By Charlie Hatcher and Jameson Mitrovich
On April 14, 2022, the Claremont McKenna College (CMC) faculty voted in favor of a new Racial-Ethnic Cultural Understanding General Education (GE) requirement. The faculty approved the proposal after nearly two years of discussion. Courses that would satisfy the GE must spend “at least five weeks discussing two out of three criteria: racism, …the social construction of race-ethnicity … [and the] contributions of racial-ethnic minorities in the U.S. or around the world.” A course could double-count for the Racial-Ethnic GE and another GE. For example, a history class that satisfied the above criteria would count for the Racial-Ethnic GE and the Social Sciences GE.
After the faculty voted for the proposal, it was sent to the Board of Trustees for approval. According to CMC Professors Gastón Espinosa and Dan Livesay, who co-chair the proposal, President Hiram Chodosh did not recommend that the Board vote on the proposal. Instead, the President returned the proposal to the faculty, requesting they “[develop] a set of preliminary ideas for alternative, parallel approaches.”
In late May, the Associated Students of Claremont McKenna College (ASCMC) requested an update on the proposal from the college. The Dean of Faculty provided them with a memo, which ASCMC shared with the student body on June 2. This update was not approved by the faculty co-chairs of the GE proposal.
Subsequently, on Aug. 9, Professors Espinosa and Livesay sent out their own update via ASCMC. The two professors held that the Dean’s June email update left out that professors were prohibited from speaking at the April Board meeting and that the faculty never voted on Chodosh’s remand. Espinosa and Livesay wrote that the GE is a “grassroots faculty initiative and is not something created or controlled by the Dean [of Faculty] or President.” Additionally, the Dean’s June email did not mention that the faculty approved the GE.
By not recommending the proposal to the Board, the professors argued that President Chodosh “effectively nullified the faculty vote and circumvented … faculty governance of the college.” Espinosa and Livesay also stated that Chodosh’s alternate approaches were “ideas that would dilute the exclusive focus of this GE on race-ethnicity.”
In response to President Chodosh’s actions, Espinosa and Livesay started a faculty petition to present the GE proposal directly to the Board of Trustees. Their petition received 79 signatures from members of every department at CMC. Some professors, who initially opposed the GE, signed the petition out of concern for Chodosh’s alleged circumvention of faculty governance. The petition was sent to the Board in June and has not received a response.
Neither President Chodosh nor the college’s spokesperson replied to a request for comment.
Image via The Student Life