OPINION: CMC, where are your ‘Responsible Leaders?’

The Kravis Center, a red building with glass windows. The sky can be seen on the left in the background.
For Camille Forte CM ‘23, February’s ASCMC Resolution hearings have brought the entire ethos of CMC into question. (Liam Brooks • The Student Life)

The ASCMC Resolution demonstrated an ignorance that only my privileged peers could possess, illustrating something far beyond simple misunderstandings — Claremont McKenna College students don’t care to know each other. 

As a campus, we have oversold ourselves. We pride ourselves on the fact that we are a “small, tight-knit community.” Over and over again, I hear many of my peers interpret CMC as an island of equality with the impossibility of exclusion. This has led to an absence — a silence — about the difficulties of marginalized students in our community. 

By now, I think most of CMC has heard of the well-attended Senate on Feb. 6, where the Special Committee members failed to define inclusivity in terms of addressing real concerns of marginalized students. That’s where most of the campus knows my face and name, at least. Admittedly, it is hard to articulate my observations, experiences and interactions over the course of the previous months, but it is important that students understand what I recognized and why I took actions when others did not. It’s not the three hours on a Saturday night that frustrates me, it’s every hour of every other day. We’re exhausted. 

Just a week before that Senate meeting, I attended a much smaller Senate. After reading the resolution and hearing sound bites from other students, I was furious that such a select group of students co-opted inclusivity and shamelessly attacked, perhaps, the last thing that most students are irritated with CMC about: its alcohol policies. 

As I waited for the Senate to begin, about 70 of my peers filled the room. Spoiler alert: they were overwhelmingly white, CMS (Claremont-Mudd-Scripps) athletes and North Quad residents. I knew their names and faces, and I counted their bodies. I was shocked by the silence that ensued when the Chair of the Special Committee and another Senator continuously asked me for answers and solutions to their problem. Everyone looked pretty comfortable in that room, hiding in the rank and file of their teammates and suitemates. Are any of us surprised that these students, those with the most insular interactions on campus, support such an outrageous statement that white students don’t feel included at their own parties? Their vote of 43-0 carried to adjourn. Of course, it is often those with the least to lose who stay the quietest, isn’t it?

 After the Feb. 6 Senate, what was left of the Special Committee wanted to meet with me. I had one message for them: “You messed up! You have no idea what you’re talking about, and you need to make it right.” At least two of them agreed with me, and they admitted a dangerous truth. They had no idea their peers of color were so frustrated with their experience here. Three years. That’s how long the Special Committee members have been here. I couldn’t release the tension from my face. 

But what does race have to do with it? Imagine a room with 70 white students (again, with faces we recognize) declaring not that they know what inclusion is at CMC but that they know better. Are we surprised that I, and my other peers of color, saw this as a problem? We know what comfort looks like because we experience discomfort in every part of campus. Those able to disengage do so from a privilege only proximate to whiteness. I encourage you to sink in your seat with discomfort like so many did at Senate.

Once again, I return to the failure of CMS Athletics. Members of the least diverse team (CMS women’s lacrosse) and members of the most isolated team (CMS men’s football) had the greatest turnout for the Resolution, although none of their members participated in substantial dialogue. Men’s baseball, women’s soccer and more individuals completed the silent bystanders. Nothing less than a public apology could ever change my opinion of them, but they will never do that because no coaches, administration or teammates will ever demand it. Instead of furthering efforts to prevent such gross misunderstandings of each other, the Dean of Students (DOS) office placated the Special Committee members with the Social Life Working Group. Of all students, they were invited to meet with the Board of Trustees this past Thursday. The Working Group is not representative of the student body. It is a figurehead for ASCMC politics and the Special Committee. DOS should have let “kegs for inclusion” die on its hill in Senate. Why do we reward ignorance here when we admonish it in the world around us?

These events have brought the entire ethos of CMC into question. We boast responsible leadership, learning across differences and a tight-knit community, yet we have never been more socially divided. 

We as students need to acknowledge who has worked to embody the full scope of our community ideals. It may not be your students in selective clubs, athletics or even your resident assistants. These students discuss difficult topics in the CARE Center. These students sustain themselves and their families by working more than four on campus jobs. These students actively work year-round with administration to improve our institution. We need to acknowledge the real work –– not the politics of ASCMC –– that students of the least means constantly return to our community. We need them at the table.

Camille Forte CM ’23 is excited to finish her history thesis this weekend, graduate in a couple weeks and return to Chicago in a month, leaving her senior year at CMC behind her.

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