In this week’s issue of TSL, Elizabeth Wilcox reported that Pitzer College students are generally hopeful that the appointment of Dr. Melvin L. Oliver as Pitzer’s new president will usher in an era of increased transparency, shared governance, and an emphasis on academics. The significance of Oliver’s appointment, however, stretches far beyond Pitzer. As the consortium’s first black president, Oliver’s appointment is inherently historic and should be rightly celebrated. For schools that claim to embrace diversity, this is a move that is long overdue.
Although the appointment of Oliver as president is likely not the result of a comprehensive change in Pitzer’s method of searching for possible candidates, it is nonetheless an important step forward for Pitzer and the Claremont Colleges. Representation in places of power may be purely symbolic at present, but we are hopeful that his presidency will spearhead concrete changes at the school. Perhaps the other schools will follow Pitzer's lead in establishing a more prominent number of administrators and professors of color on campus.
Oliver’s appointment is only the beginning. It comes after a historic semester of heightened political awareness and organizing, centered on the understanding that our campuses are, in many ways, violent to its most marginalized. Such violence cannot be remedied by the appointment of a single administrator. Given that race is a rallying point on these campuses now, do not let the movement die, do not be an activist only when it's convenient. Not all of us have the luxury to choose. Now more than ever, students across the 5Cs have an obligation to hold their respective administrations accountable to the goals it sought to achieve last semester.