Keckxit updates: CMC faculty backs decision, Pitzer receives $3 million donation

Claremont McKenna College’s faculty backed the school’s decision to leave its joint science department with Scripps College and Pitzer College at a recent meeting. (Elinor Aspegren • The Student Life)

Claremont McKenna College’s faculty overwhelmingly voted to pursue the college’s plan to withdraw from the Keck Science Department last week.

The faculty voted 68-11 to leave the department, which is shared between CMC, Scripps College and Pitzer College, according to Keck biology professor Sarah Budischak, who wrote the numbers down at the faculty meeting.

The vote was made after a careful and deliberative process that fleshed out a vision for CMC’s new independent science department, according to Keck chemistry professor Nancy Williams, who was at the meeting.

CMC’s announcement in October that it was leaving Keck shocked students and faculty, but many have since come on board because of the faculty-centered process of separation.

Williams said via email that the majority of Keck professors will remain in the current department, rather than joining CMC’s new one.

The faculty vote Friday “was not really a vote for CMC to leave Keck” but rather a faculty endorsement of the vision for CMC’s science department and an opportunity to address the concerns of faculty who weighed in on the process, Williams said.

Following CMC’s announcement, Pitzer and Scripps have continued their commitment to expanding the physical Keck building, which will cost $65 million. Scripps and Pitzer will pay roughly equal amounts, Pitzer dean of faculty Nigel Boyle told TSL in February.

To help with the costs, Pitzer recently received a $3 million donation from the Pitzer Family Foundation — a philanthropic organization created by a relative of Pitzer founder Russell Pitzer — that has been earmarked for the project.

“The Pitzer family is proud to endorse the expansion of science education at Pitzer College,” the foundation wrote in a statement. “We believe the new science building is integral to the vision of Pitzer College set forth by President [Melvin] Oliver, and we look forward to the project’s successful completion.”

PFF previously donated $1 million to Keck in April 2017.

The Keck expansion will include a new building and the hiring of more tenure-track faculty to decrease the department’s reliance on visiting professors, Boyle said via email.

Boyle said the PFF donation will help the colleges kickstart the expansion.

“It’s a big capital project for Pitzer, but the PFF donation gets us off to a flying start, and the pipeline for Keck gifts is looking good,” he said.

Williams said the initial Keckxit announcement was painful and “not handled as well as it should have been” but thinks the separation will be beneficial for both programs in the long run.

“I think both science programs are going to be stronger than the old one was, because the two groups of faculty and staff are going to be able to do so much more for the student scientists of Pitzer, Scripps and [CMC] than we have been able to before now,” she said.

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