On Thursday, April 20, Claremont McKenna College President Hiram Chodosh emailed the community with a response to an April 14 statement, authored by a collective of affinity groups including the Black Student Association (BSA), Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA) and Asian Pacific American Mentoring Program (APAM). The statement calls on Chodosh, the Board of Trustees, ASCMC and the greater CMC community for increased institutional support for BIPOC students.
“We cannot thrive on CMC’s campus,” the affinity statement, which was addressed to CMC’s administration, says. “We are not valued at CMC. We are not heard or seen nor respected.
In his response, Chodosh encouraged further communication and stressed the importance of establishing foundations of mutual respect and understanding.
“I know that written words alone cannot fully address your concerns. Nonetheless, this response may help to inform both our direct discussions and effective remedies for the many issues you raise,” Chodosh said. “I am committed to working with ASCMC and you to enhance our joint communication and look forward to scheduling that opportunity to meet with you at your earliest convenience.”
The affinity group statement came three years after Chodosh’s announcement of the Presidential Initiative on Anti-Racism and the Black Experience in America, following the murder of George Floyd on June 18, 2020. According to the affinity group statement, the goals outlined by Chodosh in this initiative have not been met by the college. The student statement condemns the college for performative allyship and for failing on-campus communities. It calls for increased social, financial and academic support via six specific demands:
- Addition of a substantial Racial-Ethnic General Education (GE) requirement
- Creation of affinity group spaces
- Increased financial support
- Inclusion of board members representative of BIPOC students at decision-making tables
- Increased affinity group funding
- Support for Black international students
The statement delves into further detail for each demand, citing examples of a lack of institutional support such as the dissatisfaction of students, faculty and staff in the 2022 Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium survey.
“It is clear that [CMC] has, in very serious ways, regressed in its commitment to antiracism and service to its Black community,” the statement said.
Chodosh responded to the affinity group statement in a letter to the authors and wider CMC community. He clarified that he doesn’t respond to demands but will answer questions.
“The College is committed to removing any and all barriers that keep students, faculty, and staff from taking full advantage of and contributing to our mission,” Chodosh said in his statement. “This does not mean we always satisfy, or can ever be fully satisfied in, the full realization of our values and commitments.”
Chodosh said the initiative, which began in June 2020, and the work leading up to it, have had a deep impact on the college. He said the COVID-19 pandemic hindered students’ abilities to feel these changes substantially on campus.
“Unfortunately, we were not in residence for the first 18 months of the initiative, and we lost a significant level of social memory and continuity that has been difficult to restore,” he said. “That has undermined the availability and retention of key information about the progress we have made and the work underway.”
Chodosh also rejected the affinity groups’ demand for the creation of safe spaces for BIPOC students in his email.
“The provision of dedicated, exclusive space for affinity groups is not a sustainable or effective response or solution to the source of the behavior that creates the underlying need,” he said.
Instead, Chodosh said there are plans to increase seating capacity in the CARE center, and that additional campus space in the Heggblade annex is available on a reservation basis. He also said ongoing, permanent student-centric space needs are under “constant consideration” in long-term master planning.
In response to the demand for a Racial-Ethnic GE, Chodosh said he shares the affinity groups’ sense of urgency in introducing these requirements, but said the Board of Trustees has rejected past proposals for being “insufficiently strong” and lacking a U.S. focus.
“Beyond the GE requirements, our introductory courses in economics, government, psychology and other disciplines have increasingly strong treatments of race and ethnicity in the US,” Chodosh said. “Beyond introductory courses, our majors increasingly ensure, as appropriate, the incorporation of learning objectives on a wide variety of social divisions within their requirements.”