demonstration, said, “It was a beautiful collective effort of the Scripps community and just the beginning of what needs to be done.”
At the end of 2.5 hours of talking to numerous students, Dean Johnson emerged from her office, signed demands in hand, and acknowledged the multitude of students that were there in support of this initiative.
The following day, Friday Nov. 12, Interim President Amy Marcus-Newhall signed a second list of demands after students of color and allies worked with her for 2.5 hours. Both President Marcus-Newhall and Dean Johnson will be releasing official statements in response to these interactions by Friday, Nov. 21.
These movements are more than isolated events-- they illustrate the power that student solidarity and organization can have to fight for change within various institutions.