HMC Administration Addresses Student Demands After Sit-In

After popular Harvey Mudd College Associate Dean of Health and Wellness Qutayba Abdullatif was placed on paid administrative leave Tuesday, more than 100 students staged an eight hour sit-in in the Platt Courtyard Wednesday and presented a list of demands to the administration. The sit-in also comes after an external report describing HMC’s burdensome and taxing curriculum was leaked to HMC students.

“Inadequate support of mental health for students on Mudd's campus has been an ongoing issue for years,” the event’s Facebook page read. “While the forced leave of Dean Q is definitely the catalyst behind this sit-in, the demonstration seeks to address the larger systemic issues of the administration exercising their power to obscure the truth and failing to adequately support mental health resources at Mudd.”

HMC President Maria Klawe spoke to the demonstrators two different times — once to address the list of demands, and again after a brief emergency meeting of the Board of Trustees to present a proposal, according to sit-in participant Jess Wang HM ’18.

Wang did not think Klawe was effective in her communication with students at the sit-in.

“I do not think she understands how to talk to students or millennials,” Wang wrote in a message to TSL, “or how to talk like a leader.”

Still, some of the protesters’ demands were met. Dean of Students Jon Jacobsen emailed students that afternoon, promising $1,500 for each student diversity group next year, the release of the Division of Student Affairs’ budget by April 21, and a “proposal for increases to on-campus health and wellness personnel as well as increased funding for [accessing] off-campus resources for the 2017-18 year” by April 19.

Wang did not think HMC went far enough, however.

“Honestly, I think that we’ve been complaining for so long and every time we are promised transparency and every time it takes so long and nothing gets done,” she wrote. “Because really, the only concrete thing on there is $1,500 more for affinity groups. The rest is ‘let’s wait and see how people react to this proposal.’”

At an emergency faculty meeting Thursday, Klawe agreed to faculty members’ proposal to cancel class April 17 and 18, to “prevent further deterioration of the situation on campus, to provide time and space for interactions that may help to heal divisions within our community, [and] to demonstrate our empathy for students’ concerns,” according to an email from engineering professor Patrick Little.

HMC Chief Communications Officer Tim Hussey declined to comment on the sit-in, the pledged allocation of funding, or the removal of Abdullatif, writing in an email to TSL only that HMC “cannot comment on personnel matters.”

Abdullatif, who is now under investigation by HMC, released a document sent to him by Vice President for Administration Andrew Dorantes about the terms of his paid administrative leave — which include prohibiting Abdullatif from visiting campus or speaking with HMC students. Details and rumors have been widely-circulated among the student body.

“The President and the President’s Cabinet have recently become aware of concerns that you may have taken certain actions inconsistent with the role and responsibilities of your position at HMC; undermined the credibility and effectiveness of the Division of Student Affairs in serving and working with students, faculty, and staff; and undermined the ability of [Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services] to be the principal counseling resource for our students,” the letter read.

“In addition,” the letter added, “your relationship with MCAPS has deteriorated to the point where Denise Hayes, Vice President for Student Affairs for the Claremont University Consortium, has asked for the second time in four months that HMC appoint another person to be the College’s liaison because they can no longer work cooperatively or constructively with you.”

Though Abdullatif at times throughout the past few days appeared as though he would respond to the letter and his removal from campus, he eventually concluded in a Facebook post that he could not.

“I was advised that I am not allowed to communicate with current HMC students nor am I allowed to defend myself regardless of how much information I have,” a post on his Facebook account read.

Wang said she wouldn’t be surprised if his relationship with workers at MCAPS had deteriorated, or if he had violated students’ confidentiality — another allegation that has circulated among students.

Regardless, Wang, like other students, felt that Abdullatif had the students’ best interests in mind.

“In all honesty, I think MCAPS is bullshit,” she wrote. “Appointments with MCAPS [are] built into Harvey Mudd tuition, but it takes weeks to get appointments with them and they really don’t help a lot of students that go there. And Dean Q has had, on multiple occasions, to call and tell them to see a student right away.

“Dean Q was sick and tired of things being covered up, [the Office of Health and Wellness] not being funded,” Wang added. “His entire career here was a fight, a fight for funding, for power, for the students.”