The Hypocrisy and Failing of the Claremont Independent

Elijah Pantoja
6 min readDec 27, 2015


Dear Editorial Board of the Claremont Independent,

My initial response to your recent article, “We Dissent”, was an overwhelming feeling of disgust. I wanted to comment on the lack of students of color on your staff. I wanted to make note of the fact that you have a long-standing commitment to the protection of Jewish students across the Claremont Consortium, yet when I search the phrases “Latino” and “Black” on your website, articles describe how immigrants are a necessary tool to keep Caucasian citizens’ taxes low, and that the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is based on “misleading or fabricated information” and “alienating” people. While I will undoubtedly expand upon these points later in this essay, I want to more directly address the intentionally-polarizing, insensitive, and offensive “We Dissent” article.

I, too, am disappointed in students like you. As an organization that unfortunately holds a fairly large amount of influence across the Claremont Colleges, I am disappointed in the use of your power to attempt to dismiss and silence one of the largest movements these campuses have ever experienced. I am disappointed that you blatantly suggest that students of color “should have chosen a different school” due to the lack of classes that focus on gender, race, and inequality (as if that’s the reason students are up in arms). I am disappointed that you fail to understand how having more faculty of color, even those who are “less qualified”, is beneficial for students “like me.” I am disappointed that the tone of your article is articulated as that of a group who hold authority over the students like myself who participated in the protest two days ago. I am disappointed that not only has your Editorial Board failed to distinguish between a safe space for students of color and a space for the sharing and challenging of ideas, the Board actually mistook them as the same thing.

Let’s begin with the framework of “We Dissent”. First, the tone is shamefully inappropriate. The decision to begin nearly every paragraph asserting your “disappointment” with each group or person you name is obnoxious. You’re establishing a climate in which your Editorial Board is a sort of elevated and enlightened council that is preaching a truth to their congregation. To further separate yourselves and us, students of color, you explain to each and every group why you are disappointed; like a parental figure scolding a misbehaved child. Again, obnoxious. The most inexplicable part of your tone is that you are using this all-knowing attitude to causally inform the most disenfranchised groups on these campuses why their feelings are irrelevant. I’m sure you have good intentions; using the White-Saviour Complex to prevent us students of color from screwing up. Kudos to you, Claremont Independent, for helping me realize what I, and over 1,000 students at this Consortium are doing wrong.

Another intentional set-up within this article is to attack all groups involved in the recent events that took place at the Consortium. By claiming they are disappointed in Former Dean Mary Spellman, President Hiram E. Chodosh, and themselves, the Editorial Board clearly believes they can leave readers convinced that the Board are heroes for challenging everyone. The “disappointment” of the Claremont Independent towards the administration stems from a not-so-hidden attack on students of color. The Board was disappointed that the administration let students of color “bully” Mary Spellman into resignation. The Board was disappointed because the administration taught students of color that “reacting with emotion and anger will force the administration to act.” This shameless onslaught of criticism directed towards students of color is a disgrace to professional journalism and is not present in any school of thought, liberal or conservative.

The intent of not only “We Dissent”, but the Claremont Independent as a whole is also despicable. It seems as if an obsession with Glenn Beck met with a confused interpretation of classical conservatism to produce the most inflammatory and polarizing fringe journalism out there. The generality of this article, the refusal to go into the details of the issues at hand, and the avoidance of any substantive writing is a serious red flag in the validity of this article and the Claremont Independent as a whole. It is amusing how the Editorial Board can remember one quote from a 2-hour long discussion that took place, and take the time to find the name of a class that suits the needs of their argument, but they refuse to remember quotes from students who left Mary Spellman’s office crying, or explaining why students were calling for her resignation beyond her grossly inappropriate email.

One of the more personally offensive arguments in “We Dissent” was suggesting to me that I should have chosen a different school, simply because I believe there should be institutionalized resources for students of color. Designated spaces for disenfranchised groups on campus, active outreach and recruitment within communities of color, financial aid workshops, and established funding for on-campus affinity groups are just some of the resources that elite institutions should offer students. These resources are crucial to the success of students of color as they allow us to become a less isolated, more well-equipped group on campus.

Thinking of institutions that currently have all or many of these resources, Spelman College, Howard University, Hampton University, the University of California at Riverside, and the California State University at Los Angeles come to mind. These schools are already historically black, or majority students of color, but The Claremont Independent’s Editorial Board has suggested these are the best institutions for me and the other students of color at the Claremont Colleges. Essentially, students of color should vacate this already predominately white Consortium in order to attend schools that are majority minority. The first thought that comes to my mind is: that kind of sounds like segregation, doesn’t it? But no, the Editorial Board insists this applies to students who are unhappy with more general school resources as well. They use an example of a student at Caltech (a school known for excellence in STEM fields) who wants more literature classes. It is hard to believe that the Claremont Independent suggested that Jewish students should have left the Consortium when they felt uncomfortable during periods when they were targeted. I do not recall a single article in the Claremont Independent calling for Jewish students to leave the Consortium; in fact, I specifically remember an article in which the Claremont Independent encouraged the Jewish population to “put aside their differences and unite to make a statement against anti-Semitism.” Sadly, we are now hearing the opposite from the same journal, criticizing students of color for putting aside their differences and uniting to make a statement against institutionalized racism. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It is tragic to think that the Claremont Independent only supports one group of targeted minorities, instead of minority groups on the whole.

Finally, though there are more unsettling claims that can be found throughout “We Dissent”, the last issue I will discuss is diversity of faculty. In their essay, the Editorial Board asserts that there is a lack of qualified professionals of color in academia, and therefore, it is acceptable that the CMC faculty is less than 2% black. Somehow the Editorial Board can’t seem to understand that if there is not a presence of faculty of color at these institutions, students of color are more likely to feel isolated on campus. This leads to many marginalized students taking leaves of absence, or rescinding their enrollment entirely at these institutions, creating a significantly lower graduation rate for students of color. Good luck explaining why else the graduation rate for black students at CMC is nearly 20% less than that of white students; besides of course for the fact that there are too few resources on campus designated for students of color. And the Claremont Independent’s confusion between a safe space and a space for debate does not help said lack of resources.

A safe space is a space in which students of marginalized groups come together to debrief, celebrate, talk, and work among one another for the sake of community. It is not intended to be a space in which different ideas are challenged. We, students of color, also understand, accept, and welcome the need spaces for debate and the sharing of ideas; all we request in addition are spaces for disenfranchised groups to be able to build community when they feel isolated by the lack of curricular diversity, the lack of diversity of faculty and staff, and a journal of their largely white peers dismissing and attacking their basic, necessary requests.

So yes, I am disappointed in you as well, Editorial Board of the Claremont Independent.