The 5Cs have always been, and hopefully always will be, a hotbed
for social and political dialogue. It was one of the first reasons I wanted to
attend Claremont McKenna College, and I have to say that the 5Cs did not disappoint. Students can be found discussing national and international issues in class, at
parties and really on any 5C campus at any time of day. Yet while we remain
consumed by the topics on a national and global scale, we constantly seem
to forget to talk about subjects closer to home: the state of communities
in Pomona, Ontario and the surrounding areas.
I admit that I personally have not given
this subject the attention it deserves. While I have participated in service
events in Pomona and done my best to learn about the area, I cannot say that I really
know or understand the issues prevalent in the cities in close proximity to the campuses. Looking around me, I realize that this is a problem across the 5Cs–and I am not alone in this sentiment. Johann Lim, a first-year at CMC, noted that
besides a few students dedicated to social justice, he has “almost never heard
or overheard a daily conversation about poverty in Pomona.”
The fact is that when we arrive at CMC, Scripps, Pomona,
Pitzer or Harvey Mudd, we come to think of that campus—and maybe even all the 5Cs—as our home. Unfortunately, we don’t extend that feeling to the greater area beyond the Claremont Village. We fail to recognize that communities beyond
Claremont help make the 5Cs what they are. We fail to recognize that we have a
duty to these communities just as we do to the towns in which we grew up.
Arthur Levine, a 2013 Pitzer graduate and one of the heads of the Pitzer-Ontario
Program, noted that because the colleges have so many resources
and activities, students don’t feel the need to venture off-campus. While it
is highly beneficial to have so many resources on campus, this accessibility at our fingertips can restrict learning and decrease the overall awareness of demographics outside the bubble. He stressed that students come to the 5Cs
essentially to learn, grow and socialize. This does not, however, translate
into a desire to explore the local areas. The severed connection to
communities outside the colleges led Levine to explore the communities on his own
and eventually become an essential member of the Pitzer-Ontario program.
The program pushes students to learn first-hand by setting
them up with an internship at a local organization. Students then process and present what they have seen and learned during this experience to their peers.
The program is not only beneficial for the students intellectually, but can also be transformative, personally and professionally. According to Levine,
it has always been an incredibly rewarding experience for him and for the
students he works with.
Unfortunately, most Claremont students are missing this relationship with the local communities – an experience that would, undoubtedly, improve their comprehension of national issues beyond the bubble. For example, many students have likely done
extensive research on the financial crash of 2008. However, they might not know that, according to a foreclosure map compiled by CNN in 2010, Riverside
is fourth in the nation for foreclosure rates and the Inland Empire as a whole is in the highest bracket for foreclosure rates in the
nation, or that the city of Pomona has a race gap on par with Ferguson between the city’s civilians and police.
Connecting these local issues and observations to the
national and international ones not only increases
our understanding of the area in which we live but also frames those larger issues in a tangible way. Plenty of professors see students’ disconnection from local areas as a huge problem, and they continue to help students develop this understanding.
Ken Miller, a professor of government at CMC, noticed that there was—and is—relatively little discussion on the “economic and educational disparities”
between Claremont and its next-door neighbors in his class. To change this
dynamic, he now assigns his students a research project to learn about an off-campus institution. His class, the Pitzer-Ontario Program and other classes like these demonstrate the importance of making these local comparisons and connections.
We don’t, however, need to have a professor or class to tell us
to go learn about the cities nearby. In my opinion, 5C education has always extended beyond the classroom—where students can take real-world applications and develop them in a classroom setting. We have an opportunity to do this in Pomona, Ontario and other cities close to the consortium. Not doing so takes away a large part of our academic experience while in college, and ultimately decreases our awareness of surrounding communities.
Isabel Wade CMC ’16 is an international relations major with
a French dual (minor) hailing from the US’ chilly northern neighbor. She
recently returned from spending 7 months in West Africa and hopes to go back