What on Earth Is Going on at the Claremont Colleges?

The five undergraduate Claremont Colleges, located about 35 miles east of Los Angeles, are famous for their elite U.S. News rankings, their exclusive admissions policies, their sky-high tuition sticker prices, and their gorgeous campuses in the bucolic college town of Claremont adjacent to Southern California’s spectacular San Gabriel mountains.

And every single one of the five, in just a few weeks, has turned into a simmering, occasionally boiling cauldron of ethnic self-pity, social-justice terrorism, whines about homework, and calls for the abolition of free speech. All of it passively accepted by complacent administrators.

Let’s start with Claremont McKenna College, supposedly the “conservative” one of the five, where “West Coast Straussians” are said to rule. Not so on April 6, when about 250 #BlackLivesMatter protesters—unimpeded by the administration—blocked the entrances to a speech by conservative pro-police author Heather Mac Donald, forcing Mac Donald to livestream her talk from a nearly empty room. So far there has been no attempt by college officials to identify the bullying students, much less punish them.

That’s Claremont McKenna (annual tuition and fees, $47,395). But then there’s Pomona College (tuition and fees, $49,005), flagship of the Claremont group. On April 7, the day after the Mac Donald fracas, Pomona’s president, David Oxtoby, had written an email reiterating his campus’s commitment to free speech and academic freedom as essential to the “search for truth” that is part of a university’s mission. On April 17 a student group at Pomona issued a series of demands that included barring from the campus speakers like Mac Donald (“a white supremacist, a warhawk, a transphobe, a queerphobe, a classist, and ignorant of interlocking systems of domination that produce the lethal conditions under which oppressed peoples are forced to live”), taking “action against” the editorial staff of the conservative student-run Claremont Independent for daring to cover the McKenna fracas, and issuing an apology for Oxtoby’s email. The students stated:

Historically, white supremacy has venerated the idea of objectivity, and wielded a dichotomy of “subjectivity vs. objectivity” as a means of silencing oppressed peoples. … This construction is a myth and white supremacy, imperialism, colonization, capitalism, and the United States of America are all of its progeny. The idea that the truth is an entity for which we must search, in matters that endanger our abilities to exist in open spaces, is an attempt to silence oppressed peoples.


Free speech, a right many freedom movements have fought for, has recently become a tool appropriated by hegemonic institutions. … It has not just empowered students from marginalized backgrounds to voice their qualms and criticize aspects of the institution, but it has given those who seek to perpetuate systems of domination a platform to project their bigotry.

Meanwhile, on April 14, student resident advisers at another Claremont campus, Scripps College (tuition and fees, $47,378) announced they were going on strike unless the college met a number of their demands by April 20, including the resignation of a dean, more money for off-campus mental-health counseling, and the abolition of a number of disciplinary rules such as fines for students who refuse to move out of their dorm rooms when the dorms are officially closed during vacations.

In late March at Pitzer College, another of the five (tuition and fees, $47,020), a trio of female students identifying themselves as black and Latina blasted white female Pitzer students for wearing hoop earrings, which they said amounted to cultural appropriation by “white people” from “black and brown bodies.” A piece of graffiti appeared on a Pitzer wall: “White girl, take off your hoops!!!”

Finally, there’s Harvey Mudd College (tuition and fees, $54,347), a top-rated Claremont campus specializing in science and technology. Here’s what happened on April 18 at Harvey Mudd, according to Inside Higher Education:

Monday and Tuesday this week, the California college will not hold classes, the cancellation following a student sit-in last week at the campus, where minority students issued demands to administration—among them to funnel more money into counseling services, specifically geared toward students of color, and to prioritize minority student groups with funding and other perks. …

Last month, too, a controversial report regarding student workload and faculty opinion of students leaked to the student newspaper, The Student Life. …

Their findings: students expressed distress over their assignments. …

Some faculty members, meanwhile, told the interviewers that students were not prepared for their classes, and that they’d observed deterioration in the quality of students accepted to Harvey Mudd over the years. They described students as wed to their phones and not committed to the sciences.

It’s hard to know why all of this is taking place at once at all five Claremont colleges: the domino effect; social-justice chic; too many classes in colonialism, oppression, and white male hegemony? But it’s odd that the dominant activity on some of America’s most expensive and elite campuses supposedly devoted to the honing of the intellect seems to be bullying and intimidating other people.

This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard


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