I was surprised and disappointed to hear that Pitzer College received national attention this past week due to what I believe was an insignificant Student Senate vote on a so-called “Yachting Club.” It seems that amidst the frenzy that both local and national media created, the full story was eschewed in favor of an incomplete, agenda-driven narrative. In the end, a lack of honest communication caused an unnecessary uproar in the Claremont Colleges community. I want to eliminate false rumors and encourage civil discourse from my fellow students and senators in the future.
Many students currently believe that Pitzer Student Senate prohibited the formation of Yachting Club, but this is untrue. Put simply, after discussion amongst senators and club founders, a mutual decision was made to rename the club and reintroduce it at the following meeting. The vote against Yachting Club was merely a procedural one in order to move on from the issue until we could take it up and approve the club at the following week’s session. But the Yachting Club founders later chose not to rename the club.
Additionally, some students are under the impression that Senate shut down a group of students who wanted to go sailing. However, this is also not the case; in fact, there were not any students who actually wanted to participate in Yachting Club at the time. Rather, the introduction of the club was revealed to be a front by several senators to prove an ideological point about a previous Senate vote.
These senators believed that the Pitzer Tattoo Club, which had recently been approved by Senate, would be wastefully spending student activities fees. They responded by forming the Yachting Club to prove their point that the Senate’s approval of Tattoo Club had been a mistake. However, rather than use their votes to oppose the club, they decided to introduce something they thought was equally wasteful in an attempt to bolster their claim.
When Fox News reported on Yachting Club, no one from Pitzer Senate was brought on to speak. Instead, only an editor from the Claremont Independent—a Pomona student—was invited and allowed to voice his opinion on the matter. While everyone is entitled to their views, the only perspective being put forward was the Fox News narrative: An overly-politically-correct college senate isn’t allowing a club to exist because they say it’s offensive. This structuring of the story on air left out key facts that I mentioned above, such as the procedural nature of the Senate vote and Yachting Club not being genuine in its purpose. The media needs to be held accountable for putting forward a limited and lacking narrative because reporting must be both complete and accurate instead of divisive and sensational.
The entire debacle over classism and offensiveness was unintended by the Yachting Club senators, but it is what has given Pitzer its recent notoriety in the news. Despite valid concerns being brought up by people on both sides of the debate, our time was ultimately being wasted by paying any attention to it. When tension in the student body grew to the point of name-calling and inflammatory accusations, I believe the Yachting Club senators should have immediately withdrawn the club proposal and told the truth about their ulterior motives. Since this has not happened, escalation in harsh rhetoric from all sides has damaged the community spirit at Pitzer, especially for us first-years who are still getting to know one another. Yachting Club was never meant to exist, so we all should stop the war of words on this subject and start discussion on the multitude of issues that will impact student life at the 5Cs.
When I applied to Pitzer’s Student Senate, I was eager to be a part of what had been described to me as a very active student government. This is still true and I hope to make a positive impact to the school for the duration of my term. However, after seeing how recent events have played out with passive-aggressiveness between students, I am hoping that honesty, integrity and respect will be prioritized in future debates and reporting. We should aim to understand and listen to those who disagree with us rather than see who can shout the loudest. Most importantly, I hope that we can set sail as a collective student body and abandon the wreckage of the Yachting Club.
Brennan MacKay is a first-year student at Pitzer College. He is currently serving on the Pitzer Student Senate on the Academic Standards Committee.
Update: This column was updated Oct. 16. It incorrectly referred to the Yachting Club as the Yacht Club.