Despite widespread faculty support, CMC president delays Racial-Ethnic GE proposal

Several CMC students walk to class from Bauer Center.
CMC is one of the two Claremont Colleges to not have a race and ethnicity general education requirement. (Jonathan Ke • The Student Life)

Professors at Claremont McKenna College began working on a Racial-Ethnic General Education (GE) proposal following George Floyd’s murder and the subsequent nationwide Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. But, two years later, the fate of whether the GE will be implemented remains uncertain.

CMC faculty voted April 14 to approve the GE, after which the proposal should have been sent to the Board of Trustees to be voted on, according to faculty bylaws. However, CMC president Hiram Chodosh did not recommend the proposal to the board. Instead, he sent it back to the faculty with proposed edits, with a suggested Oct. 15 deadline.

During a Monday meeting, an ASCMC representative shared that the Faculty Diversity Committee voted Sept. 16 to “recommend that the original proposal that passed be sent to the Board of Trustees,” without the edits. 

Chodosh’s decision came as a shock to some faculty, particularly CMC professors Gaston Espinosa of religious studies and Daniel Livesay of history, who proposed the GE. In an Aug. 8 email to students, both professors expressed disappointment with the president’s response in a joint-statement, after what Livesay called a “historic” consensus among faculty. 

“It’s unprecedented for a president not to take a faculty-approved proposal to the board for a vote,” Espinosa said. 

In a statement sent to TSL, Michelle Chamberlain, the vice president for advancement and dean of the Robert Day Scholars program, said the Board of Trustees’ “overarching concern” with the proposal was the high number of GEs already required at the college.

Chodosh handed the proposal back to faculty with instructions to “develop a full set of parallel, alternative and non-exclusive recommendations” for the curriculum without increasing the number of GEs.

The proposed GE would be an overlay course, meaning it could count towards multiple GE credits. In order for a course to satisfy this requirement, it would need four to five weeks of instruction time discussing racism, the social construction of race and ethnicity and/or the intellectual contributions of racial-ethnic minorities. 

CMC requires students to take nine to 14 GE courses, not including overlays while also depending on students’ major. Scripps College requires 10 to 13 courses; Pitzer College requires 11; Pomona College requires seven to 10 and Harvey Mudd College requires 10

Currently, CMC and Harvey Mudd are the only two 5Cs without a racial and cultural understanding requirement. 

“We’re sort of behind most of our peer institutions that have this requirement already,”  Livesay said. 

The GE went through two years of development, including nine faculty meetings and three student meetings, according to Espinosa and Livesay’s email. Over 60 people were involved in shaping the proposal, which was met with “faculty support from across the ideological spectrum,” Livesay said.

The proposal also would not disrupt the graduation track for students currently enrolled at CMC. Only students that enter CMC after the proposal is finalized would be subject to the new requirement, Livesay said. 

Espinosa and Livesay said in their email that Chodosh’s proposed changes served to “dilute the exclusive focus of this GE on race-ethnicity and ultimately kill this proposal by not recommending to the Board that it vote on it.”

Chamberlain said that Chodosh “looks forward to working with the faculty, student body and the Board of Trustees to find ways to meet the important objectives of the proposal and respond to expressed concerns.”

Next week, ASCMC is hosting two forums with Chodosh, Espinosa and Livesay that will include pre-written questions presented by student representatives along with an open forum.

Livesay and Espinosa both said the next step is to present the GE proposal to the Board of Trustees directly. According to ASCMC, the Board of Trustees is set to discuss the proposal sometime in the next two weeks.

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