OPINION: Pitzer’s treatment of workers shows its true core values

(Samson Zhang • The Student Life)

Last Thursday, Feb. 9, over 60 Claremont Colleges students and Pitzer College workers disrupted the Pitzer College Board of Trustees meeting to protest the continuous undermining of worker power at Pitzer College. Most recently, the college fired three workers for being pro-union.

The trustees were so disinterested in hearing their own employees speak that they set a one-minute timer, at the end of which they yelled at students and workers to leave. We were interrupted, laughed at and dismissed.

Every day it becomes clearer that Pitzer is not the arbiter of “Social Responsibility, Intercultural Understanding, and Student Engagement” that it claims to be. The college only wants its core values upheld when it serves them.

We know, now more than ever, that unity between students and workers is how we get things done. Whether they liked it or not, administrators and trustees heard worker voices last week.

These people have had plenty of chances to do the right things. They have failed. We could not be more disappointed by Pitzer College or more proud of the workers who continue to stand strong in their demands for what they deserve.

On Feb. 11, the Claremont Student Worker Alliance’s Political Education committee made a zine correcting Pitzer’s mission statement and values to match their lived experiences as Pitzer students against the backdrop of Pitzer’s illegal firing of three workers for expressing union support. Building on institutional memory, this zine parallels the structure of the annotated Jeff Roth email that CSWA made during the Pomona strike in Oct. 2022.

The unformatted and crossed out text below are taken directly from Pitzer’s website, while CSWA’s annotations are added in italics. The full, illustrated zine is also posted at cswa.us and on Instagram @_cswa.


Pitzer College produces engaged, socially responsible citizens of the world through an academically rigorous, interdisciplinary liberal arts education emphasizing social justice, intercultural understanding and environmental sensitivity, but does not support the real life application of these values. The meaningful participation of students, faculty and staff in college governance and academic program design is a Pitzer core value not supported by administration when it involves union organizing. Our community thrives is disrupted by the mutually unsupportive framework of The Claremont Colleges’ administrations, which provide an unsurpassed breadth of academic, athletic and social opportunities unfair treatment of workers, performative dedication to Pitzer’s core values, and silencing of student voices. 

Social Responsibility

At Pitzer, administrators ignore students spend four years examining the ethical implications of knowledge and individual responsibility in making the world better. They learn to brutally exploit and silence the workers that the college depends on and shut down evaluate the impact of individual and collective actions against the school’s illegal and immoral manifested in social and political policies.

Intercultural Understanding

Individual perspective and approach to the world are informed by the imperialist exploitation that created the structures of power and privilege in which Pitzer College culture in which one resides.  Intercultural Understanding enables Pitzer administrators to abuse students to comprehend issues and events affecting communities from cultural lenses beyond the white supremacist American elite their own. From Los Angeles to Botswana to Nepal, Pitzer students are educated to admin and trustees profit off of the backs of thrive and succeed in an ever-changing global community.

Interdisciplinary Learning

Pitzer College students are taught to challenge traditional ways of learning unless they’re challenging the institution’s “traditional” workplace propaganda and to avoid making make immediate connections between academic disciplines and the labor exploitation Pitzer inflicts. Faculty is organized (told to shut up and keep their heads down) in field groups instead of traditional academic departments. Scientists, sociologists, historians, writers and artists influence each other’s work and often teach courses together. Grounds, dining and custodial workers’ concerns are belittled and often suppressed altogether.

Student Engagement

Pitzer’s unique curriculum allows students the flexibility to direct their own educational and career paths by creating their own majors. In addition, Our students are unwanted active members of college governance and rabblerousing – fighting the administration’s totally not ok and illegal making decisions on everything from academic policies and faculty and staff hiring (but not firing) to public art displays and building design.

Environmental Sustainability

Sensitivity for and preservation of the environment (but not for workers) is a key value of Pitzer College.  Campus landscaping done by underpaid workers utilizes drought-resistant, native plants and the College is proud of its many LEED-certified sustainable buildings cleaned by underpaid workers. Students shape their daily activities, programming and studies to ensure they leave the environment and the world stronger than how they found it. Students interested in environmental issues will find Pitzer an exciting living and learning laboratory. Unfortunately, the workers who care for our land to ensure Pitzer’s sustainability are treated as disposable.


We come together divide our workers to live and work in a shared learning hostile environment where every member is undervalued, disrespected, intimidated, and not entitled to dignity and or honor founded upon the following rights and responsibilities: continued dismissal of worker’s voices and the division of workers from each other and students. This harms the Pitzer and 5C community by valuing students and faculty over staff.


We learn commodify and exploit from the rich and complex histories, view points, and life experiences in our community. We value and celebrate the synergy money created by our students’ differences and similarities in our advertising. 


We support the thoughtful performative exchange of ideas to increase understanding and awareness so long as it doesn’t disrupt the status quo, and to work across difference without amplify differences through intimidation. We, the admin, have the right to be heard and you, the students, have the responsibility to listen. Communication, even at its most vigorous, should be respectful non-confrontational and without the intent to harm passive.


We prize the powerful possibilities of learning and the principles reflected in our educational objectives including our dedication to access and justice [we are never in the HR or admin offices and aren’t responsive to worker requests], civic involvement and environmental sustainability, and our respect for pluralism, freedom of expression [we suppress student voices when it harms our public image], and the sustained effort necessary for achieving academic excellence.


These values are mere words until we practice them. [which we don’t.] We expect to see them evidenced, hear them named, debate their integrity, and demand change on their behalf [unless it hurts our pockets]. We are committed to the hard work and dedication this will demand [except when these changes are demanded by Pitzer workers, who we fire for vocalizing pro-union opinions.]

The Claremont Student Worker Alliance (CSWA) is a coalition of students and workers from the 5Cs who organize around worker’s rights on campus and around the Inland Empire. They aim to bridge the Claremont Colleges by raising awareness about the discriminatory and exploitative practices that occur in the workplace. 

Formatting description provided by Samson Zhang PO ’25 on behalf of CSWA’s Political Education committee.

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