Survey results highlight support for a new CMC Racial-Ethnic GE

A drawing of the front building of CMC, with the giant heads of students of color surrounding the building and looking on disappointedly.
(Ella Lehavi • The Student Life)

A Racial and Ethnic Studies General Education (GE) requirement at Claremont McKenna College may progress after the results of a campus-wide survey. 

The survey’s results, released on Feb. 21 at CMC’s Athenaeum, indicated that a majority of students, staff and faculty are in favor of expanding the school’s curriculum. 

CMC’s 2022 Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium (HEDS) Diversity and Equity Campus Climate Survey gathered responses from 53 percent of CMC students, faculty and staff from February and March of 2022. 

Respondents were asked for their opinion on the following statement: “​​The CMC General Education Curriculum could be Improved with Deeper Study of Historically Marginalized Racial and/or Ethnic Identities.” 

70 percent of CMC students agreed or strongly agreed, while only 12 percent were opposed. 52 percent and 54 percent of faculty and staff either agreed or strongly agreed, respectively.

“What we’re seeing is support across all three segments [students, faculty and staff] of campus, which is remarkable,” CMC associate professor of history Daniel Livesay said.

Livesay and CMC professor of religious studies Gaston Espinosa, who began work on the GE proposal in 2020, requested that the GE question be added, they said in an interview with TSL. The Board approved and altered the wording of the question to be more generic. 

The GE proposal initially received CMC faculty approval by a majority vote in April 2022. After, the faculty-approved proposal is typically sent for voting to the Board of the Trustees, but in an unprecedented action, CMC President Hiram Chodosh sent it back to faculty with proposed edits. 

The Board then received the proposal in September and unanimously agreed to return the proposal, stating that it was “not sufficiently strong or well-tailored to fulfill [the college’s] mission” and recommended broadening the curriculum of the GE. 

Espinosa said that the board’s recommendations diluted the original GE proposal, making it “almost meaningless in respect to racial and ethnic identity.”

Espinosa also highlighted the abnormality of the Board rejecting a faculty curriculum proposal. Faculty governance allows for CMC staff to lead academic decisions because of their expertise in the curriculum, according to Espinosa and Livesay. 

Livesay and Espinosa are hopeful that the Board might reconsider their original proposal in light of the data collected in the HEDS survey. 

Livesay pointed to two additional questions that strongly support the addition of a Racial-Ethnic GE. 

When asked how often they had been discriminated against or harassed because of their racial/ethnic identity, 26 percent of students and 24 percent of staff said often or very often. 

When asked about their satisfaction with the “effectiveness of diversity and equity programming and events,” only 51 percent of students felt satisfied. 

The results of the survey became available over the summer, but were not released to the public right away. Livesay and Espinosa think that the Board may have received the information in December. 

Had the Board seen this data and factored it into their decision, Livesay and Espinosa believe that they might have reached a different decision. 

“The students have made it very clear what they want,” Espinosa said. “This issue is not going to go away, no matter how much they want it to.”

Claremont McKenna College administration declined to comment.

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