CMS Athletic Director Caves to Student Demands, Supports Creation of Safe Spaces, “Anti-Racist” Trai

In an email sent out to the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) Cross Country program, Athletic Director Erica Jasper announced a multitude of changes to the Cross Country program as well as the entire CMS athletic department. The email was sent in response to a petition of demands made by some former and current student-athletes, who demanded: “[Jasper] respond to this call to action and confirm [her] commitment to implementing these demands no later than July 24, 2020.”

Among their demands was support for the “7C’s for Black Lives Matter,” funding for the creation of an anti-racist student-athlete committee for Cross Country, the dedication of a “safe space for minority student-athletes to voice concerns,” more active recruitment of minority athletes, the prioritization of hiring “coaches and athletic trainers of color,” the creation of “mandatory training programs on racial equity,” and the invitation of professional athletes of color and nutritionists to campus. 

In her response, Jasper acknowledged and caved to every demand made by the petition’s authors. She proceeded to list out the changes that the CMS Athletic program would commit to implementing following the petition. These changes would build off the considerations made this summer by a CMS athletic department task force consisting of staff and coaches looking at “Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion.”

In the email, Jasper stated her preference to have an athletic department-wide anti-racist student committee, but also remarked that “if the size of your team requires a team-specific anti-racist committee, you have my full support.” The creators of the petition demanded the creation of this new “anti-racist” committee after criticizing an existing student-athlete committee. The original petition argued that the pre-existing committee “has been ineffective in producing real change within the BIPOC community and we need a student organization that aligns with our values.”

Additionally, Jasper is providing the Cross Country Team with 500 dollars to organize “an anti-racist workshop focusing on anti-oppression and social justice issues led by facilitator and educator Sonny Singh.” This workshop was intended to occur during orientation week. The proposed speaker, Sonny Singh, has publicly supported the BDS movement against Israel, and has participated in events advocating for BDS. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) considers the BDS movement to be anti-semitic and “the most prominent effort to undermine Israel’s existence.” The BDS event Sonny participated in promoting the total boycott of all Israeli cultural institutions claiming “virtually all Israeli cultural institutions, unless proven otherwise, are complicit in maintaining the denial of basic Palestinian rights, whether through their silence or involvement in whitewashing or diverting attention from Israel’s rights violations.” In the past, he has also stated that “racism has infected all of us, not just white folks” with regards to anti-blackness and has promoted the progressive theory of “systemic racism.” He has also perpetuated anti-American propaganda, stating that “racism is, and always has been, a part of mainstream America” and “white supremacy and racist violence has been central to this country since its inception.”

Concerning the demand for the creation of a safe space for minority athletes where they can share “experiences of microaggressions and seek peer support,” Jasper acquiesced, stating that “this is a priority and one we will partner with all three campuses on.” She also committed to increasing funds in the future for more diverse recruiting, acknowledging at the same time that each coach develops their own specific recruiting plan.

Jasper also supported the students’ demand to “prioritize hiring board members, coaches, and athletic trainers of color to represent CMS Athletics.” The petition also demanded that the newly created anti-racist student committee have the ability to “monitor progress” in hiring more coaches and staff of color. Jasper told the students that prioritization of hiring minorities to fill coaching and staff positions “will continue to be a priority—for staff and coaches (We do not have a CMS board).” 

The students further demanded “mandatory training programs on racial equity” in which the Athletic Department would “require programs that encourage racial equity and workshops regarding institutional racism for all faculty and staff [and] [w]ork with the anti-racist student-athlete committee to incorporate racial equity training into the team’s orientation week and student-athlete leadership workshops.” Jasper again told the students that “this would be a priority” but added that the timeline for implementation might not be specific as the Athletic Department wishes to “build this into the fabric of being a member of the CMS community” with other mandatory training programs.

Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, all fall CMS sports, including Cross Country, have been canceled. It is unclear what the cancellation will mean with respect to the timeline and implementation of the athletic department reforms. 

The CMS athletics team is a joint team between Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, and Scripps Colleges. CMS athletics teams compete in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) at the NCAA Division III level.  The three colleges are part of the Claremont College consortium, a group of liberal arts colleges in Claremont, California.

 

Jordan N. Esrig contributed to reporting.

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