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The Changing Nature of CMC: Yohei's Analysis

January 15, 2009

by Yohei Nakajima
The Changing Nature of CMC: Yohei's Analysis

Yohei Nakajima '09 is a new contributing writer for the Forum and ASCMC's former SAC chair. You can read his blog and learn more about him on his website.

Claremont McKenna College (CMC) is a young school which has recently joined the ranks of great liberal arts colleges. CMC’s growth in popularity and rankings can be attributed to the success of it’s alumni. The alumni’s success can be attributed to the unique culture of CMC which is largely in part due to the high leadership level of its average student, the large percentage of students living on campus, and the freedom the school allows the students to have. The high leadership level of its average student can be attributed to the focus of the admission committee to bring in students that have shown excellence in extracurricular activities during high school such as by being the captain of sports teams or a leading role in student governments.

The large percentage, over 98%, of students living on campus has created a culture of constant interaction with a larger variety of peers, allowing students to constantly observe and learn from a variation of leadership styles and techniques. Lastly, the minimal supervision has created an extremely social culture, that could only be shaped by the students and not the administration or faculty; an important characteristic of the culture is that the students at CMC can drink, do drink, and know how to drink. However, the ability for school to continue to execute only minimal supervision is under scrutiny.

Minimal supervision in the student government system, allow the student body to control funding to various student groups. Student groups are not conformed to whether or not school administration believes it is necessary for the school, but are free to exist with the support of the student body. Minimal supervision regarding student activities give students a feeling of control and being trusted. This leads to happier students who interact more positively with others, and more assertive students who step up to fill the leadership roles that the school allows. Most importantly, minimal supervision has also created a culture where alcohol is very prevalent. It is important to note, however, that the focus of the admission committee on leadership has brought in students that are more likely to drink; many people have observed in high school that leadership positions are often held by people in or around “the popular group” who have more experience socializing with peers in social settings involving alcohol.

Through years of heavily drinking in an extremely social atmosphere and by observing mistakes made by peers and themselves, CMC students graduate more than prepared to socialize in a very common setting in the real world: around drinks. Studies have shown that in professional careers, there are premiums for being a drinker. Male nondrinkers earn 12.8 percent less than drinkers, female nondrinkers earn 25.5 percent less than drinkers, and the highest premia went to professionals who have approximately 75 drinks/month, or about 20 drinks a week. Along with the various positive attributes of CMC graduates, which include academic and social leadership, the experience in a setting involving alcohol has been of great use. Even the current president of CMC is known to be a very fun drinker, and it is doubtful that this has not positively affected her well known ability to attract funding from alumni who have been successful, which I suggest has been in part due to their ability to drink.


However, the drinking culture that has been observed at CMC cannot be maintained by a college indefinitely. The success of CMC’s alumni has led to increased publicity and higher rankings of the school. This by itself limits the ability for a culture of drinkers, often looked down upon by society, to continue. As the schools administration and executives meet with a larger variety of potential investors and partners, the schools drinking culture will be questioned more often. Additionally, the schools increased rankings have been attracting a new population of prospective students, namely those who take academics more seriously. In no way am I suggesting that past students did not take academics seriously, but that, compared to the average applicants in the past, the average student who applies to CMC now has been more focused on academics in high school in proportion to their leadership roles in social settings. The admission committee, with a larger pool of applicants, now can admit students of seemingly similar leadership experience but with higher academic performance. This cannot be faulted; no matter how focused on extracurricular activities the admission process may be, it would be impractical for a school of this academic level to not take into account the academic integrity of their applicants. This has been the reason for two major problems observed by the schools administration.


First, alcohol related incidents have risen sharply. As is the case for business men, college students are more likely to make mistakes regarding alcohol without experience. The difference is however, that a mistake in a business setting is sloppiness, while a mistake in a college setting often results in alcohol poisonings or alcohol related injuries. It should be of no surprise that the students of the recent incoming class, who have shown much higher academic performance in high school, have on average much less drinking experience. The lack of experience in these students, when placed in a setting where alcohol is prevalent, has been the major reason for increasing alcohol related incidents.


Secondly, the school admission has, according to rumors, found that the most common reason for accepted students to choose another school is the prevalence of alcohol on CMC’s campus. This is not surprising since the current prospective students of CMC have less experience drinking, making them more likely to avoid alcohol. Additionally, they are accepted to more schools, resulting in them drawing conclusions from the “buzz” they read online about CMC and it’s alcohol policy, as opposed to visiting the school and actually experiencing the social atmosphere created by the freedom of drinkers and nondrinkers to unite in social settings.


Without an increasing amount of supervision by the administration of the school, the school has already seen significant change in its culture. Drinking is less prevalent, where students are less likely to drink heavily on nights before morning classes. This suggests that the schools culture will change accordingly to the publicity and rankings it gains, and that the administrative personnel of the school need not to worry about continuation of the recent negative affects alcohol has had on our school.


The alumni, who were lucky enough to experience the unique culture that CMC used to provide, must understand this change, not be upset by it, and not let it halt them from making contributions to the school that help made them who they are now. They should, however, embrace the idea of having this younger generation of CMC students increase the worth and usefulness of their diplomas. The younger generation of CMC students, although they may have the tolerance of a thirteen year old girl, should learn and understand the benefits of a now disappearing alcohol dominated culture of CMC that has brought the school to where it is now.

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