At each of the five Claremont Colleges, the Board of Trustees is a group of men and women that holds the power to appoint the president of each college, as well as make financial decisions and long-term choices about the way each institution is run. Four times a year, these individuals come together to vote on motions that will affect our lives as students as well as the experiences of those that come after us. While some of these decisions may seem insignificant in the short term, they make all the difference in the long term when it comes to the future of each college.
One of the main criteria for a member of the Board of Trustees seems to be success in the business world, which provides each individual trustee with the necessary social connections and financial accumulation to contribute to the institution’s treasury. As data clearly show, most successful people in American business tend to be white men from privileged backgrounds. This statistic is evident in the boardrooms of the 5Cs: There are more male than female trustees overall; they are largely white, come from privilege, and work at some of the world’s biggest and most influential corporations.
While business expertise is definitely useful in running these educational institutions, if we are serious about promoting diversity in the student body we need to extend that to our leadership: the five Boards of Trustees. Our students do not universally go into business after graduation, and their range of interests and backgrounds ought to be reflected in the composition of the trustees so that the long-term decisions made at each meeting benefit every one of the students that attend these institutions.
While the financial well-being of the 5Cs is essential for the success of the colleges and their students, decisions that are made about the future of the schools should be made with more than money in mind. Certainly, the trustees are concerned with more than the financial health of each institution, but their perspectives are skewed towards those of the fairly homogeneous, privileged social group that they largely come from. The 5C community, on the other hand, is full of people for whom business success is not a primary concern. While finances should be an ever-present factor in decisions, people who have other priorities should be represented so that a harmony between pragmatism and the values found in the composition of the student bodies can be reached.
As Nicholas Kristof wrote in The New York Times on Oct. 23, the best problem-solving comes from a diverse group of good problem-solvers, rather than from the best individual problem-solvers we can find. In order to make the Claremont Colleges the best that they can be, we need leadership from people who are diverse in professional background, ideology, gender, race, and socio-economic status, who can complement each other in the boardroom. We need to find a balance between running the business that is the Claremont Colleges and shaping the educational institutions that are creating the leaders in all areas, whether it be the arts, the sciences, media, government, or business.