CLAREMONT (CBSLA.com) — The dean of students at Claremont McKenna College stepped down Thursday after protests and allegations the university turned a blind eye to racial tension on campus.
Mary Spellman, who has held the position for nearly six years, announced her decision in an email to the student body. She wrote that her resignation “is the right thing to do for the school and the students I care about so deeply. 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.”
Her resignation came after sparking protests and a hunger strike by two students over an email she sent to a Latina student suggesting that students of color did not fit the “CMC mold.”
Students have demanded inclusive programs for what they call “marginalized students,” including students of color, LGBT students, disabled students and low-income students.
The latest incident involves two students who wore sombreros, ponchos and mustaches to a Halloween costume party.
Student Casey Garcelon posted the picture on her Facebook page to spotlight what she calls the marginalization of people of color. “What’s wrong with that photo is that they’re appropriating a culture and they are not being aware of it,” said Garcelon.
A woman in the photo also resigned her post as junior student body president.
On Thursday, students from all five Claremont colleges staged a protest to highlight the lack of support they say the administration has shown to students of color.
Student Sheenie Yip said: “I am just constantly confused by the fact that some people just don’t get it and still make the same mistakes.”
“You see this every year, especially with access on the internet; I feel like the knowledge is there,” said student Nina Lee.
“I think the students have heard a lot of empty apologies. And we’re tired of it,” Garcelon said.
In Spellman’s resignation email, she apologized for not denouncing the costumes in the picture. She also asked her defenders to stop blaming discrimination on ignorance.
The college did send out an email to students before Halloween urging them to avoid wearing any costumes that demean a culture. A photo of young people in sombreros was included in that email.
Garcelon said the women in the photo had apologized to her and had asked her to remove that photo from her Facebook page. But Garcelon refused. “This is representative of a bigger issue. And that’s why I posted it. That’s why I shared it,” she said.
Claremont President Hiram E. Chodosh promised to create two new positions to promote diversity and inclusion on campus.
Spellman’s resignation came days after the University of Missouri’s president and chancellor stepped down amid student protests over alleged racial discrimination.
Students at Ithaca College in upstate New York have demanded that the university’s president step down over accusations that administrators were insensitive to racial issues on campus.