After several national media outlets covered Pitzer College student leaders’ defense of racially discriminatory housing practices, both the incoming President of Pitzer College, Melvin Oliver, and the Vice President for Student Affairs, Brian Carlisle, issued statements to the entire student body, faculty, and staff.
“Recently, an article in local media quoted Facebook comments made by Pitzer students regarding their preference in race for their roommates in non-Pitzer housing. Specifically, the post indicated that only people of color should inquire about the housing option,” President Oliver stated in his first-ever email to the Pitzer College community. “While Pitzer is a community of individuals passionately engaged in establishing intracultural safe spaces for marginalized groups, the Facebook post and several subsequent comments are inconsistent with our Mission and values.”
“Pitzer College’s Mission is to create engaged, socially responsible citizens,” Oliver continued. “We come together to live and work in a shared learning environment where every member is valued, respected, and entitled to dignity and honor. Our shared goal is to create a balanced approach to engaging complex intercultural issues, not to isolate individuals on the basis of any protected status.”
Shortly after incoming President Oliver sent out his email condemning students who refuse to live with certain people based on the color of their skin, Vice President Carlisle reached out to the Pitzer College community with a different message. “Our dedicated resident assistants have been targeted by Twitter trolls who publicly defame them and attack their contributions to our community,” Carlisle wrote. “Now, more than ever, is the time to come together as a community to celebrate and support our amazing resident assistants and student affairs staff. Please join me in thanking them for their work in furthering our mission and for keeping our campus a safe place to work, live, and study.”
Students were unimpressed with the administrators’ inconsistent responses. “I think it’s important that our administration takes a firm stance on this. What we saw in those Facebook posts and comments was a disdain for a certain group of people, in this case, white people. If Pitzer wants to stay consistent with their values of racial harmony and multiculturalism, they must speak out against comments like this,” stated Nick Toro (PZ ’18). “What’s even more important than racial diversity is the diversity of thoughts and ideas. Only then can we learn to understand each other.”