Associated Students of Claremont McKenna College (ASCMC) appointed Patrick Elliot CM ‘19 as the chair of the Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Committee on Jan. 24. ASCMC created the position after a series of discussions with members of the CMC community in order to address the growing concerns of marginalized students' experiences at CMC.
According to the ASCMC executive board minutes, Elliot was voted in with six votes in favor, five votes against, and one abstention. The divided final vote followed a contentious discussion over whether his appointment was “constitutional.”
ASCMC originally proposed a separate subcommittee on Nov. 8, 2015, that would be comprised of CMCers of Color—a student organization composed of CMC students that seek greater diversification of the college across the board—in order to incorporate opinions of students who would be directly impacted by the D&I Committee. The extended discussion on Jan. 24 revolved around whether the Elections Committee, comprised of five ASCMC members, had the constitutional authority to nominate a student that wasn’t one of the three original recommendations chosen by the subcommittee.
Although the Elections Committee interviewed the three candidates recommended by the subcommittee, its members ultimately nominated Elliott. According to the ASCMC board minutes, board members resolved that the decision to nominate Elliot despite the fact he was not recommended by the subcommittee was constitutional since documentation revealed that the Elections Committee had the final say in the decision.
Some students of affinity groups expressed concern over whether ASCMC fully took into consideration the concerns and wishes of the CMCers of Color.
“The process by which he was chosen shows that there’s a lack of trust between ASCMC and CMCers of Color,” said Kevin Covarrubias CM ’19, a member of the CMCers of Color. “This definitely opens up a conversation as to whether ASCMC can play a meaningful role in changing CMC’s campus climate.”
Covarrubias felt as if ASCMC was looking for a more “impartial” D&I Chair because of the “stigma” attached to the CMCers of Color.
“The Elections Committee’s appointment of Patrick, regardless of Patrick’s qualifications, was kind of a slap in the face to [CMCers of Color],” Covarrubias said.
Despite the complications in electing the new D&I Chair, Elliot said that he plans on accomplishing a variety of goals during his term, including the creation of sensitivity training at CMC.
A first-year from Chicago, Elliot has attended a variety of social justice conferences, sat in on equity committees, and was the co-founder of the diversity committee in high school. One of the changes he is most excited about is the creation of sensitivity training at CMC. He plans on working with Dean Weyman to administer sensitivity training to First Year Guides (FYGs) at CMC.
“We have Teal Dot training and all these other types of trainings, but there isn’t a diversity and inclusion type of training, which is pretty beneficial for the leaders of a school that are … the first people that the freshmen end up interacting with when they first get on campus,” Elliott said.
The D&I Committee is comprised of five members of affinity groups and three members of the general student body. The affinity group members are Michaiah Young CM ’18 (Brothers and Sisters Alliance Representative), Elaine Wang CM ’18 (Asian Pacific American Mentoring Program Representative), Denys Reyes CM ’16 (CMCers of Color Representative), Casey Garcelon CM ’17 (GenU Representative), and Austin Gosch CM ‘18 (Sexuality and Gender Alliance Representative). The three remaining members have not yet been chosen.
Additionally, Elliot said that he plans to create seats for Muslim, Jewish, and Latino students on the D&I Committee in an effort to include “affinities that need representation on this campus.”
The Diversity and Inclusion Committee is simply one of the steps students and administrators have taken in making CMC’s campus for inclusive for everyone. Nyree Gray, the chief civil rights officer at CMC, wrote in an email to TSL that CMC has developed strategies for diversity and inclusion and that its “ultimate goal in doing this is to ensure that every student is fully engaged and valued in our community.”