The Chicano Latino Student Affairs Office (CLSA) released their monthly newspaper CHISPAS in April with a statement from the Associate Dean of Students, Tony Jimenez, in support of political diversity within Chican@ / Latin@ student groups at the Claremont Colleges.
“With international upheaval, the 2016 presidential election and the issues at the colleges, it is important that we take care of each other.” Dean Jimenez states. “We are a community with a diversity of political beliefs and viewpoints. As such, it is very important that we have mutual respect for each other, even when we disagree.” He adds, “What makes us strong is not only our diversity of nations, but our diverse viewpoints. College is a time to engage in thoughtful discourse. Please be mindful and respectful of others. At times we may disagree on our ideas, but we can still have respect for our fellow members of the Claremont community.”
This statement comes in stark contrast to administrators’ responses to recent political and criminal acts on campus, in which the administrations of both Scripps and Pitzer Colleges condemned the word “Trump” as racism. Scripps’ Dean Charlotte Johnson responded by saying that “negative reaction registered by many members of the community is understandable and far from extreme. As all who have experienced can confirm, racist acts and intimidation are not always overt,” in reference to the phrase “#trump2016” written on a Mexican-American student’s whiteboard. Dean Johnson also mentioned her support of first amendment rights and freedom of expression on campus, but highlights that unique circumstances allow speech to be considered hateful or intimidating to students of certain identities. Pitzer’s Dean of Students, Moya Carter, went so far as to denounce the “foolish, embarrassing, hate filled, Islamophobic, fact devoid behavior being represented by some of the [presidential] candidates” just before reminding students to accept diversity of political opinions on campus.
Students at Pitzer and Scripps, however, thought that the statements and actions from administration did not go far enough. Pitzer students wanted the administration to condemn the vandalism as a hate crime and racial intimidation. Scripps College Student President Minjoo Kim openly denounced the Donald Trump messages, immediately assuming that this was an act of racism, harassment, violence, and intimidation of Chican@ / Latin@ students on college campuses. Based on the information from both incidents, we cannot be sure whether or not these messages were written to harass and intimidate students of color. Regardless, it is absurd to claim that messages written on whiteboards and walls are violent or dangerous. This is especially absurd at liberal arts colleges, where “dangerous” ideas are supposed to be discussed in an honest and respectful manner. Vandalizing school property at Pitzer and writing “trump2016” on whiteboards at Scripps is childish and immature, but student responses toward these acts are equally troublesome.
Students like these who consistently advocate for increased racial diversity and support on college campus also need to accept the consequences of diversity in all its aspects. Back in March, my peers created a Facebook page to attack me based on my race and my right-leaning political beliefs after I wrote an article about Callisto, a sexual assault reporting app that has the potential to increase sexual assault reporting rates on college campuses. Other students at the Claremont Colleges simply cannot accept the fact that some Latino students do not follow the typical progressive narrative on campus. With conservative and libertarian college students making up a very small minority of the student population, this shortage is much more noticeable for students of color at the Claremont Colleges who, more often than not, only know a handful of students who they can relate to on both a political and racial or cultural level.
CLSA recognizes that Chican@ / Latin@ students come from different countries, have different nationalities, and come from a wide variety of socioeconomic, religious, and political backgrounds. Many of CLSA’s cultural and student programming events recognize and respect the diversity within the Chican@ / Latin@ community. CLSA supported all students participating in student protests, discussions, and other activities relating to the lack of institutional support for marginalized students in their December newsletter. The office does a good job of talking to and accommodating students from all these different backgrounds. I’ve felt nothing but compassion, understanding, and honesty from the deans and staff that work at CLSA these past four years.
Accepting more and more diverse student bodies doesn’t necessarily mean more students of color. It also means more conservative students, more students from different income backgrounds, and more students from increasingly different cultural, international, and political backgrounds. We are put in an environment where ideas are supposed to clash, contradict, and compile with each other so that we are all better students by the time we graduate. Sure, I would love to see more libertarian, conservative, low-income, first generation Mexican-American student-athletes at the Claremont Colleges, but my personal growth and development would not progress if I was surrounded by students who are just like me all the time. Increased diversity on our college campuses will create more of these clashing ideological conflicts, but we have to accept and learn from those experiences if we want to become better students and a truly inclusive campus community.