As of Sunday, April 23, nearly 1,000 people from the 5C community have signed a petition for Claremont McKenna College’s Board of Trustees to reconsider their rejection of the proposed Race and Ethnic Studies General Education (GE) Requirement. The petition was initially created by the Racial GE Group, which consists of CMC students and faculty that support the GE requirement denied in October 2022.
On Thursday, April 20, President Chodosh explained to CMC students via email that the Board of Trustees rejected the GE proposal for being “insufficiently strong” and “not hav[ing] a U.S. focus.” He also alleges that beyond GE requirements, the introductory courses offered at CMC “have increasingly strong treatments of race and ethnicity in the US.”
The Board of Trustees returned the GE proposal to the faculty with recommendations to change elements of the curriculum. But many 5C students and faculty did not agree that the existing proposal was in need of changes. Natasha Naomi CM ’25, a leader of the African Students Association (ASA), added that the Board of Trustees should not have the authority to request those changes.
“I understand the financial power of [the Board],” Naomi said “But I don’t see how a board of people who don’t look like us, who haven’t lived our lives [and] who don’t share similar experiences as ours are creating policy that directly impacts our lives. Do these people understand or step outside of their privileges to see who they’re talking to?”
Following Chodosh’s email, two CMC professors who initially began working on the proposal for the GE in 2020, Gaston Espinosa and Daniel Livesay, hosted an event for students and faculty advocating for the GE requirement. The proposal was sent to faculty for approval in April 2022 and approved by a majority vote prior to its rejection by the Board of Trustees this year.
After Espinosa and Livesay’s event, the professors called for a meeting with the Board of Trustees to discuss the GE requirement, but they did not receive a response.
This event followed a statement written by affinity group leaders at CMC demanding increased institutional support for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) students, including the addition of the GE requirement, published on Friday, April 14.
The member of one of the affinity groups who authored the statement, which has asked TSL to remain anonymous so as to speak freely about the CMC administration, alleges that Chodosh’s justification of race already being taught in introductory courses at CMC is false.
“A lot of the GE[s] that are in place don’t cover anything that has to do with race,” one of the members of the affinity group said. “To put out a blunt statement that says economics, psychology, et cetera, is covering race is just absolutely absurd. There have been many students who can come and attest that race has never been brought up in their class.”
The affinity group also said that the Board’s suggestion to expand the GE from its proposed five-week curriculum to a 15-week curriculum is a strategy to make the GE less likely to be passed.
“They say that [the five-week period] wasn’t enough time as a scapegoat not to pass it,” another member of the affinity group said. “It creates a divide in [a] sense. [So, they say,] ‘Let’s put this [as] 15 weeks. We’re putting it out to be more likable because it’s longer than the five weeks … even though we know it’s not feasible.’”
For many 5C students, CMC’s Board of Trustees and their rejection of the GE is symptomatic of an ongoing failure to meet the needs of their students of color, even when they are publicly expressed. Naomi pointed to the recent February ASCMC social life meeting as just another example of the CMC administration’s negligence.
“None of these conversations, these requests, are new. Our grievances and our statements have been coming out since 2015. It has become so normalized,” Naomi said. “This institution has profited so much off of our silence and trauma that … I’ve just gotten used to going through it.”