CMC Meditation Program Meets Backlash Over Participation Restrictions

Despite backlash from conservative students and media, a Claremont McKenna College research study on victims of racism will continue. The program is comprised of a weekly ‘compassionate meditation’ session held by the Cultural Influences on Mental Health Center within the Claremont McKenna Psychology Department.

The program was announced to the student body in a Jan. 26 email from Claremont McKenna Assistant Dean of Diversity and Inclusion Vince Greer. The email read: “The Cultural Influences on Mental Health Center at CMC is offering a FREE 8-week compassionate meditation program for ethnic minority students to learn how to heal from racism and race-related incidents.”

It added, students must identify as an ethnic minority, must have experienced race-related stress, and must have attended one of the Claremont Colleges for at least one semester.”

The research program quickly came under fire from some students within the colleges and a few conservative media sites, such as the Daily Caller and Heat Street. 

Headlines about the program included “CMC Funds Racially Exclusive Program to Fight Racism” (The Claremont Independent), “Claremont McKenna College Funds New Race Program Excluding White Students” (Heat Street) and “Ritzy Private College Offers MINORITIES-ONLY MEDITATION to Heal ‘Race-Related Stress’" (Daily Caller). None of these articles mentioned that the program is a research study.

Students who criticized the program mainly pointed to its restrictions on enrollment based on ethnicity and race-related experiences. Shawn McFall CM ’18, the president of the Claremont College Republicans, told the Independent, “I find it disturbing that school funding is supporting a cause which excludes the majority of CMC students. Too many school programming centers which claim to represent and foster diversity have become mere tools for exclusion.”

CMC Dean of Faculty Peter Uvin responded to some of these criticisms by highlighting that this is not a “stand-alone student service program" and made clear that it was not a CARE Center program.

“This is a cutting-edge research study,” he said.

In addition to attending the weekly meditation sessions, participating students will be asked to provide feedback in the form of weekly questionnaires and three longer questionnaires at the beginning, middle, and end of the program. Their answers will be used for psychological research purposes. The program started at the beginning of February and will run until the end of March.

The program comes not much more than a year after protests erupted at CMC’s campus that forced the dean of students to resign and resulted in other institutional changes, including the creation of the CARE Center and administrative and student representatives of diversity and inclusion.