Harvey Mudd College’s racial awareness and sensitivity was called into question on Dec. 9 in a letter from an anonymous HMC student to Jon Jacobsen, vice president for student affairs and dean of students.
The letter—which was forwarded to all students, staff, and faculty—expressed the student’s concerns about the college’s insufficient support for minorities within its community. The student specifically refers to several instances where the college allegedly failed to uphold one of its mission statements: “unsurpassed excellence and diversity at all levels.”
In the letter, the student wrote, “I feel like college has been considerably more difficult for me because I am a person of color, and that I have not really received the support I need to thrive here … It is unfair that I might fail some classes because I am a student of color that has to deal with issues that most students here do not have to.”
Jess Wang HM ’18 wrote in a message to TSL that the letter voiced some familiar concerns.
“I think a lot of people had left the office of diversity for this reason, not being able to get funding for what they needed to do,” Wang wrote. “A lot of people at Mudd hold the opinion that the pretense of our office of diversity, our mission statement, and the Mudd's diversity statistics are a whole bunch of baloney.”
“I agree mostly with this sentiment,” she added.
In an email to TSL, Jacobsen acknowledged that HMC has grappled with issues of institutional diversity. In order to ensure a more supportive and welcoming campus, Jacobsen has expanded the Office of Institutional Diversity and increased the hours for its graduate assistants in order to “provide more programming and support”.
Jacobsen wrote, “We try to do the best we can to support our students within the means we have available.”
The anonymous student also claimed that HMC “supports and advocates for companies that benefit from the oppression of minorities, and until recently, has forced students to do work for them.” They went on to share concerns about the alleged underfunding of the Office of Institutional Diversity and racially-oriented groups such as Black Lives and Allies at Mudd, Asian Pacific Islander Sponsor Program at Mudd, and Society of Professional Latinos in STEM.
Jacobsen refuted this particular claim, saying that these organizations receive more funding than most clubs on campus.
The student also wrote in the letter that HMC’s culture of academic rigor inclines students not to discuss race and diversity with one another or with the administration.
Regarding the student workload at HMC, Jacobsen wrote, “Workload is a key aspect of why we are currently engaged in a careful process to review HMC’s Core Curriculum.”
Jacobsen added that HMC is implementing a speaker series, dedicating deans to the health, wellness, and academic affairs of students, and supporting student-led organizations, such as the Associated Students of Harvey Mudd College, that are primarily focused on supporting students and fostering wellness in the student body and in the HMC community.
“We have been regularly increasing our resources devoted to student engagement, mental health and wellness and diversity and social justice—all critical aspects of providing a better educational experience and environment to support our mission,” Jacobsen said.