Diversity Committee Representatives Respond to Accessibility Proposals

After presidents from each of the 5Cs traveled to the White House on Jan. 16 for a summit on accessibility in higher education, reactions to the conversations initiated at the summit have been mixed at the Claremont Colleges. 

“I’m really excited about the summit, especially about the talk of outreach into local
communities,” said Elena Cardenas PO ’16, Associated Students of Pomona College Commissioner of Community Relations and a student member of the
President’s Advisory Committee for Diversity. “It’s a very big statement
in a very public manner, saying that outreaching into our community is really important, because,
you know, it’s where we are; it’s something we are surrounded by.”

Although not directly responsible for implementing programs, each college’s diversity committee plays an important role in attempting to solve problems related to diversity around campus. The committees concentrate on the fair representation and treatment of minority groups, including groups that have disproportionately low access to liberal arts schools, such as the Claremont Colleges. 

A member of Claremont McKenna College’s diversity committee, accounting professor Ananda Ganguly, offered a different opinion on the value of the summit. 

“I don’t believe we needed the WH summit to be made aware of the problem [of accessibility],” Ganguly wrote in an email to TSL. “I
believe this statement may also be true of a lot of top-ranked expensive schools around the

“While the WH summit certainly highlights the problem, and
President [Hiram] Chodosh attended the summit and made a presentation at it, I believe we as a faculty
and as a community have been aware of the accessibility problem for a while, and have had a lot
of discussions at different levels,” he added. “Of course, that’s not to say that we have solved the problem, far
from it. But CMC’s ‘The Student Imperative’ initiative is aimed directly at that. We’ll have to see
how it turns out.”

The initiative aims to raise $100 million, which will be directed toward financial aid.

“However, if I may be provocative for a moment, I personally do not believe that higher education should become commoditized so that everybody in the country graduating from high school should be run through the cheapest possible program mill and get stamped with a degree,” Ganguly wrote. 

Diversity committee members said that there are different methodologies regarding the educational goals, primarily accessibility, that were discussed at the summit.

“There’s not one way of approaching making college more accessible, because there’s
always something that has to be made better,” Cardenas said. “From my perspective as an
international student, I would say it’s about reaching more into that global community. I think it
is very important for a college to have strong ties with its local community as well, though.”

Also discussed at the summit were the benefits of having a more diverse
college community.

Harvey Mudd College Vice
President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Maggie Browning wrote in an email to TSL that HMC seeks to increase diversity because “learning with
and from people from a variety of backgrounds fosters innovation and excellence.” 

“One must understand how
discrimination has shaped society,” she wrote. “Most HMC students will go on to work in
STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] fields, which have historically been unwelcoming to women and minorities.
We want to be sure that our students are well-equipped and inspired to change that.” 

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