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  • The Claremont Independent

Pitzer Announces All-Encompassing Racial Justice Initiative

Pitzer College announced that it will hold its inaugural panel from Pitzer President Melvin L. Oliver’s Racial Justice Initiative on Sept. 10. The Initiative “seeks to embed the study of racial violence and justice throughout the campus and curriculum.”

The initial panel will include several scholars, including Oliver, discussing police violence and racial justice. The other panelists include Andrea J. Ritchie, john a. powell (powell spells his name in lowercase in the belief that we should be “part of the universe, not over it, as capitals signify”), and Philip Atiba Goff. 

According to the panel announcement, Ritchie “is a Black lesbian immigrant police misconduct attorney and organizer whose writing, litigation and advocacy have been focused for the past two decades on the policing and criminalization of women and LGBT people of color. She is currently Researcher-in-Residence on race, gender, sexuality and criminalization at the Barnard Center for Research on Women, where she recently launched the Interrupting Criminalization: Research in Action initiative.”

powell is a professor of law and African American and Ethnic studies at UC Berkeley, and is a prominent scholar on race and civil rights. He is also “ the director of the Othering & Belonging Institute (formerly Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society) which supports research to generate specific prescriptions for changes in policy and practice that address disparities related to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability and socioeconomics in California and nationwide.”

Goff is a professor at Yale University, teaching African-American Studies and Psychology, with an emphasis on implicit racial bias. Goff “has quickly become a national leader in the science of racial bias by pioneering scientific experiments that expose how our minds learn to associate Blackness and crime implicitly—often with deadly consequences.”

The panel is meant to “[bring] together an impressive set of activist scholars who have combined scholarship with engagement in advocacy that advances racial justice. They will address a range of topics, including the distinctiveness of this moment for transformational change; police brutality and the limits and possibilities of police reform/abolition; the nature of systemic racism; and the political uses of racial violence.”

The Racial Justice Initiative, which was announced during the spring, is similar to Claremont McKenna College’s (another member of the Claremont Colleges Consortium) anti-racism campaign, which similarly seeks to embed anti-racism training, requirements, and curriculum within the overall Claremont McKenna academic community. 

According to the inaugural panel’s announcement, it is only the first of many panels involved with the Racial Justice Initiative: “The inaugural panel discussion is just one of several events to take place throughout the academic year as part of the initiative. Various offices and programs in Academic Affairs, including the Art Galleries, Community Engagement Center, Study Abroad, the Robert Redford Conservancy, IGLAS [Pitzer’s Institute for Global/Local Action & Study] and the Writing Center, are planning activities and programs that connect to the initiative. Although many of the activities will be Pitzer-specific, the College anticipates that other colleges, including those involved in the Pitzer-led Justice Education Initiative, will coordinate efforts and events.”

Pitzer College prides itself on varied curriculum and opportunities focusing on “interdisciplinary studies, cultural immersion, social responsibility and community involvement.” Previously, Pitzer narrowly averted boycotting a study abroad program in Israel with the University of Haifa.


Jordan N. Esrig contributed reporting.


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