In an initial email to students regarding the political turmoil in the United States on June 1, Harvey Mudd College President Maria Klawe, contrary to the expectations of many, made no references to “Black Lives Matter.” Student activists protested because Black lives were not explicitly mentioned in the statement. President Klawe later held an online webinar on June 23 for students to voice their concerns, where she explained the reason she did not want to use the term “Black Lives Matter,” and sent a follow-up email on June 24 clarifying the college’s position after the webinar. After student pressure, Klawe sent a follow-up email stating “Black Lives Matter.”
According to a transcript of the webinar obtained by the Independent, when pressed about her original email, Klawe stated that she had to take into account different viewpoints:
“When I set out my initial statement, I did not mention Black Lives Matter and one part of this is when I send out a message as a statement representing being the president of Harvey Mudd College, I try to take into account the fact that there are many different viewpoints about various things on our campus and in particular, I try to pay attention to the fact that we have a lot of staff of color who are not highly paid, they’re non-exempt staff, and I try to reflect on the fact that not all of those people of color are in support of the Black Life Matters protest. So, when I wrote, I deliberately did not call that out, instead I talked about our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. I talked about being surrounded by inequity and violence on all sides.”
Klawe added that she personally supports Black Lives Matter, adding that “I did also, the next day, as an individual, sign the faculty statement of solidarity with Black Lives Matter. Because personally, I feel very strongly about the murder of people of color — particularly Black men, Black women, and Black children by police — I think it’s horrific.”
However, Klawe also stated that “I am very aware, that many of our faculty and staff feel, faculty and students feel, not the way that many of our staff feel. And I feel that it is important to create an inclusive environment that supports everybody. So, when I write as president, I try to talk about issues without supporting one particular viewpoint.”
“But I will say, many people do agree with me that in the role of president, I have to take into account all members of our community. And in particular, faculty have tenure. They also have shared governance. Students have shared governance. But, particularly our least well-paid staff do not have the, do not feel like they have, job security, if the president sends out an opinion that differs with their personal opinion, and that’s what I’m trying to avoid,” Klawe concluded.
In a follow-up email addressed to the entire Harvey Mudd student body, the President and the rest of the administration clarified their stance. The administration condemned “senseless killings,” police brutality, and injustice, stating that “no Black person should be afraid of a traffic stop, of a job in their own — or any — neighborhood, or of just sitting in their own home.” This state of affairs, ran the email, “has got to stop.”
The email also laid out a series of steps to be taken by the college in order to combat racial injustice. These include hosting a series of Equity Scorecard Sessions throughout the academic year, adding anti-racism sessions to New Student Orientation, and engaging in fundraising to “develop curriculum that addresses systemic racism.” “Supporting our Black students, faculty and staff, as well as our other students, faculty, and staff of color, will continue to be a priority” for the Harvey Mudd administration.
According to the transcript, Harvey Mudd administrators stated that the college currently has many plans in place to increase the number of Black students, including its “Future Achievers in Science and Technology” program, which flies in underrepresented students. Harvey Mudd has also dropped its SAT subject test requirement, and has also temporarily suspended its SAT/ACT testing requirements.
Update: This article has been updated to incorporate details from the transcript pertaining to Harvey Mudd’s overall diversity efforts.