Ye Olde TSL: In 1975, Students Protest Cuts to Black Studies and Chicano Studies Programs

A 1975 issue of The Student Life, showing an image of students protesting.

On Thursday, Nov. 12, hundreds of students from the Claremont Colleges marched across the campuses for a dual purpose: to act in solidarity with Black student movements across the country, and to protest the lack of institutional support for students of color at Claremont McKenna College. Looking through our archives, TSL found this photograph from the first week of a similar protest in 1975. This week’s protest—and the simultaneous debate over the colleges’ demonstration policies—are part of a long history of student activism.

Forty years ago, budget cuts to the Black Studies Center and Chicano Studies Center prompted students and community members to stage a rally on Walker Beach, pictured here. (The photographer is facing Bixby Plaza and the Clark III residence hall on Pomona College’s campus.)

In April 1975, the Claremont University Consortium’s Council of Presidents voted to deny funding for the continuation of pre-first-year summer orientation programs, a decision which, according to TSL‘s April 29 article, the protestors labelled “a symptom of the prevailing attitude that exists whenever (sic) the Chicano Studies Center is concerned.”

The protests continued for weeks. On May 5, 1975, students supporting the centers took over the Pendleton Business Building. Mark Curtis, president of Scripps College and the chairman of the Council of Presidents, threatened the protestors with arrest: “‘Clear out or there will be a court order,’ he shouted before leaving the scene.”

On May 14, 1975, TSL reported that representatives from the BSC and CSC “submitted revised pre-freshman summer programs proposals for the summer of 1975” to the Council of  Presidents. The proposals also included provisions for faculty positions in both centers.

“In a Monday afternoon session,” the article continues, “the Council of Presidents accepted the proposal in bulk but called for several revisions. Only the CMC representative vetoed the pre-freshman summer programs proposal.”

Two weeks later, TSL reported that two Pomona College juniors who had participated in the takeover of the Pendleton building were found innocent of “participating in an obstructive demonstration” by the college’s Judiciary Council.

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