Like the University of Missouri, the administration of Claremont McKenna College also caved to the “P.C. Police,” as the Daily Beast’s Emily Shire writes. Unlike Mizzou, at least some students are willing to publicly shame administrators for enabling the proto-fascists on campus through their lack of commitment to small-L liberal values. First, another hunger strike prompted two administrators to resign their posts at CMC, mainly for awkward phrasing in support of the activists:
The Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students Mary Spellman stepped down Thursday after she became the object of a student hunger strike for an email deemed by many at Claremont McKenna to be racially insensitive.
Spellman wrote to a student, Lisette Espinosa, after reading Espinosa’s article inThe Student Life about her frustrations as a minority on campus.
“We have a lot to do as a college and a community. Would you be willing to talk to me about these issues?” Spellman wrote in her email. “They are important to me and the DOS staff and we are working on how we can better serve students, especially those that don’t fit our CMC mold.”
Those last words—“CMC mold”—kickstarted a campaign to force Spellman out.
Even an awkwardly worded e-mail must mean silencing and shunning to the PC Police. Bear in mind that Spellman wanted to work with the young woman who had written the lengthy critique of life on campus for the daughter of working-class Hispanics. Despite its length, it doesn’t actually provide much evidence for bias or hostility outside of her own feelings and those of some others she includes in her missive. Even the evidence she does provide is presented in a misleading fashion:
Although 90% of students surveyed in 2011 reported feeling treated well by the CMC student body, Black and Latinx students were less likely to agree that CMC is “free of tension related to ethnicity/race.” Furthermore, the college was described by the report as having a “pervasive, ‘hyper-masculine’ and heteronormative ethos…that generally discourages the expression of nonconforming gender identities and sexual orientations.”
The report in question from the Campus Climate Task Force provides prima facie evidence that the administration takes the issue of its cultural environment seriously. Moreover, while the positive response was lower among “Black and Latinx students,” it constituted a substantial majority of the demographic. “[J]ust under 60% of Black student respondents agreed with the statement: “The CMC campus is free of tension related to ethnicity/race” as compared to 80% of the aggregate respondents.” The issue of the “pervasive, ‘hyper-masculine’ and heteronormative ethos” was related to complaints by students on the task force, not from the survey, a situation that at least seems to be a case of the activists providing their own feelings as reality on a campus that was, until now, a pleasant experience for 90% of CMC’s attendees.
Still, Spellman wanted to have a dialogue with Espinosa about her concerns, and reached out with an awkwardly phrased e-mail. Her good intentions were obvious, but that mattered not a whit to the campus activists, who promptly demanded her resignation. Spellman then promptly complied, rather than telling the students to use some mature judgment and grow the hell up.
To their enormous credit, the editorial board of CMC’s student newspaper, the Claremont Independent,” declared their disgust with all involved. In an editorial headlined “We Dissent,” the Independent’s editors shame Spellman, CMC president Chodosh, the student activists — and themselves for having been cowed into silence in the past. No more, they pledge:
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. However, we are disappointed in you as well. 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. We are disappointed that when two students chose to go on a hunger strike until you resigned, you didn’t simply say, “so what?” If they want to starve themselves, that’s fine—you don’t owe them your job. We are disappointed that you and President Chodosh put up with students yelling and swearing at you for an hour. You could have made this a productive dialogue, but instead you humored the students and allowed them to get caught up in the furor.
Above all, we are disappointed that you and President 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. Nor were you brave enough to point out that these protesters were perfectly happy to use this student to further their own agenda, but turned on her as soon as they realized she wasn’t supporting their narrative. These protesters were asking you to protect your students, but you didn’t even defend the one who needed to be protected right in front of you.
Second, President Chodosh. We were disappointed to see you idly stand by and watch students berate, curse at, and attack Dean Spellman for being a “racist.” For someone who preaches about “leadership” and “personal and social responsibility,” your actions are particularly disappointing. You let your colleague, someone who has been helping your administration for the past three years and the college for six years, be publicly mocked and humiliated. Why? Because you were afraid. You were afraid that students would also mock and humiliate you if you defended Dean Spellman, so you let her be thrown under the bus. 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 fear-driven action (or lack thereof) only further reinforced the fear among the student body to speak out against this movement. We needed your leadership more than ever this week, and you failed us miserably.
They save the last word for themselves and others who have stood silent as campus fascism has proliferated:
We are adults, and we need to be mature enough to take ownership of and responsibility for our feelings, rather than demanding that those around us cater to our individual needs. The hypocrisy of advocating for “safe spaces” while creating an incredibly unsafe space for President Chodosh, former Dean Spellman, the student who was “derailing,” and the news media representatives who were verbally abused unfortunately seemed to soar over many of your heads.
Lastly, 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.
Fascism doesn’t fade through appeasement. If the 20th century taught any lesson, it should be that one. Once power is given to them in any form, it only emboldens fascists to use it to seize more of it and punish any opponents who stand in their way. The Claremont Independent earned its name today.