Claremont McKenna College, a small liberal arts school near Los Angeles, California, has seen the resignation of its dean over yet another race row that has been sweeping university campuses across the United States.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Mary Spellman had served as the dean at the school of around 1,300 students since 2010, but after intense pressure over a response she gave a Latina student after she wrote an op-ed article for the school newspaper, she decided to step aside to meet student demands. She announced her resignation to Claremont McKenna students via email.
“I believe it is the best way to gain closure of a controversy that has divided the student body. I hope this will help enable a truly thoughtful, civil and productive discussion about the very real issues of diversity and inclusion facing Claremont McKenna, higher education and other institutions across our society.”
Lisette Espinosa, the student who wrote the piece for the paper, was concerned about racism on campus and felt that the school was not doing enough about complaints of discrimination.
Mary Spellman responded saying, “We are working on better serving our students, especially those who don’t fit our CMC mold.”
Claremont McKenna College students protested in front of the dean’s office at a rally on campus. Some students began a hunger strike and demanded that Spellman step down from her position at the school over her statement.
Other incidents related to the school that had students upset was a picture posted on the internet of the junior class president, who is a white woman, dressed up with a mustache, sombrero, poncho, and maracas at a Halloween party. As well, vandalism at the Queer Resource Center, racial slurs, the defacement of posters supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and concerns about cultural mockery had protesters upset.
Thirty minority students raised concerns of problems they saw on campus in April, writing to the president of the school, Hiram Chodosh, and demanding action be taken. Their demands included a new resource center, funding for multicultural clubs, increased diversity in hiring staff, a mentoring program, and the installment of a diversity administrator. The students felt that these demands were mostly ignored. The email by Dean Spellman seemed to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
The Los Angeles Times quotes Taylor Lemmons, a student at Claremont McKenna College who had begun a hunger strike over Spellman’s email, declaring victory and encouraging students to keep fighting.
“Let this be a message to anyone who sees a wrong and speaks out to make it right. You can do it. All you have to do is speak up, be strong in your convictions and never give up.”
The president, who said he stood by the students and their demands, stated on Wednesday that the school would work at increasing diversity across the board, including within the curriculum and in the hiring practices, as well as creating leadership positions devoted to diversity within the academic and student affairs offices.
Claremont McKenna is made up of 43 percent white, 12 percent Latino, 10 percent Asian American, 8 percent mixed race, and 4 percent black students. The school is often touted as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country, and tuition to the school runs approximately $46,000 per year.
[Photo by Andrew Burton / Getty Images]