Pitzer Senate Debates Proposed Nudity Resolution

Would impressionable prospective students be put off if they
caught a glimpse of naked Pitzer College students lounging in the grass? Could a
clothing-optional campus create an uncomfortable workplace for staff members? These are some of the questions the Pitzer Student Senate must grapple with as it
further debates a resolution, proposed March 9, that would allow for clothing-optional spaces on

Braden Holstege PZ ’14, a senator who opposes the policy recommendation, expressed concerns about how public nudity could affect college staff.

“If you
look at the demographics of the staff at Pitzer, they’re likely to be older,
more conservative, and more religious, and for all of those reasons, be much
less comfortable with nudity,” he said.

He emphasized the asymmetry of power dynamics between students and staff members. 

“If you are a
staff member, particularly a staff member who may be a little lower on the pay
grade, the idea that you would then be able to affirmatively ask a group of
students to put on clothing? I just don’t see that realistically being
something that would occur,” he said. “You’re taking people who have been at the college
longer than most students and making them uncomfortable.”

Harry Johnson PZ ’14, the senator who proposed the resolution, said that staff members and visitors to the
campus could remain “comfortable at all times” because nudity would be heavily
restricted during daytime hours, when most staff members are on campus. He stressed that the policy aims to increase
awareness of nude-friendly spaces, making it easier for those uncomfortable with nudity to avoid those spaces. 

No staff members have been consulted about the proposed policy change as part of the debate in the Senate, Holstege said. 

Johnson said that implementing the policy would make the Pitzer Student Handbook clearer. 

“Right now, people cannot know when they are
breaking rules in the mounds,” he said. 

During several forums hosted by the Senate, students expressed concerns that the policy could damage Pitzer’s image and drive away prospective students, a possibility that Angel Perez, vice president and dean of admission and financial aid, also discussed. 

guarantee you that if families come to visit and students are naked, that is
the only thing they will remember about Pitzer,” Perez wrote in an email to TSL. “While this should not be
the reason to vote for or against the proposed policy, it is something to
seriously consider.”

Jones, a Cambridge University student who is studying in Claremont for a year as the Pomona College Downing Scholar, said that a clothing-optional policy would not have deterred him from applying to spend a year at the 5Cs.
However, he said other prospective international students might be “put off.”

“Given it would be in a restricted area, you
would always have the choice to avoid it if you wanted to, and I think that’s a
very important distinction that’s currently being made,” Jones said.

Pitzer tours do not avoid the mounds, where the majority of public nudity takes
place, according to Perez. He wrote that he did not expect
“negative feedback” from alumni in response to a change in Pitzer’s clothing policy. 

Johnson said that public sightings of nearly nude Pitzer students are not uncommon, especially on the mounds. Holstege said that he has never seen fully nude students in public, however. Pitzer officially prohibits nudity in its dining hall. 

The resolution will not have any direct impact on Pitzer’s clothing policy, but if it is passed, the policy change will be recommended to the Office of Student Affairs. The resolution calls for members of the Office of Student Affairs to work with two members of the Student Senate to review the clothing policy. 

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