Many identity-based groups on the 5Cs are splitting into smaller and more specific groups either by gender or by ethnicity, revealing both the desire to have more directly targeted events and resources as well as the challenges of garnering interest from the wider student body.
There are over 30 student-run organizations, in addition to the resource centers with hired staff, across the 7Cs. Each year, new groups form in attempts to provide safe spaces and communities for the varied background of Claremont students. However, due to the extensive options for minority students, certain groups struggle to maintain consistent member participation.
For example, consider the case of a self-identifying Chinese-American queer student at Scripps College. This student would have the option to become a mentor at the Queer, Questioning, and Allied Mentor Program or the Asian American Sponsor Program (AASP); an intern at the Asian American Resource Center (AARC) or at the Scripps Communities of Resources and Empowerment (SCORE); a member of the Queer/Straight Alliance at Scripps, called FAMILY, or of the Queer People of Color (QPOC); a member of the Asian American Student Union (AASU), or the Alliance, or the Chinese Student Organization. Although many students attempt to juggle involvement with multiple organizations, they also noted that it can be hard to maintain a deep connection with all of the groups that they might want to be involved in.
The solution for many clubs to recruit, keep members involved, and reach out to the wider community is to collaborate with other groups on campus. EKTA, the South Asian resource group at the 5Cs, regularly works with other groups to put on events. “We help the Hindu Society with Diwali, Bollywood with their annual show Sanskriti, and we help organize the bi-annual parties hosted by the Brown Brotherhood,” said EKTA officer Anshu Shah CMC ’15.
“You cannot have an Asian-American organization at Scripps, on any campus, or in any site in the country, where the group does not actively collaborate with other groups, because that is essentially the basis of Asian-American politics: coalition building,” said Victoria Wong SC ’14, co-head mentor of AASP.
In addition, many of the student-run mentor programs are able to gain more campus support by maintaining ties with the staffed resource centers.
Raemi Thomas SC ’16, president of the Wanawake Weusi, a group for Scripps women of African descent, said, “We usually have a joint program with the OBSA [Office of Black Student Affairs] for Ujima Mentors, where first-years can have a black student mentor if they choose to identify as black on their application. We also reach out to them for resources and go to their events” Thomas said.
“Since we are housed in the SCORE office, Wanawake also traditionally collaborates with the Scripps resource groups Café Con Leche and FAMILY,” Thomas said. Café Con Leche is a group based at Scripps that discusses social justices issues, particularly those that affect Latina women.
Many organizations wish to see more specifically targeted resources on campus for the wide expanse of identities that exist on the 7Cs.
For example, when the Latina women who are involved with Empowered Latin@s in Action (ELA) realized that many of the male members of ELA were also members of the Claremont Caballeros, a separate gender-based group that was similarly targeting Hispanic students, their response, according to Angeles Contreras PO ’15, was “Well, what about the ladies?” Contreras and her friends gathered self-identifying Latina women from across the campus and formed the group Las Claremont Señoritas, a program that exists alongside ELA. Contreras and her friends are now members of both ELA and Las Claremont Señoritas.
“It’s a social network, trying to get all the Latinas to get to know each other across the 5C’s … and the other part is personal character development,” Contreras said. “We have technically 40 members, but about half of those are actually committed and active.”
Another group, Building Leaders On Campus (BLOC), has also expressed interest in creating a gender-equivalent group. Williams said that what was missing on the 5Cs is, “a women’s version of what BLOC is. If a women’s chapter of a sisterhood-esque organization existed that would be ideal.”
Not every group feels as if they are vying for the attention of students. When asked about competition between groups for members, Gervais Marsh PO ’15, president of the Caribbean Students Organization, noted, “There is some competition for the commitment of members, particularly because the majority of people from the Caribbean are people of color and may be a part of another organization on campus that provides a community for those of their particular racial identity. However, we are the only Caribbean students organization at the 5C’s, so we hope that lets us stand out in the crowd.”
“We don’t feel as if we are competing for members necessarily,” wrote Vivian Pham SC ’15, head of Queer People of Color (QPOC), in an email to TSL. “On the contrary, we reach out to other groups on campus to gather more members and think collaboratively about how we want the organization to run. We are not trying to make a name for one particular demographic; we are trying to create a space to celebrate overlapping identities.”
Like Marsh, many leaders from other specific resource groups said that their specialized target demographics often bring together a strong core group which sustains their presence at the 5Cs. “We believe AASU does not compete for membership, as we occupy a different niche to other organizations on campus. We focus less on programming and are more of a support space,” Nicole Chan SC ’14, a member of AASU, said.
“We have a pretty active core group of members, though it can be hard to recruit speakers for some of our panel events over the course of the year. Generally for what we do, we haven’t had many problems, though we’re always looking for more students to join,” said Colin Belanger PO ’14 of the 5C Mental Health Alliance.
Despite the expansive list of resources on campus, students of the Claremont Colleges are always looking to grow, make students feel welcome, and find a niche that fits on campus.