OPINION: Stop calling it the ‘Claremont bubble.’ You’re only making it real

A drawing of a forest of trees in front of the city of Claremont.
(Emma Constable • The Student Life)

Within the rhetoric about on and off-campus communities, there is an impulse to reduce the one total square mile of the consortium to simply, the “Claremont bubble.” This urge to paraphrase, however, only reifies the belief that the 7C campuses are far removed from the communities that they are situated within.

There is a problematic tendency from Claremont Colleges students to only look inward over the course of their college career or to derive one’s life from the performance of school. In conversations with friends from different states or countries, I have noticed a resistance to engage with people and spaces that are not strictly associated with the Claremont Colleges. It is not uncommon to meet a student that does not know their neighbors, their street names, the surrounding cities, local restaurants or community events.

After I was accepted to the Class of 2024, Pomona College let me know that I was one of 16 within my class that lived within a 47 mile radius of campus. As a proud 1/16 of the Inland Empire “locals,” as we’ve been dubbed, I am disheartened to find fear, disinterest or inaccessibility holding back my fellow students from engaging with the spaces I have grown up around. The “Claremont bubble” is entirely constructed by students whose lives revolve solely around this institution. 

As someone that constantly pivots between a home and campus life at a non-commuter school, there is a misunderstanding between me and my peers about our priorities. It is easy to get lost in the politics of Claremont life, but these dynamics become irrelevant with the perspective of my entire community.

The colleges bleed into the space around them. Only a few minutes walk away are restaurants, local businesses, schools and homes. A few minutes drive away, there are several other college campuses. These communities know little about the colleges aside from the space they occupy mid-town, and a majority of Claremont students know little in return. 

While I understand the difficulty of transportation within Southern California and recognize the inaccessibility of even local travel for many Claremont students, I’d argue that a change in perception, rhetoric and general mindfulness is universally possible. I urge current students, especially underclassmen, to take the time to recognize their positionality within these spaces and offer their time and consideration to the surrounding communities.

Programs like Upward Bound Tutoring, the Draper Center, the Napier Initiative at Pilgrim Place and Community Partnership courses provide opportunities for students to get involved, all of which include transportation support. Through action, the mental lines drawn in the sand between campus and off-campus dissolve. The conceptual “Claremont bubble” loses its foundation.

If these perceptions of an immediate, powerful “on-campus” and a vague, irrelevant “off-campus” are to be deconstructed, one must reconsider the effects of their rhetoric and the processes by which a personal understanding of positionality can come to fruition. If you are to live in a place for four or more years, consider, what have you exchanged? What have you learned from its communities and what have you brought to it?

Students do not live in a bubble; they interact with members of the Inland Empire community daily: their dining hall workers, custodians, administrators, professors and so forth. Families, identities, careers and policies are constructed outside of the Claremont Colleges’ private institution. Have conversations about these disparities, and put yourself in the places to have these conversations.

Bella Pettengill PO ‘24 is from Chino, California, and studies Studio Art and Cognitive Science. She wants everyone to touch grass.

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