ASCMC Senate Expresses Support for Marginalized Students

The Associated Students of Claremont McKenna College (ASCMC) Senate passed a resolution Nov. 23 affirming support for CMC students from marginalized identities in response to a Nov. 16 letter published by CMCers of Color and four other affinity groups in the wake of recent protests regarding race on campus.  

The Nov. 16 letter, which was signed by CMCers of Color, Brothers and Sisters Alliance (BSA), Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA), Asian Pacific American Mentors (APAM), and GenU, a support group for first-generation students, asked that the administration establish a permanent resource center for students of marginalized identies and hire two diversity positions, "one for students, one for faculty." The letter also provided examples of instances at CMC when students experienced marginalization due to the actions of faculty, administrators or students.

Thomas Schalke CM ’18, a member of Senate and SAGA, drafted the resolution. He said that ASCMC decided that the resolution should express support for the sentiments of the movement rather than the specific action plans that have come out of the movement, in order to avoid "disagreements about individual proposals."

"I think that one of the main complaints that was raised by the CMCers of Color movement and their allies…was that voices weren’t being heard and that there wasn’t space and recognition of difficulties students were facing," Schalke said. "And so I felt that, in conjunction with the other steps that ASCMC and the college as a whole are taking to try to address the issues about marginalized identities…there should be a recognition of the emotions and personal experiences of students.”

Kevin Covarrubias CM ’18, an organizer in CMCers of Color, said that the resolution passed “by a very slim vote."

“The bill came from various conversations dealing with race, diversity, and inclusion at CMC,” Covarrubias said. “This has been an ongoing conversation for months. ASCMC has only recently been receptive to the demands and criticisms that the CMCers of Color movement has raised about the community at CMC.”

Denys Reyes CM ’16, another organizer of CMCers of Color, said that the effort was "spearheaded by ASCMC Senate."

"We are really happy that this happened,” Reyes said, “ASCMC’s response has been overwhelmingly good.”

Covarrubias said that the bill barely passed because some students criticized the movement for suppressing the freedom of speech, which “has not been the intention."

“Freedom of speech and political correctness are really two sides of the same coin,” Covarrubias said. “Political correctness really gives a voice to marginalized students that didn’t have a voice in the first place. So to say that political correctness suppresses freedom of speech is a little misguided in my opinion.”

After the Senate meeting on Nov. 23, ASCMC announced the creation of a diversity and inclusion chair, a new position on the ASCMC Executive Board. The chair responsibilities include organizing programming for affinity groups; acting as a liaison between administration, faculty, students and ASCMC; and promoting diversity and inclusion at CMC. According to its job description, the chair will work in conjunction with a committee on diversity and inclusion.

“ASCMC as an institution is very strongly committed to making institutional change to address issues that have been in the past," Schalke said.

Schalke added that ASCMC has already received multiple applications for the position.

“We are hoping to see that members of our coalition apply for it as we believe that we are best fit to serve in that capacity,” Covarrubias said. “We are willing to work with the rest of CMC to heal the community.”

According to Reyes, CMCers of Color were involved in discussions about crafting the position and drafting the job description, which were organized by ASCMC Vice President Iris Liu CM '16. Reyes also said that a member of CMCers of Color will serve on the Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

“It shows the administration that as the student body, we are doing literally above and beyond what we should be doing for marginalized students on campus,” Reyes said. “This movement has overwhelming support, at least in terms of its goals. The administration needs to act in concrete ways and hold true to their promises.”

According to Reyes, “the issue hasn’t been really talked about by the administration in a formal capacity,” and words such as “racism” and “discrimination” have not been mentioned in the administration's emails to students.

“The administration is trying to save as much of CMC’s reputation as possible, which makes sense, but when you have students suffering, when you have students in pain, and you have an administration trying to silence and delegitimize people’s experiences, that’s just wrong,” Covarrubias said. “It says a lot about their priorities. We should be asking the administration for more. They haven’t done enough. They can do a lot better.”

According to Reyes, “a number of proposals” presented to the adminsitraiton by CMCers of Color have yet to be addressed, such as increasing tenure opportunities for faculty of color and LGBTQ faculty and creating a general education program to educate students on societal, historical, and cultural understandings of privilege and marginalization.

Covarrubias emphasized the need for a resource center, where people can “share experiences” and have “uncomfortable conversations."

ASCMC “needs to get behind funding for the diversity center,” Covarrubias said.

“They need to hold President Chodosh, Dean [of Faculty Peter] Uvin, faculty all accountable for representing us, and enabling these conversations to happen,” he said.

Covarrubias wrote in an email to TSL that members of CMCers of Color met with the Board of Trustees on the afternoon of Dec. 3 to give the Board "an overview of the movement, including a timeline of recent events and proposed next steps."

Lauren Ison contributed reporting.