Pitzer, Scripps BSUs challenge lack of Black History Month initiatives, demand increased institutional support

The Pitzer BSU logo sits below an orange tree, reminiscent of the Pitzer logo.
(Bella Pettengill • The Student Life)

As Black History Month came to a close this February, the Black Student Unions of Pitzer College and Scripps College called out their administrations for a lack of support for Black students on Tuesday, Feb. 28 and Wednesday, March 1, respectively. 

Pitzer’s Black Student Union (BSU) released a seven-page document on Tuesday denouncing the school’s “lack of initiative to establish Pitzer as a safe and inclusive space for Black Students.” 

The statement lists a series of changes that are “necessary and essential” to ensure an environment where Black students can thrive and requests a response from Interim President Jill Klein by March 7. 

The document states that “the demands made by Black Pitzer students during the Civil Rights movement have still not been met by the administration,” and that the BSU feels “abandoned, blatantly ignored, disrespected, and discriminated against on campus.”

The document lists four demands, which include improved Black History Month engagement and recognition, rectified funding issues, increased retention rate of Black students and concern for the well-being of Black students.

The first section titled “Improved Black History Month Engagement & Recognition,” calls for “programming geared towards the advancement of Black students every Black History Month starting February 2024. This would require Pitzer administration to provide events for Black students, staff and faculty such as career workshops geared toward Black students and community engagement events at local businesses and schools.

The second demand, “Rectified Funding Issues,” requests the allocation of at least $8,000 annually for the Pitzer BSU retreat, “so that Black students do not have to face feelings of insecurity and unease that come with requesting funding on an annual basis.” 

The section also emphasizes that, in order for Black students to feel supported on campus, it is crucial for the Pitzer BSU to host and receive funding for Black student affinity events.

Anjuli Turner PZ ’25 recalled last semester’s frustrations over the Students of Color Alliance (SoCA) lounge, when 5C affinity groups mobilized students to protest Pomona College’s plans to accommodate affinity groups in the Clark V basement by building a wall through the lounge. To her, this demonstrated a lack of priority from 5C administrations on providing adequate safe spaces.

“When you share a space with people that look like you, and go through similar experiences like you, it makes the campus feel like home,” Turner said.

The third demand, “Increased Retention of Rate of Black Students,” calls out the institution for its low retention of Black students, citing the “lack of academic support, career development and personal/emotional support” on campus as a main cause. 

This section also calls on Pitzer to aggressively recruit students by “going into more predominantly Black areas with full transparency of the opportunities Pitzer College can provide them with.”

The final section, “Concern for the Well-Being of Black Students,” demands “adequate representation, through staff members and mental health professionals, as well as access to resources that are catered to Black students on campus.” The document also cites the fact that as of 2023, Pitzer employs only 11 Black faculty and staff members of their 344 employees.

For Turner, increased retention rates and concern for Black well-being “go hand-in-hand.”

“If you want to increase retention rate, you have to create an inclusive environment for those particular students,” she said.

Turner also said the 5Cs shine a “bright light” on campus diversity, but the consortium is still failing to create this fully inclusive environment. “I think that is really necessary if you’re going to boast about [having] a diverse campus,” she said.

The day after Pitzer’s BSU published their statement, Scripps’ BSU, Watu Weusi, shared their disappointment with Scripps administration for their “lack of acknowledgement” of Black History Month via Instagram

The post noted that Scripps held no institutional events in honor of Black History month outside of “a mere mention of BHM in a campus-wide newsletter” and one film screening from Scripps Communities of Resources and Empowerment (SCORE).

Watu Weusi also called out Scripps for “inhibit[ing] outreach and membership capabilities” by not providing them with any contact information for incoming and current Black students.

“Through anecdotal experiences and institutionally-backed data, Scripps College has fallen short in meeting the needs of Black students,” Watu Weusi said in their post.

The Pitzer BSU’s formal demands come less than three years after students released a September 2020 address titled, “How Pitzer can support the success of their Black students.” In the 2020 address, students referenced the 5C BSU demands of the administration in the ’60s.  

“52 years and yet our list of requests read almost identical to theirs,” the statement read. “This point further shows that the colleges have failed their students with lack of sustainable policies in regard to admission and recruitment.”

In 2023, the members of the BSU still feel ignored and neglected.

“Three years later the safety and wellness of Black students continue to go unacknowledged,” Pitzer BSU’s 2023 statement read.

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