OPINION: The Associated Students of Claremont Men’s College

After her term as ASCMC’s Diversity & Inclusion Chair, Nisha Singh CM ’23 shares her experiences of undue emotional labor and misogyny. (Emma Jensen • The Student Life)

On March 5, I concluded my term as ASCMC Diversity & Inclusion Chair in a bitter end marked by controversy over the Racial-Ethnic GE, the creation of the now-defunct Social Life Senate Committee and the establishment of the Special Committee on Anti-Semitism and the Jewish Community. Only one side of these events was covered by TSL and made public in Senate and Executive Board minutes. I’m now going to tell you my perspective.

Let’s start here: I was publicly berated by a male executive board member — not once, but twice.

The first time, I invited Claremont McKenna College affinity group leaders to share their experiences with ASCMC at an Executive Board meeting. After the meeting, this member accused me of blindsiding him in bad faith. He claimed he lacked preparation even though affinity groups and their funding fell directly under his purview. The second time, this same board member insisted I actively create an unequal power dynamic by sitting on a stage during an Executive Board meeting. 

This member not only received their full stipend, but was also allotted a bonus for his efforts.

At CMC, male officers create inside circles that obscure accountability for this kind of behavior, reinforced by exclusive boys-only group chats, siloed lines of communication and sexist jokes. These pose structural barriers for women and students of color to thrive in these spaces.

It’s no secret that women, women of color especially, have different experiences at CMC than their white and/or male counterparts. It is also no secret that it is these very men who often come away with a narrative of victimhood and are lauded for their efforts. Of course, they were the ones who “tried so hard,” dealt with “hostility” and stayed “civil” through it all. Unfortunately, it is too easy for liberal men to forget that they, too, can be misogynists. 

Your positionality as a woman also determines the kind of work you get saddled with, much of it being emotional labor and taking on advocacy alone. My own ASCMC “office housework” record demonstrates this.

After our board failed to reach out to CMC’s Sexuality & Gender Alliance to collaborate on Pride Party in September, I had to step in to explain to several male Executive Board members why we needed to apologize and commit to more meaningful collaboration. Those apologies never did come to light.

Camille Forte CM ’23 and I spent hours of our time negotiating with the leaders of the Student Life Committee to pursue a more productive route than a Senate resolution, which led to the current DOS working group.

It was not until the end of my term, when I was making flyers for said working group, that I realized that when people invited me to join more meetings and  when I volunteered to facilitate mediations, it was not labor to necessarily be proud of.

It is unreciprocated, undercompensated and unrecognized work that needs to be done, but I never felt that I could say no. “If I didn’t do it,” I thought, “who would?” 

To no surprise, this advocacy work inspires racialized and gendered responses. Throughout this semester, myself and other women of color have been called “aggressive,” “rude” and “hostile” when advocating for marginalized students.

This, unfortunately, is an established pattern for ASCMC. 

In a meeting last semester, a group of male officers reprimanded our current female senior class president in a vain and mean-spirited manner under the guise of providing constructive criticism.

Later in that meeting, the same officers falsely accused former ASCMC President Katherine Almendarez CM ’22 of being drunk at an event last year, a comment made for seemingly no other reason than to create an excuse to talk about her in a derogatory way.

While both these former ASCMC presidents dealt with misogyny during their terms, they were also supported by diverse executive boards. In other words, they found support from their peers. Anything I achieved during my term was not solely my work. These were community efforts between student affinity groups and the very few ASCMC colleagues that I could call tremendous allies. Diversity and inclusion is not a task to be assigned; rather, it’s an aspiration that should guide the work of all members of an organization.

How then, after sharing these experiences, can I encourage students of color, especially women of color, to apply for a position where I was bullied, underpaid and unrecognized?

My experience is exactly why it’s crucial for marginalized students to take up space and lead: we support each other.

To my fellow non-white, non-male peers: please heed this advice.

There is space for you to lead with love and community. You are qualified enough. In fact, you are so qualified that people will begin to rely on you to do it all. It is critical that you do not let this happen as it did to me.

Apologize less. Say no to work that does not fulfill your journey or your aspirations. The institution will not tell you that you are doing too much, that you are overburdening yourself and that confronting this extent of dehumanization from your colleagues is unhealthy. 

Do not be afraid to lead, and in those positions, do not be afraid to be selfish with your time, presence and capacity. 

I just wish someone had told me the same.

Nisha Singh CM ’23 is originally from Dallas, TX. She loves matcha lattes, Brazilian jazz and is very excited to graduate soon.

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