Each year Claremont McKenna College confers degrees on up to 300 deserving students. Their diplomas are symbols of accumulated knowledge and skills that have prepared our young graduates to pursue, as we often say, “thoughtful and productive lives and responsible leadership in business, government, and the professions.”
In a world continually challenged by corruption, violence, and inequality, CMC’s mission is perhaps more relevant today than ever before. But daily media accounts of troubling behaviors on our nation’s college campuses call for reinvigorated forms of student leadership. High-risk drinking, sexual misconduct, academic dishonesty, and campus climate issues are problems facing even the most selective institutions.
CMC’s Personal and Social Responsibility (PSR) Initiative is our response to these national challenges. The initiative forms the third prong of The Student Imperative— and places an emphasis on understanding and improving the social dimension of our campus and student behavior. The PSR Initiative represents our institutional commitment to meet these challenges head-on by drawing on the collective wisdom and collaborative efforts of our trustees, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, and most critically, our students.
A broadly representative committee structure is in place to study each challenge area within the specific context of Claremont McKenna College and to make recommendations that promote personal and social responsibility in the CMC community.
The goal is not a report, but a plan and series of actions.
Continuing the work completed last year through the Mirza Summit on Personal and Social Responsibility, committees met this fall to discuss the CMC experience and explore the causes and consequences of students’ behavioral choices. This spring, the conversations will shift to a solutions-based approach, as the committees make well-reasoned recommendations that include everything from policy adjustments to wellness initiatives designed to support our students’ growth. The recommendations will be reviewed by a PSR leadership team to ensure action items are tasked to the appropriate people, communicated clearly, and tracked for effectiveness.
CMC’s rich enhancements in intellectual life and the arts, global and off-campus study, athletics and fitness programs, and enhanced support for change-making (leadership, community engagement, entrepreneurship, and social innovation) are just some of the many resources the College will leverage to aid in this effort.
David Leathers ’15, a student involved in this committee work, has reflected on his experiences this semester in a way that we hope will be true for many of our students.
“Participating in the PSR Initiative has been an extraordinary way to represent student voices during important conversations at the College,” he told me. “Part of what makes CMC an amazing institution is the opportunity for constant self-reflection. I think this initiative will be a successful step towards optimizing the campus climate for each and every student.”
Cole Mora ’17 echoes Leathers’ sentiments.
“I am optimistic and excited when I think about what the PSR Initiative can mean for this school and this community,” he said. “I see it as a chance to hear the voices that otherwise go unheard, to grow from those important and challenging discussions, and to make CMC a place that lives up to its reputation by truly leading the way for others to do the same.”
Claremont McKenna College is dedicated to cultivating courageous, empathic, creative leaders. A CMC degree is not simply a credential. It also represents a value system for pursuing opportunities that will improve conditions in our nation and the world. Our obligation is great, but so is our commitment to this calling.
Dianna Graves ’98 is Director of Academic Planning in the Office of the Dean of the Faculty and also serves as one of the College’s Title IX Deputy Coordinators.
Enhancing our ability to respond
As part of the PSR prong of The Student Imperative, CMC’s administration also has enhanced and revised student conduct and grievance policies and procedures, and has appointed two new officers: Marcie Gardner as new Assistant Vice President for Investigations and Nyree Gray as Title IX Coordinator and Chief Civil Rights Officer.
Like “The Student Imperative,” the phrase “civil rights” is an umbrella term—applying to protections against many forms of discrimination that affect, in addition to students, CMC’s staff and faculty, too.
“We want CMC to remain in the lead of issues affecting so many campuses across the country,” explains Matthew Bibbens ’92, who serves as the College’s General Counsel. “The changes and revisions to our policies and the hiring of Gardner and Gray are an integral part of our response. We want to raise awareness about these issues and ensure that the College handles every situation in the best possible way.”
National spotlight: sexual assault at American universities in 2014
During 2014, various media outlets reported and charted numerous cases of alleged sexual assault and misconduct — one of the areas addressed as part of the CMC Imperative’s PSR Initiative — at colleges and universities across the nation.
Incidents were so numerous and prominent — at Occidental College, for instance, UC Berkeley, Florida State, Brown University, and Columbia University — that commentator George Will wrote a column challenging what he called “the supposed campus epidemic of rape.” The public response to his remarks was heated, including Scripps College’s decision last fall to disinvite Will as a speaker for a series designed to bring conservative points of view to their campus.
Al-Jazeera America dubbed 2014 as “the year of college sexual assault” and provided a timeline of incidents. Mid-year the White House published “Not Alone,” its first-ever report on campus assault. In October, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the “affirmative consent” law (also known as “yes means yes”), which requires colleges receiving state money to adopt a more victims-centric standard for sexual misconduct cases.