April 17th, 2017
President Lara Tiedens
1030 Columbia Ave
Claremont, CA 91711
Dear President Tiedens,
We, on behalf of graduates/alumnae(i) of Scripps College, are shocked and outraged at recent events that have unfolded at Scripps, including the suicide-death of a student, Tatissa Zunguze; and the ongoing lack of sustainable mental health options & financial aid support, especially for first-generation students and people of color. We firmly stand in solidarity with the current Scripps RAs’ strike in response to the administration's lack of response to these events as well as to several of Scripps’ chronic and long-standing policies and practices.
This is not the first time that Scripps has been guilty of poor mental health & wellness services available on campus or has put students in financial binds over fluctuating financial situations. Many of us in previous class years have similar stories to share about our time at Scripps. It is unconscionable that this unsustainable and harmful environment continues at Scripps and unacceptable to promote “diversity” on Scripps’ brochures when marginalized students are not able to succeed because Scripps cannot provide adequate mental health and financial resources.
We are deeply concerned about your callous response to the RA strike, which did not address any of the causes of students’ exhaustion and exploitation, but instead defended an administrator who multiple students have testified is abusive and criticized the strike when many other methods of engaging with administration have been tried by students, but did not prove effective. This is a prime example of how Scripps appears to not be genuinely listening or acknowledging the community’s serious and deep state of grief.
In addition, Scripps’ only real action in response to the strike has been to hire an outside security firm to police the campus, which only serves to instill fear in students, especially students of color who have personally been or have witnessed their family and friends of color being targets of police brutality and criminalization. We believe that the RAs’ commitment to taking such serious action demonstrates that the steps the administration has and is currently taking, and its transparency in taking these steps, are inadequate in light of the seriousness of the issues facing the RAs and the Scripps community at large.
We must continue the work of making Scripps a better place for low income students, disabled students, and students of color. That means we must hold Scripps as an institution accountable for its failure to provide Tatissa, and students like her, the support necessary to thrive. As alums, we have not forgotten our long history of activism at Scripps and the work of those before us, and we will continue to support the work of those who come after us.
Some of us have already, or intend to, redirect our gifts, Reunion or otherwise, to specifically support mental health resources and/or financial aid resources for current and future Scripps College students. We will also be reaching out to many past graduates now, and during Alumni Weekend, to update them about the plight of the RAs and the generally toxic and unsupportive environment that many current students continue to experience at Scripps.
As past students of Scripps College, we demand that there be systemic change at Scripps, pursuant to the thoughtful, well-articulated demands of the current RAs. We stand in strong support of their cause, and would vehemently urge the Scripps administration to listen carefully to the RAs’ voices, and to make a genuine, concerted, and good faith effort to comply with their demands.
Concerned Graduates of Scripps College
Organizing Timeline - Scripps College
February 17, 2014: Scripps students protest the silencing of student opinions in the wake of former Scripps President Lori Bettison-Varga’s decision to restart search for the LASPA center’s director. For more information documenting this event: http://whowantsmore2014.tumblr.com/
November 2014: Scripps launches the We Want More campaign
December 2014: Scripps launches search for new director of the LASPA center
December 2014: FGSS quilt defaced by racist epithet. For for information documenting this event: https://www.facebook.com/scrippsassociatedstudents/posts/10152536115661161
September 15, 2015: QTPOC (Queer and Trans People of Color) hold a protest at QRC (Queer Resource Center) in response to the QRC’s proposed survey and form.
October 6, 2015: Presidents of the 7 Claremont institutions signed and passed a policy on demonstrations that condemns protests that impede on daily campus operations.
November 11, 2015: CMCers of Color action against Dean of Students
November 12, 2015: Black Out Student March
November 13, 2015: CMCers of Color released an official statement and list of demands.
November 16, 2015: Intercollegiate Departments of Asian American, Africana and Chicano/a-Latino-a Studies release a joint statement in solidarity with the CMCers of color
November 16, 2015: Students of color at CMC leave campus after receiving anonymous death threats
November 23, 2015: Members of the Scripps Community release a letter of demands to the Scripps Administration in solidarity with the CMCers of color and broader 5C’s
Scripps Interim President Marcus-Newhall facilitates Community Forum to discuss Institutional Racism and Support for Students of Color.
February 22, 2016: Scripps announces that the 2016 commencement speaker will be Madeleine Albright.
April 8, 2016: Members of the Scripps faculty release a letter expressing their concerns with Scripps 2016 Commencement Speaker Madeleine Albright. The letter also announced their decision to refuse to participate in commencement.
November 2016: Claremont students hold a United Against Hate protest across the campuses following the election of another fascist white supremacist.
March 3, 2017: Wanawake Weusi, students and administrators are policed whilst attending a showing of the movie “Get Out” at Edwards LaVerne Theater 12.
March 4, 2017: Tatissa Zunguze (Class of ’18) passes away.
April 7, 2017: Claremont students shut down an event featuring Heather MacDonald (someone who believes the Black Lives Matter narrative is not only false but dangerous), who was invited to speak at CMC’s Atheneum by Rose Institute of State and Local Government.
April 12, 2017: Mudd Students of color organize a sit-in and rally in Platt Courtyard, outside the DSA office in response to inadequate support and resources for mental health, larger systemic issues of the administration, and also the forced leave of Dean Qutayba (Dean Q). During the sit-in (which lasted from 12:30pm to past 7pm), the president walked away from student organizers TWICE in the middle of them talking to her.
April 13, 2017: Scripps RAs announce their strike and release a statement and list of demands
April 15, 2017: Scripps President Lara Tiedens releases a letter in response to the RAs’ Strike. She is ‘disappointed’ in the Scripps RAs for their method of resistance.
Scripps contracts with outside security agency to monitor the campus
April 16, 2017: Members of the AAT (Admissions Ambassador Team) announce that the majority of them will not guide regular campus tours. Instead student ambassadors will use tours as a platform to bring to light the “toxic and frustrating climate that Scripps has created and perpetuates against marginalized students”. They state that if the administration does not respond to the RA demands, they will not participate in the Admitted Student Day program April 21st.
April 16, 2017: Black students at Pomona send a public letter to President Oxtoby addressing his statement on the Heather Mac Donald protest, the letter is no longer public due to these students names’ being leaked to conservative news outlets after Claremont Independent covered it.
An excerpt is here: “We, few of the Black students here at Pomona College and the Claremont Colleges, would like to address several of the points made in your ‘Academic Freedom and Free Speech’ email sent out to the entire student body on April 7, 2017 in response to a student protest against Heather Mac Donald’s talk at Claremont McKenna College’s (CMC) Athenaeum. We believe that given your position as President of this institution your voice holds significant weight in campus discourse.
That power comes with immense responsibility, especially when you could dictate campus culture, climate, and the alleged mission of this institution. As President, you are charged with upholding principles of Pomona College. Though this institution as well as many others including this entire country, have been founded upon the oppression and degradation of marginalized bodies, it has a liability to protect the students that it serves. The paradox is that Pomona’s past is rooted in domination of marginalized peoples and communities and the student body has a significant population of students from these backgrounds. Your recent statement reveals where Pomona’s true intentions lie.”