Pitzer, Scripps, HMC and CMC launch new anti-racism initiatives

The exterior of Pitzer College's dining hall. The large tan building has a mural on one side depicting an orange tree and some people. The building is surrounded by plants and cacti.
Pitzer President Melvin Oliver launched his Racial Justice Initiative this summer, a three-year commitment to transform Pitzer’s campus and community to address racial justice. (Zoe Cowan • The Student Life)

After the killing of George Floyd earlier this year ignited protests around the country against police brutality, issues of racial inequality and justice have taken the forefront of conversations across communities and institutions.

Four of the five undergraduate Claremont Colleges — Pitzer College, Harvey Mudd College, Claremont McKenna College and Scripps College — have recently implemented various racial justice initiatives with such issues in mind.

Pomona College will continue building upon the Strategic Vision the college released last spring to work toward an inclusive and diverse workplace of students and faculty members. The college is also using a survey conducted spring 2020 to come up with initiatives for early 2021 to correct structural inequalities on campus.

These changes include updating the curriculum to include classes on race, allocating more money toward racial justice initiatives, hiring a more diverse faculty, being more transparent about the demographics of their students, staff and faculty and hosting sessions on anti-racism during first-year orientation. 

Pitzer College

Pitzer President Melvin Oliver launched his Racial Justice Initiative this summer, which he described at the initiative’s inaugural event, “Racial Justice in Our Time: A Conversation with Activist Scholars,” as a three-year “sustained commitment … to transform our campus and community in a deep and abiding way.” Oliver’s initiative addressed racial justice through three avenues: curricular transformation, co-curricular transformation and structural transformation. 

Pitzer plans to “embed the study of racial violence, inequality and justice throughout the curriculum,” and faculty who create new courses or redesign existing ones to focus on those issues are awarded a Racial Justice Initiative course development award, according to the college’s website. Twenty-three courses for fall 2020 received the distinction.

The second area involves a “co-curricular transformation” that will host speakers, sponsor students’ racial justice projects and support affinity groups on campus, according to Oliver’s event address.

Pitzer also created an organizing committee with faculty, staff and a student representative to sustain the initiative and its third tenet of structural change. Associate dean of faculty Adrian Pantoja chairs the initiative’s planning committee.

“It’s not merely making a statement saying, ‘We’re allies,’ or, ‘We’re empathetic.’ It’s putting some resources to try to create meaningful change at the colleges,” Pantoja said. “And I’m under no illusion that this is going to fix everything. This is just the beginning of a long process, but at least we’re off to what I think is an exciting start.”

Pitzer Student Senate chose Quentin Jenkins PZ ’23 as the committee’s student representative.

“My role is to bridge the gap between faculty, staff and students and be as transparent with the students as possible,” Jenkins said. “I’m just one student out of the entire institution, so I try really hard to make sure that all voices of students are included: Black and Indigenous students of color, undocumented students, LGBTQ+ students.”

Following an address to Pitzer College from Pitzer’s Black Student Union calling for greater support for Black students, the BSU was also invited to attend the committee’s next meeting, Jenkins said. 

“Years from now, people are going to be asking, ‘At this point in history, what did you do?’” Pantoja said. “And I’m proud to say that I was involved in the Racial Justice Initiative, and we did our best to try to bring out institutional change at Pitzer.” 

Scripps College

Scripps President Lara Tiedens and several Scripps administrators released a statement in late June titled “Addressing Systemic Racism,” detailing Scripps’ commitment to “expand support for Black students” and “elevate the community’s consciousness about race and racism.” 

“Far too many of our Black students, other students of color, and alumnae, staff, and faculty of color have not felt the sense of belonging, value, and support that we intend to provide on campus … This differential access to the Scripps promise is not acceptable,” the address said.

The college has since announced the creation of the Racial Justice and Equity Fund, partially funded by a recent donation of $1 million from Scripps trustee Gale Picker. According to the Scripps website, this fund will be used to “increase recruitment and retention of Black students and students of color, develop antiracist curricula, modules, and dialogue, and fund opportunities for faculty and student fellowships.” 

New initiatives stemming from the fund include the Racial Justice and Equity Fellows Program, which provides grants to faculty and students for research and projects concerning “racial justice, inequality, equity, criminal justice reform, and related areas.” 

This fund will also be used to hire a new associate dean of diversity, equity and inclusion and will continue to fund Scripps’ Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access Initiative, which began in 2014. The IDEA website also hosts a new public dashboard featuring new and past demographic information on students, faculty, staff and the board of trustees.

Scripps is partnering with the California Conference for Equality and Justice to offer students, faculty and staff a Racial Justice Training series. The training will last six weeks, according to an email sent to students, and session topics will include “Valuing Black Lives,” “Cultivating Values — Aligned, Interdependent Relationships” and “Restorative Justice and Anti-Racism.”

Claremont McKenna College

In a message to the CMC student body, President Hiram E. Chodosh outlined the Presidential Initiative on Anti-Racism and the Black Experience in America. Chodosh outlined four key commitments that will drive the initiative: the “shared responsibility” of the community to be anti-racist, the willingness to participate in the “learning experience” of supporting others and developing individually, a “fully integral educational response … centrally embedded in our daily work” and “outcomes” as opposed to plans.

The new programs include support for anti-racist research, anti-racism initiatives in athletics and dialogues on racism in the Athenaeum.

CMC is also offering new courses this fall addressing pressing present-day topics on race, including Racism Today and Human Rights Abuses and Policing the American City and Race.

Racism Today and Human Rights Abuses, a small seminar-style class that studies the history of racism, provides dialogue in a time of heightened fear and allows for students to conduct research alongside prominent lawyers in the field.

“The course delves into the idea of race and the history and practices of racism in order to better understand the challenges facing people around the world, and especially Black communities in America, today,” said Wendy Lower, professor of the course and director of CMC’s Mgrublian Center.

Students then apply this knowledge, Lower said, by working in teams with prominent human rights lawyers and looking at issues of qualified immunity, prosecutorial immunity and body camera regulation. 

The Mgrublian Center provides additional opportunities related to human rights and the law, such as research support, fellowships and internship programs related to human rights, including police brutality. The center partners with the law firm Haysbert | Moultrie LLP, where students can work with legal professionals on open human rights cases in a program called The Justice League.

Harvey Mudd College

Harvey Mudd President Maria Klawe faced criticism from Black Lives at Mudd, HMC Take a Stand, the Living-Learning Community and ASHMC after failing to mention Black Lives Matter, use the words “Black” or “police” or reference any of the names of Black people killed by police in an initial statement to the college community in early June. 

Then, on June 24, Mudd issued a message to the community addressing systemic racism, stating: “Black Lives Matter. We condemn these senseless killings.” Along with that email, Mudd detailed new initiatives and funding to combat systemic racism. 

New measures include the Intergroup Dialogue Program on Race and Ethnicity, Equity Scorecard Sessions and anti-racism sessions in the 2020 New Student Orientation for first-years.

The Intergroup Dialogue Program on Race and Ethnicity, an eight-week opt-in module highlighting “personal and social responsibility for building an equitable and socially just society,” is set to run for the first time in the spring of 2021 for students, faculty and staff. 

“We want everyone to come together and learn and engage together because these are difficult conversations,” Mudd Dean of Students Anna Gonzalez said.

The program will cover race and ethnicity, as well as the different components of identity, such as ableism, sexual orientation and class. 

The program will have a group of 20 facilitators that will each have had 15 hours of training in preparation for their roles. Facilitators will lead discussions that will last one to two hours each week, depending on the topic.

“We’re not only gaining skills about intergroup dialogue; we’re gaining social justice educator skills,” associate dean of institutional diversity Jennifer Alanis said.

Equity Scorecard Sessions with the Office of Institutional Diversity and Institutional Research will also take place this semester and next, according to HMC’s initial announcement. With the help of Equity Scorecard creator Estela Bensimon, the Department of Student Affairs will be evaluated on the diversity factors of race and gender as an experiment, Alanis said.

“We’re going to be able to learn how to interrogate our numerical data that we already have and see patterns that have led to inequity for different populations,” Alanis said. 

In anti-racism sessions added to New Student Orientation, the HMC Class of 2024 participated in dialogues about race and the meaning of the Black Lives Matter movement. Sponsored book clubs that began this summer will continue through the academic year and continue to feature anti-racist themes, according to Mudd’s website.

“The dialogue it created was one of inclusion, that we want to work to support other people and to create safe spaces for people to talk about any discrimination they faced and to bring that up,” Amber Hughes HM ’24 said. 

Mudd intends on keeping critical dialogues going during the academic year, bringing in speakers regularly on topics like race, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

This July, Mudd became a member of the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity, an organization offering diversity mentorship and training to support faculty, according to Mudd’s website

“Resources from the NCFDD will help us cultivate the kind of inclusive and supportive community that will help us attract and retain excellent faculty members,” said Katherine Van Heuvelen, associate dean for faculty development and diversity, on the website.

The college is also undertaking “major fundraising efforts” to create a curriculum addressing systemic racism. This comes after a recent change in Mudd’s Core Curriculum in May. 

Pomona College

Last spring, Pomona rolled out its Strategic Vision for the college, with two of the four core tenets of the vision being “Flourishing and Inclusion” and “Equity and Access.” The Strategic Vision calls for an inclusive and diverse workplace of students and faculty members.

“It’s an important value of ours, and again it kind of predates some of the issues that we saw with police violence and inequity,” senior associate dean Tony D. Boston said. “The work will continue to move on.” 

The college is also using an outside organization to conduct a Campus Climate survey, according to Boston. The survey started spring 2020, and results will be received this coming November. The college plans to use the results to correct structural inequalities on campus, coming up with “concrete action items” for the spring or early summer of 2021. 

Boston explained that the Campus Climate survey would inform funding for the Strategic Vision for the college.

“A lot of our fundraising initiatives will be built off of this last strategic plan that we adopted. Now we’re putting all the pieces together, as far as connecting the Campus Climate survey to the strategic plan,” Boston said.

Inclusive Pedagogy Grants have also begun this year, serving as funding opportunities for faculty members to study and incorporate inclusive pedagogy in the classroom, according to Boston. 

In 2016, Pomona began requiring that all students take at least one course classified as Analyzing Difference, which “[focuses] on a sustained analysis of the causes and effects of structured inequality and discrimination,” according to the college’s website.

This fall, Pomona brought together a speaker series on Race, Power and Privilege, along with other planned lectures, according to Boston.

Facebook Comments