Scripps College has implemented a number of initiatives to increase awareness of diversity on its campus after the Western Association of Schools and Colleges’s (WASC) most recent Capacity and Preparatory Review (CPR), which is still under review by the Scripps faculty, recommended that Scripps continue to emphasize diversity as an essential element. This comes after allegations of racial misconduct and discrimination in Scripps’s Core I seminars surfaced earlier this semester.
According to Amy Marcus-Newhall, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dean of the Faculty, and professor of psychology, Scripps has had a long-standing commitment to address issues of diversity on campus.
“One of the six top priorities of the Scripps College Strategic Plan, which was created in 2007, is diversity,” she said. “This is something we’ve been talking about for years, but we’re figuring out the implementation now.”
Marcus-Newhall said some major changes have already taken place, including the restructuring of Scripps’s Diversity Coordinating Committee (DCC), which is comprised of students, faculty, and staff who advise the president of the college on issues of diversity on campus.
“There is new leadership, with a new chair and vice-chair,” Marcus-Newhall said of the DCC. “We’re working on reconfiguring and reworking that committee to better serve the community.”
Marcus-Newhall also highlighted an initiative to organize faculty and student speakers during first-year orientation to discuss how dialogue takes place on campus around issues like race, class, and gender.
A focus on first-years seemed particularly relevant in light of a recent controversy that emerged last month over allegations of racist comments in Core I class discussions. On Oct. 20, The Scripps Voice reported “three discrete incidences of racist and classist comments being made—by students and professors alike—in Core I discussions.” Core I, the first of three required Core classes for Scripps students that focuses on interdisciplinary thought, is a seminar class taken by first-years in their first semester.
Although The Scripps Voice issued an apology Nov. 3 from the writer of the initial story, stating that “no charge of racism has been made,” some Scripps first-years continued to express wariness toward contributing to Core I discussions because of their racial demographic, despite not experiencing cases of overt racism firsthand.
“Students have expressed discomfort, and that’s a problem we need to address,” Marcus-Newhall said. “We want to be responsive to our students.”
On Friday, Oct. 21, Scripps students held a panel teach-in at the Motley Coffeehouse to share their personal experiences with their respective Scripps Communities of Resources and Empowerment (SCORE) organizations, as well as their experiences as Scripps students who do not identify as Caucasian. SCORE houses the offices of the Asian American Student Union (AASU), Café Con Leche, FAMILY, and Wanawake Weusi, four organization that provide support and resources to underrepresented students at Scripps. SCORE’s mission includes promoting dialogue on the intersectionality of race, class, ethnicity, gender identity, sexuality, sexual orientation, and religion.
According to Philosophy Professor and Director of the Core Program Dion Scott-Kakures, the Scripps faculty is aware of the controversy and is working to prevent it from happening again in the future.
“[Assistant Professor of American Studies Matthew Delmont] and I have met with SCORE groups to discuss the situation,” Scott-Kakures said. “Professor Delmont also volunteered to be the Core liaison to those groups so that we are better informed when difficult issues are raised and we can then talk about how to respond to them.”
Despite reports of discomfort in Core I seminars, other Scripps students reported no such issues in their core classes.
“I personally didn’t experience any discomfort in my core classes,” Szeyin Lee SC ’14 said. “I have been very fortunate to have great professors who are very sensitive to these topics and handled them well in class discussion.”
Lee added that she was happy to see the Scripps administration addressing issues of diversity on campus.
“It’s just a matter for [the] Scripps administration to take it seriously as one of the priorities of the college,” she said. “I believe that [the] Scripps administration has received and started to work on the concerns of the students this year, and I, personally, am excited to see the progress.”