Students Host Roundtable on CMC's Campus Climate
December 10, 2013
by Nina Kamath
On Saturday, December 7, from 11:00am to 1:00pm, over 100 students attended a round table regarding Claremont McKenna College Campus Climate, held in the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum. The event was organized by a group of eight students after President Hiram Chodosh voiced concerns at the ASCMC Senate two weeks prior about the need for broader student discussion about CMC's social culture and campus climate. The round table aimed to engage students in a productive dialogue regarding the relationships between students and administrators, students' expectations from administration, and the role of personal and social responsibility with regard to campus climate.
Organizers hoped the discussion would inform leaders, both students and administrators, of problems with and solutions to the current campus climate, as well as allow students to author solutions to ameliorate issues with CMC's social culture.
President Chodosh launched the conversation with a short address, centered on three big national debates and controversies that are particularly relevant to CMC students. The first of these debates is about the issue of financial aid aimed at ensuring accessibility of education and quality students. Chodosh explained he was working with the Financial Aid Office to launch a $100 million "student imperative fund" within the next year to help alleviate the cost for students to attend CMC.
The second hot-button issue is about the role of liberal arts in higher education. Chodosh said the student body and administrators need to articulate why specific actions are taken. While some argue that students should seek knowledge for knowledge's sake, others contend that education is aimed at securing a job in the workforce with a sustainable income. Chodosh called upon the "three C's of creativity, collaboration, and courage" as integral characteristics for CMC's liberal arts education to cultivate in students.
Finally, Chodosh addressed the national dialogue on alcohol, drugs, and sexual assault. On a federal level, the government has consistently instituted more stringent policies. For example, the Clery Act requires that colleges disclose information about campus crime in order to protect an safe educational environment. While Chodosh recognizes the importance of an open and inclusive environment, he underscored the challenge of balancing excess and moderation.
Chodosh ended by demystifying false rumors about a changing alcohol policy or the administration's direction to externalize risk. Many specifics about CMC's alcohol policy, event protocol and registration, and safety were detailed in Social Climate Fact Sheet given to round table attendees.
Following the address, students broke into small group discussions to discuss social climate problems and solutions. The discussion was focused on social events on campus, substance abuse, sexual assault, communication, and education.
Social Events on Campus: Students were conflicted on whether to separate wet and dry events or integrate them together. While some wanted a "regular alternative to your typical bump and grind type of party" such as "Thursday Night Basketball," others saw a separation between wet and dry events as "damaging and fracturing to CMC's inclusive social culture." Proponents of the former argument discussed the difficulty of organizing "one event that caters to everyone." On the other hand, proponents of the latter argument cited examples of the positive nature of sober activities at wet events, such as the mechanical bull at the Wild Wild West Party or the Pool Party earlier this semester.
Students also discussed the lack of clear information about party registration as well as explicit reasons for limitations placed on event registrations. While rules are readily available in the Guide to Student Life, students suggested including a fact sheet related to social policies that all students must read. Moreover, some students wanted punishments for infringing policies to be upheld, such as the fine for broken glass.
A suggestion was also made to institute a "jury duty system for cleanup" such that students are selected each week to be in charge of cleanup at some point during their CMC career.
Substance Abuse: Regarding campus safety, people recommended that a formal conversation take place between Campus Security Officers, Resident Assistants, and the Dean of Students in order to delineate the shared and separate responsibilities of each party. Some students expressed concern that the fencing policy promotes binge drinking and "Camp Sec is apathetic" to helping students. People drew on the distinction between a safer campus versus a safer box, arguing that "fencing only creates a safer area not a safer campus."
Sexual Assault: On the issue of sexual assault, students brought up the issue of unlit areas. More lighting on Sixth Street and better lighting at parties was advised to prevent sexual assault.
Communication: Round table attendees wanted the "administration to be more open and honest" as well as "more accessible" in order to ensure open lines of communication and dialogue between students and administrators. Many people suggested that the Deans conduct weekly Office Hours to talk and consult with students or visit dorms on a weekly rotational basis to hear students' concerns. Much like professors are evaluated on a yearly basis, students recommended student evaluations of the Deans in order to "get student input on their performance and understand how receptive they were of students the past semester." Students also wanted to "review implementation changes," by giving input and feedback on adjustments of policy. This review process would help for two reasons: first, it would allow administrators to work directly with students to understand their viewpoint and second, it would provide an opportunity to rectify policies going forward.
Education: A huge portion of the discussion revolved around instituting better systems to educate students on safe and healthy conduct. Some individuals said that education could be most effective and efficient at the freshman level, by including alcohol and safety education into WOA and sports training or organizing a panel discussion between seniors and freshmen at a mandatory Ath dinner. The existing mandatory alcohol education was analyzed as ineffective because it leaves out a discussion of hard drugs, substance abuse, and sexual violence.
The formal document of solutions will be sent to the student body, the Dean of Students, and other administrators via e-mail later this week. Implementation strategies coming out of this discussion will be further discussed in the Mirza Summit of Personal and Social Responsibility next semester.