When I arrived at the Claremont Colleges in 2008, the Consortium had a plan for a new campus in Singapore. Regardless of the merits of the plan (many questioned whether a liberal arts institution could exist in an authoritarian state), the idea was bold, and it offered a response to the increasingly global nature of the world. The ambitious plans were scrapped. Now that several years have passed and the administration can focus on something besides budget cuts, the Claremont Colleges should be bold again—they need a plan for the future of the Consortium.
Such a plan does not have to be expansion to a foreign country. Adding another college in the U.S. or extending the postgraduate options available in the consortium are also viable opportunities. Claremont McKenna, for example, recently created a Master’s Program in Finance. Why not try to establish similar programs that are more Consortium-oriented? A Claremont law or business school, if run successfully, would increase the prestige and value of a degree from the undergraduate schools and benefit the entire Consortium.
Thinking big by adding schools is exciting, but smaller plans are important as well. Many avenues of cooperation are available for the undergraduate schools that have not yet been pursued. Security services are integrated and seem to provide well for all the schools. Why not attempt to replicate such successes? Dining services, for instance, would gain from efficiency, bargaining power and cost consolidation if the dining halls were managed together (obviously, tricky issues such as worker unionization would have to be resolved first). And why not consolidate the sports teams of the 5Cs? Not being a member of a varsity sport, I understand my opinion may seem intrusive to those who are, but it would have advantages. A 5C athletic program would gain from a broader student body to draw upon, becoming more competitive and also more cost-effective for the schools. Additionally, eliminating the rivalry between P-P and CMS could benefit relations between students of different colleges.
Several changes to organization and leadership might also be useful. I will freely confess to having no idea who the President of the consortium is and I suspect most other students don’t either. Such a position should be more actively engaged in the community, informing the students and faculty about Consortium activities. In addition to leadership at the Consortium level, possibilities for better coordination exist at the level of student government. A 5C student government would simplify the management of 5C parties and organizations, improving the quality of life on campus.
The Consortium has often appeared rudderless during my time at Pomona. It is time for someone to provide leadership and direction.