College leaders seem fearful of crossing activists

Hannah Oh, Steven Glick and Taylor Schmitt

The student protests that have swept through Claremont McKenna College have made us disappointed in many of those involved.

First, former Dean Mary Spellman. We are sorry that your career had to end this way, as the email in contention was a clear case of good intentions being overlooked because of poor phrasing.

We are disappointed that you allowed a group of angry students to bully you into resignation. We are disappointed that you taught Claremont students that reacting with emotion and anger will force the administration to act.

Above all, we are disappointed that you and President Hiram Chodosh weren’t brave enough to come to the defense of a student who was told she was “derailing” because her opinions regarding racism didn’t align with those of the mob around her.

Second, President Chodosh. We were disappointed to see you stand by and watch students berate, curse at, and attack Dean Spellman for being a “racist.” You let your colleague be publicly mocked and humiliated. Why? Because you were afraid. You were so afraid that it only took you five minutes to flip-flop on their demand for a temporary “safe space” on campus. Your action reinforced the fear among the student body to speak out against this movement. We needed your leadership and you failed us.

To our fellow Claremont students, we are ashamed of you for trying to end someone’s career over a poorly worded email. We are disappointed that you chose to scream and swear at your administrators. That is not how adults solve problems, and your behavior reflects poorly on all of us here in Claremont. This is not who we are and this is not how we conduct ourselves, but this is the image of us that has now reached the national stage.

We are disappointed in your demands. If you want to take a class in “ethnic, racial and sexuality theory,” take one, but don’t force an ideologically driven course on all CMC students.

And though it wouldn’t hurt to have a more diverse faculty, the demand that CMC increase the number of minority faculty members either rests on the assumption that CMC has a history of discriminating against qualified professors of color, or, more realistically, it advocates for the hiring of faculty based simply on the fact that they belong to marginalized groups.

We are disappointed in the fact that your movement has successfully managed to convince its members that anyone who dissents does so not for intelligent reasons, but due to moral failure or maliciousness.

College is the last place that should be a safe space. We come here to learn about views that differ from our own, and if we aren’t made to feel uncomfortable by these ideas, then perhaps we aren’t venturing far enough outside of our comfort zone. Dealing with ideas that make us uncomfortable is an important part of growing as students and as people, and your ideas will inhibit opportunities for that growth.

We are disappointed in students like ourselves, who were scared into silence.

We are not racist for having different opinions. We are not immoral because we don’t buy the flawed rhetoric of a spiteful movement. We are not evil because we don’t want this movement to tear across our campuses completely unchecked.

We are no longer afraid to be voices of dissent.

Hannah Oh is editor-in-chief; Steven Glick is publisher; and Taylor Schmitt is managing editor of the Independent. A longer version of this commentary appeared in the Claremont Independent, a student publication serving Claremont McKenna College. It is used here with permission.