Now Claremont McKenna

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.
The college’s Dean of Students just resigned amid pressure from student activists:

Mary Spellman announced her decision in an email to the student body. She wrote, in part: “To all who have been so supportive, please know how sorry I am if my decision disappoints you.  I believe it is the best way to gain closure of a controversy that has divided the student body and disrupted the mission of this fine institution.” The announcement came one day after student protests at the college, where many demanded more inclusive programs for what they call marginalized students, which include students of color, LGBT students, disabled students and low-income students.

At the 43:55 mark of the video seen above, Spellman responds to calls that she resign. At 49:35, two students announce a hunger strike until she does. Here’s the crux of the controversy:

In the past few days, an “offensive”email sent by Dean Spellman was widely circulated on Facebook and prompted calls for her resignation. In the email, Dean Spellman responded to an article that voiced concerns by a student of color, stating that she wants to better serve students “who don’t fit our CMC mold.” Her comment outraged several students of color, and the email was cited as another example of institutional racism at CMC.

The junior class president also just resigned, stemming from a Halloween photo she posed in that contained two blonde women in Sombreros and mustaches:

The photo started circulating early Sunday after CMC junior Casey Garcelon reposted the photo on her Facebook with the caption “Dear Claremont community, For anyone who ever tries to invalidate the experiences of POC at the Claremont Colleges, here is a reminder of why we feel the way we do. Don’t tell me I’m overreacting, don’t tell me I’m being too sensitive. My voice will not be silenced. I’m mentally drained from being a part of this community and I’ve had enough.

The class president, Erin Brackmann, apologized profusely to Garcelon and asked if she could please take down the photo:

In one of her messages, Brackmann wrote, “I fully understand your decision to keep the photo up, but could you please crop me out of it? It associates me with something I also think is offensive and a lot of comments have been targeted at me, by people who think that I was part of the group costume. I don’t want this to compromise my role and legitimacy as class president.”

Garcelon refused. She then publicly posted several Facebook messages and email from Brackmann and the other women in the photo. Apparently private correspondence isn’t considered a safe space at Claremont McKenna.