Pitzer President Issues Statement In Response To Videos By Quarterback, Students Call For More Actio

Last night, Pitzer College President Melvin Oliver issued a statement in response to several videos posted on TikTok, a popular social media platform, by a Pitzer football player. According to the on-campus publication The Student Life, which revealed the player as Skylar Noble (PZ ‘22), 5C students found the videos “really disturbing” and “harmful.” Oliver’s statement, which did not name Noble, stated that “The views expressed in the videos, which have since been deleted by the student, are antithetical to Pitzer’s community values.” Claiming the jokes made in the videos “materialize into violence,” students at Pitzer and across the Claremont Consortium have called for support from the administration and demanded to know “what actions [Pomona-Pitzer Athletics is] taking now to ensure future safety of the communities harmed & proposed plans for sustaining an educated and respectful culture in your athletics teams?”

One of Noble’s videos attacked the music of popular icon Lizzo by stating that he “love[s] how music can take you places in life. Like when Lizzo starts playing at a restaurant and I leave and go to another one.” Another of his videos insulted tennis player Serena Williams by saying that “people really wake up and choose to believe that Serena Williams is and has always been a female.” The last video depicts a situation in which Noble pretends to punch a girl named Madison “walking into [his] party.” 

Students reacted quickly to criticize and spread Noble’s TikToks. According to TSL’s article, students took issue with Noble’s characterization of Serena Williams, calling it “anti-Black, misogynistic and transphobic.” One former Pomona-Pitzer football player stated that, “[a]s a former member of the Pomona-Pitzer football team, and someone who played with Skylar, this attitude is unacceptable. PZ and the PP athletics department should be a place of inclusivity & acceptance. The spread of hatred from a member of those institutions is impermissible.”

Other students have been more vocal in their condemnation. In an Instagram TV video released yesterday, several students attacked the Pitzer administration for ostensibly viewing Noble as a “good white person.” The students went on to claim that “[t]here’s no such thing as a good white person.” The students also questioned President Oliver’s ability or willingness to act because “[he] has a white wife what the **** [is] he going to do?”

Members of Pitzer’s student senate also weighed in on the controversy. The current senate President and President-elect wrote that “while some of you may be inclined to dismiss the insensitive and violent content as simply ‘offensive and uninformed jokes,’ it is critical to recognize that “jokes” like these quickly materialize, normalize, and inspire acts of physical violence, especially when promoted on a platform with over 600 million users worldwide, and that even if they didn’t result in actual physical violence, the magnitude and severity of the psychological violence inflicted requires us to take a community stance and protect each other.”

Not all students have agreed with the predominant response to Noble’s TikToks. One student, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of being “canceled,” said that “[o]f the three videos, I only found the one making fun of Lizzo’s sometimes-cringey music funny. The one about Serena Williams and the one hitting a seemingly-fictional woman were not funny, but it looks like President Oliver and others are imposing opinionated labels on the TikToks, such as calling them racist. [N]one of the three TikToks circulating mentioned race. As a person-of-color who has experienced direct racism with intended malice, I think Claremont and the broader United States need to begin to differentiate actual violence from jokes. The dominant leftist arguments on campus that offensive jokes eventually lead to physical and policy violence on marginalized groups should face greater scrutiny.”

Oliver’s response came in an email to students released last night. In it, Oliver said that he had “seen these videos and want[s] to publicly state [his] disappointment and disapproval. The views expressed in the videos, which have since been deleted by the student, are antithetical to Pitzer’s community values (below), where every member of our community is valued and respected.”

Addressing student calls for action, Oliver explained that “Student Affairs, Student Senate, Academic Affairs, Title IX, Pomona-Pitzer Athletics, The Claremont Colleges Services, and others are collaborating to create educational initiatives, and provide resources and support for members of our community. More information on these resources and actions to educate will be shared by Student Affairs soon.”

This is the latest in a series of moves by Pitzer to promote racial awareness on campus. Last September, the college announced an all-encompassing racial justice initiative seeking to “embed the study of racial violence and justice throughout the campus and curriculum.” The initiative was set to begin on September 10 of last year. As of now, it remains ongoing.

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