Pitzer BSU Address Asks For Changes In Hiring, Admissions, And More

In its September 14 address, the Black Student Union (BSU) of Pitzer College formulated “a list of ways that Pitzer College can help [its] Black students feel more supported and ultimately be successful on campus.” Although the address states that “this is not a list of demands,” the BSU attached a Claremont College Black Student Union “list of demands” from 1968, “want[ing] to highlight that it has been approximately 52 years and yet, [the new] list of requests read almost identical to theirs.” (emphasis original) Alongside its address, the BSU created a petition asking community members to “read the demands [they have] attached.” The BSU asks Pitzer to change its hiring, admissions, and financial aid policies and to hire staff specific to supporting the needs of Black students. BSU expects a response by Pitzer President Melvin L. Oliver by Sept. 28 and hopes to meet with him and the Board of Trustees.

The list of demands “call[s] for active recruitment of Black faculty and staff,” the “aggressive recruitment of Black students,” “a more robust financial aid package,” “more Black administrator(s) in the Admissions Office & Office of Student Affairs,” (emphasis original) an orientation speaker that discusses implicit bias approved by the BSU and/or a committee of Black students, and additional mental health resources for Black students.

The address acknowledges Oliver’s Racial Justice Initiative,  as the BSU states that “our list comes directly from the Black students who study at Pitzer College.” The BSU encourages Pitzer to make active efforts to hire more Black faculty, stating that it hopes Pitzer will involve the BSU in hiring decisions to overcome implicit bias in hiring. 

The students write that “There should be a comprehensive and thorough review of the faculty hiring process to ensure faculty within all field groups are both gender-inclusive and racially diverse.” The address lists several field groups without Black faculty advisors, such as the “Political studies field group, American studies field group, Anthropology field group, Gender and Feminist studies field group, History field group, Linguistics field group, Mathematics field group, Organizational Studies field group, Philosophy field group, Religious studies field group, and many more field groups. . .”

The BSU states that Pitzer should use “the Target of Opportunity (TOP) approach as we already have one professor in mind that we are sure will have an exceptional impact on the inclusive goals of Pitzer.” (emphasis original)

Besides faculty recruitment, the BSU also hopes that Pitzer recruits more Black students and a “proportional” number of students from non-white groups, including by including Questbridge and Posse admissions processes: 

“In order for Black students to feel more at home at Pitzer, we are calling for aggressive recruitment of Black students to be initiated immediately at Pitzer College. There should be proportional representation of minority students for the 2021-22 academic year and every year following. These classes should include a proportional number of Black students, Latinx students, Asian students, and other minority group members[. We] are challenging Pitzer College to extend their networks to include urban areas and consider partnerships with college-access programs that support diversity such as Posse and Questbridge.” (emphasis original)

The BSU also urges Pitzer to increase its financial aid packages and replace loans with grants. Pitzer currently has the smallest endowment of any of the Claremont Colleges at around $150 million. Pomona College, another member of the Claremont Colleges Consortium, which unlike Pitzer, is need-blind and does not include loans in its financial aid packages, has a $2.3 billion endowment, with a large portion of endowment withdrawals supporting financial aid.

The address also calls for the hiring of “Black social workers competent in racial justice to listen to Black student occurrences of racial violence on campus” and “[a]n absence of immediate punitive actions on Black students on incidents involving mental health. Instead, bringing in community actions of care and intervention with the help of a healing practitioner/social worker.” According to Pitzer’s latest Clery Report, from 2016-2018, there were two reported cases of hate crimes, while there were three reported hate crimes in the same period for the other four Claremont Colleges combined.

“Attending a predominantly white institution as a Black student is a challenging experience. On top of many Black students having to work while taking their courses, the burden again has fallen upon Black students to advocate for things that should already be implemented in our Pitzer community, school, and how we function as an institution. The Black Student Union at Pitzer has never been contacted by President Melvin in the midst of him starting the RJI [Racial Justice Initiative]. In order to implement true change, the school must understand that listening to the personal testimonies and meeting Black students’ needs for success is where that change begins,” the address concludes.

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