Category Archives: Los Angeles-Claremont

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) chose to highlight me as their featured Student Spotlight. The work that FIRE does for individual rights and free expression on college campuses is highly important, no matter your place on the political spectrum. Many thanks for them writing about my work at Pitzer!

You can read the entire interview here:


Women’s Colleges, the Real World, and a Failed Comparison

Shannon Miller, a first-year student at Claremont McKenna College, posted a controversial piece on the CMC Forum yesterday entitled “Don’t Like the Gender Gap? Don’t Encourage It.” She was responding to a Huffington Post op-ed by a Scripps College student who argued that women’s colleges empower young females. Miller claims that they are the opposite; unrealistic safe havens that do more harm than good.

As of 11:00 PM, there are over 250 comments on the article. Forbes online published a Scripps’ student’s reaction. Why did Miller’s op-ed provoke this response?

The article is a ruse. Shannon Miller’s piece is not about the failures of women’s colleges; it’s about crudely stereotyping Scripps and lauding Claremont McKenna.

“I argue that CMC has better equipped me and other female students to tackle the gender gap than most women’s colleges would have,” writes Miller. “I chose not to apply to women’s colleges…I wanted to enter a school that would push me to be stronger and bolder, not indulge my weaknesses by protecting me from “injustice” in an inaccurately idyllic setting.”

Miller blindly claims that students who go to coeducational colleges come out strong and bold, while those who go to women’s colleges, specifically Scripps, emerge weak, misguided and unprepared for life after college.

“The real world is nothing like the shelter of a women’s college, and I don’t care to indulge the fantasy that it is,” writes Miller, in closing.

No college, including CMC, is like the real world. All of our nation’s top liberal arts institutions shelter their students, especially those in Claremont. Each of the colleges maintains a “bias related incident” policy and speech codes to ensure that no one feels offended; every school offers top-rated dining halls and some even offer maid service. Liberal arts colleges—and most American universities – unequivocally fail at representing the real world. 

Moreover, Scripps is not representative of most women’s institutions. The College has its own campus, but it’s part of a coeducational consortium. Scripps shares social life and academics with the others. That’s right; there are men in the classroom with the female students! Why did Miller use an effectively coed women’s college to make her point? Miller and every other Claremont student will cross paths with Scripps’ students in classes, dining halls, and parties. Scripps is anything but isolated.

What was the intention behind the piece? If it was really to prove that women’s colleges are disadvantaging female students, Miller’s effort failed spectacularly. She only proved that it’s easy to stir controversy with baseless judgments and one-sided comparisons. 

All about the image?

A fearless (and fiercely independent) tour guide

Since my freshman year, I’ve been a tour guide for the Office of Admission. Each week, and usually multiple times, I lead guests across the Pitzer campus for an hour while highlighting what I find to be what makes our institution strong and unique among small liberal arts colleges. Although it is a paid position, and I’m expected to follow a certain route and know the facts, the Office does not dictate what I say. In fact, I would venture that in many ways my tour is quite different from any other tour guide at Pitzer, just as their tour will have its own unique spin. I like that we have some “editorial freedom” for our tours. There is, however, one question that inevitably arises, and its the one I least like to answer:

How would you compare Pitzer to the rest of the Claremont Colleges?

And even though I know it’s a perfectly logical and normal question to ask, I always feel bad answering because, well, I don’t see them as completely separate institutions; while they may each have their own professors, student bodies, cultures, and the like, I see myself as a Claremont Colleges student. While I am proudest to be from Pitzer, I take a little ownership in all of the Claremont Colleges. I would guess that others feel a similar sentiment.

Another aspect always comes up during my tours:

Surprise. Visitors simply can’t believe how close the colleges are to each other.

While part of that may come from the uniqueness of the Claremont consortium model, I think that it comes from the distinct efforts of each college to individualize itself from the Consortium. So while we each benefit from the entire consortium, the schools, for the most part, downplay that relationship in the admissions process.

To see how close the image fit with the reality, I worked with Richard Ahne CMC ’15 to go inside the tours and find out what students were saying. In the end, we learned a lot more about the Consortium in regards to the admission process — and came up with some good advice for the Colleges.

I’m proud to say that the story, entitled “The United Colleges of Claremont,” is the cover story for the May 2012 edition of the Claremont Port Side.

You can read it on p. 12-13 of the PDF version of the magazine here or, for the  HTML version, here.

Welcome to the 20th Most Selective College in the USA!

Back at the start of April I wrote that Pitzer College’s selectivity had gone dropped to 15.7% from 24% the year previously.  Now, Yahoo! has put out a list saying that Pitzer is the 20th most selective college in the United States. That’s crazy.

So, you may ask, how do we at Pitzer welcome our selective admits to the campus?

The answer, you will find, is this:

That’s right: A flash mob.

With only a week’s notice, student workers in the Office of Admission choreographed and put together a flash mob of approximately 40 students to “Party Rock Anthem” by LMFAO. Dancing with the students were yours truly, Dean of Students Moya Carter, Vice President for Admission/Financial Aid Angel Perez, and, in an amazing performance, President Laura Skandera Trombley. To everyone’s credit with the high energy in the soon-to-be-viral video, this all happened at 9:25 am on a Friday morning.

How cool is that?

Cesar Chavez Day 2012: A rally to remember

Growing up in suburban Maryland, I had never really heard of Cesar Chavez Day.

I’m sure that we glossed over the California Labor movement in one of my classes, but it was never a major focus of study. Coming to California, one of my great discoveries has been the strong movement for workers rights and immigration reform. Of course, these issues affect everyone on a national scale and have been covered in the mainstream media, but they were not completely on my radar on the east coast.

Cesar Chavez is, by far, the most important name in the California Farm Workers movement. A strong union organizer, he popularized the phrase “Si Se Puede.” (Roughly translated as “Yes We Can,” the key slogan during President Obama’s 2008 campaign)

On Friday, March 30, local Los Angeles unions and student groups converged upon the small city of Claremont to hold a rally for worker’s rights, specifically those of Pomona College’s dining hall workers. In the Fall, a number of workers at Pomona were fired for deficiencies in their I-9 forms after a document audit.

I helped cover the rally for the Claremont Port Side, expected a medium turnout mostly made of students and faculty.

That wasn’t the case: I have never seen anything like it in Claremont. Almost 700 people arrived to march is support of worker’s rights.

The most striking thing about the rally, besides the size, was the organization. All around the march and rally sites were union representatives with microphones and earpieces, coordinating the location of protestors and timing of events.

For those that think unions are reckless, let me tell you that the representatives here were professional. Law enforcement had obviously worked with the organizers to pull off a safe event and to ensure minimal disruption for the rest of the community.

For me, this rally was a fascinating turning point in the Pomona College unionization story. Now that larger unions are involved (with their highly organized forces), I think there will be more pressure on Pomona’s administration to handle the situation.

Even if you are not in support of the union at Pomona, it’s hard to make the College seem like the underdog. After all, Pomona has an endowment of over 1 billion dollars and a student population of about 1500.

You do the math.

You can read the entire report on the protest at the Claremont Port Side, including video shot and edited by yours truly (see below)

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