A Consortium Divided Cannot Stand

Much ado
was made this week over the ersatz petition for Pomona College’s secession from the
Claremont Consortium. From the moment I first heard about it, I suspected The Golden Antlers, or perhaps an individual whose dedication to deadpan trolling is
almost as strong as mine. Whenever I expressed this skepticism, I was met with guffaws, so convinced were the students of the remaining 4Cs that this petition was the real deal. It’s hard to say what exactly that means for the gullibility of our student body, the pervasive stereotype(s) about Pomona, or the state
of affairs in Claremont at large.

As a proud
Texan I consider myself a secession expert. Part of our disproportionate state
pride stems from our constitution’s provision for state secession from the Union at
any given time. We love the fact that it exists, though the majority of us like
it in the same way that most people like high-protein ketchup and the other wondrous inventions in the SkyMall catalogue. This
wonderful bit of historical arcana came to the forefront of the national conscience
during then-governor Rick Perry’s (in)famous bid for the presidency, but most of the United States
responded with laughter rather than any genuine concern.

But the
powerful reaction generated by Pomona’s petition for secession is worth considering. Even if it
was little more than a labor-intensive gag, in the days before the
perpetrators claimed responsibility, our microcosm was abuzz with opinions. From
strange CGU students ranting about Pomona’s arrogance after one too many at Claremont
Craft Ales to diehard CMS-P-P rivalry fanatics who frothed at anticipated competitive advantages (or mourned the death of a storied tradition second only to the annual Texas-OU matchup), the hamlet of Claremont was veritably twittering with reactions to the

Anyone who had actually scrolled through the petition’s mountains of text would have noticed how its diction
dripped with parody, but the more popular response was to share the petition
as a Facebook status or tilt the phone-screen-filling title toward a half-awake
brunch-mate and demand, “HAVE YOU SEEN THIS?” The content was unimportant, the
intent well understood. As with all successful parodies, there was some element
of truth behind it. Without even reading the petition, everyone simply knew that
Pomona was capable of such a move.

This speaks
volumes about the pervasiveness of stereotypes at the 5Cs. The way the students of the 5Cs
currently typecast one another, it seems only a matter of time until one of the
schools genuinely seeks secession as a refuge from the stifling presumptions of
their neighbors. Of course, everyone has “that one friend” at any given school
who isn’t really like the rest of them, but that makes us sound more like the
1970s version of post-racial America than a cluster of highly codependent
liberal arts colleges on the West Coast.

stereotypes are born of truth, most parodies are written in good fun, and few
would argue that the 5Cs are as cohesive as they could be. Ask the average CMC
student what most of their southerly neighbors do on a Thursday night and they
will be at a complete loss; the same is true for most any school pairing — my
home campus being perhaps the most notable exception. That lack of cohesion
extends from weekend nights to weekdays in many realms. For every student who
has completed the nobler version of the 5C Challenge by taking a class on every campus, there are
plenty who have taken no more than one or two outside of their own
bubble-inside-the-bubble. One of the things that set all of us apart from
our competitors is the incredible array of experiences available
from the five distinct campuses. This is not meant to be a sales brochure,
because those oversell the degree to which students take advantage of the
resources at their disposal. Personally, I think all of the 5Cs should require
cross-campus classes as part of their general education system, but that’s a different

long pondered the fractured specialization of the 5Cs and, discussing it, am often met with
the same vacuous blinks that the secession proposal garnered. Nobody
wants to admit that there is anything wrong with a place they love or the way
they do things. Returning to the topic of Texas, most Americans who aren’t from there
haven’t explored the state much beyond our convenient airports. They typecast
it as being Southern (wrong), boring (wrong), backward (wrong), or worse.
Maybe they’ve been to Austin, the alleged mecca of all things cool in an
otherwise bleak vastness. Mark Twain once said that “travel is fatal to
prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness,” something that applies just as much to engaging in events at other campuses as it might to a visit to Birmingham, Ala. 

Just as talking heads on the far-flung coasts were wont to give
far too much credence to the proposal of Texas seceding, many students across
the 4Cs were sure that Pomona was capable of a similar action. Just like you
can’t know that Tex Mex food is the best cuisine on earth until you try it for
yourself, you can’t presume that a school would secede from the consortium
until you’ve spent time there in and out of the classroom. 

John Montesi CM ’14 is a literature major from Fort Worth, TX.

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