Budget Committee Bylaw Amendment – Community Discussion

Since April 16, our campus has been caught up in a heated discussion centered around the Student Senate’s decision to adopt the following amendment to a general motion on changes in their by-laws:

Student Activities Funds shall not be used to make a payment on goods or services from any corporation or organization associated with the unethical occupation of Palestinian territories. Products include those products from corporations and organizations as delineated in the boycott list maintained by www.bdsmovement.net/get-involved/what-to-boycott.

Having the debate and vote on as highly divisive a subject as this during a period of religious observance (Easter and Passover) had the effect of excluding important student voices from the conversation. This is not consistent with our core value of ensuring that all voices are heard.

On this past Sunday, April 23, the Student Senate returned to this issue and it appears that there will be a review of the original motion. This is a promising development, as it will enable all voices to be heard and all viewpoints to be considered. I remind all that Pitzer College is committed to engaging each other with our commitment to the values of “community, diversity and dialogue” in mind. Everyone should be treated with “dignity and honor.”

Our responsibility in civil and thoughtful debate is to be able to speak so that we can be heard, and the responsibility to listen to others, whether we agree or not. Even though this discussion will be difficult, by committing to our core values it will enable dialogue that respects differences, informs and educates rather than incites and antagonizes, and lead to decisions that truly reflect the hard work and effort that is required to arrive at mutual understandings.

Melvin L. Oliver

Page last updated on April 27, 2017

Temporary Installation of “Apartheid Wall”

Dear Pitzer College Community,

Pitzer College has been selected within the 7C colleges by the Claremont Students for Justice In Palestine (SJP), a 7-College student organization, as the site for the temporary installation of an “Apartheid Wall” for the organization’s protest during its Israeli Apartheid Week. The wall is presented to the Pitzer and other 7C college communities as a protest, a free speech exercise. Walls of this type have been erected in colleges and universities across the nation and some have suggested that discourse associated with the walls is testing the limits of free speech.

I am aware of the high emotions, the rhetoric and the complexity of the situation in the Middle East. I’m also aware that our students have very strong feelings both regarding the wall and the diversity of opinions. My hope is that we use the core values of Pitzer, which include civility, respect and dialogue as a basis of conversation and further discussion of this difficult issue. Pitzer remains open to considering multiple points of view, to caring for each other and focusing on our shared positive values.

We strongly encourage intellectual curiosity, productive discourse and opposing views that may broaden our perspectives as citizens.

We recommit ourselves to the higher values that brought us here and ethical treatment of one another. Every individual is entitled to freedom from fear and stigma, and the respect of others to pursue a life of meaning and purpose. Pitzer College supports greater acceptance, not less. The core values that brought us here ultimately make us stronger together.

As always, please reach out to these offices that are here to support our community.

  • Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services at (909) 621-8202
  • Office of the Dean of Faculty at (909) 621-8217
  • The Office of Student Affairs at (909) 607-2821
  • Chaplains Office at (909) 621-8685

Melvin L. Oliver

Page last updated on April 5, 2017

Hate Speech is Not Free Speech

Dear Pitzer College Community,

Coverage in a local publication of a recent posting on the free wall has ignited a cycle of violent hate speech that threatens the safety and well-being of every member of our community. Some students are experiencing harassment and death threats.

As a place of higher education, we strongly cherish and defend intellectual curiosity, productive discourse and opposing views that may broaden our perspectives as global citizens. However, when speech resorts to hate, violence and threats, we will not tolerate these acts nor the perpetrators of these actions. If you have information that will help us bring those responsible to justice, please contact the Office of Student Affairs and the Claremont Police Department.

Every individual is entitled to freedom from fear and stigma, and with the respect of others to pursue a life of meaning and purpose. Pitzer College supports greater acceptance, not less.

However each of us chooses to respond to the challenges presented by these ill-considered, offensive and hateful actions, I encourage us to care for one another and focus on our shared positive values. Please participate in today’s Healing Justice Workshop led by Kathy Yep at 3:00 p.m. in McConnell Living Room. This workshop practices mindfulness in a way that creates a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world and does not cause harm to others.

Please reach out and be a source of support for each other and be aware that these additional services are available to you:

  • Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services can be reached by calling (909) 621-8202.
  • Office of Black Student Affairs can be reached at 909-607-3669 and
  • Chicano Latino Student Affairs at 909-621-8044.
  • The Chaplain’s office can be reached at 909-621-8685
  • Queer Resource Center can be reached at 909-607-1817
  • Office of the Dean of Faculty at (909) 621-8217
  • The Office of Student Affairs (909) 607-2821 is available all day to add additional support.

Melvin L. Oliver
Pitzer College

Page last updated on March 9, 2017

Support for Transgender and Non-Binary Students

Dear Pitzer College Community,

Yesterday, the US Justice Department and the Education Department released a joint letter that rescinds federal protections for transgender students under Title IX. This action is of real concern to our community.

Citing “significant litigation” caused by the Obama administration’s directive, the Trump administration issued its first “Dear Colleague” letter to schools and colleges that transfers policies and rights of transgender people to the state level. The letter did not take a position on the underlying question of whether Title IX protects gender identity.

As we may perceive this new federal directive as weakening hard-won LGBTQ rights on the national level, it is important to remember that California law matters greatly. California law clearly prohibits discrimination against students based on gender identity. Specifically, transgender students are entitled to participate in school activities, and use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.

I believe that every individual is entitled to freedom from fear and stigma, and with the respect of others to pursue a life of meaning and purpose. Pitzer College supports greater acceptance, not less; true equality, not discrimination. We disagree with any action that rescinds, limits or qualifies the rights of any person based upon their gender or gender identity.

At Pitzer, we were early adopters of gender-inclusive housing and bathroom options, as well as transition-related mental health, and medical services. We take this opportunity to reaffirm our support of the transgender community now and in the future.

The Queer Resource Center (Walton Commons, 395 E. 6th Street) is available for anyone who needs additional support or wishes to process news of this national policy reversal. On Friday, February 24, the QRC will remain open until 7 p.m. Please contact the QRC Interim Director, Al Forbes, or Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services.

We will keep our community informed about key developments relating to gender equity and protections on the Pitzer campus. In the meantime, be assured that Pitzer does not and will not tolerate discrimination.

Melvin L. Oliver
Pitzer College

Page last updated on February 23, 2017

Response to Jan. 27 Executive Order entitled, Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States

Dear Members of the Pitzer Community,

In November, the Pitzer College Board of Trustees and I declared Pitzer College to be a sanctuary college regarding immigration status, thus joining with others in the struggle to support those in our community and around the nation who are most vulnerable to new threats.

Now, in one week, President Trump has altered the American experience, and with it the vision of hope and unity previously shared by most of us. Three executive orders related to immigration, border security, refugee status under American law, and international travel, have upended our policies of openness and welcoming, which have characterized our nation. Currently, I am reviewing these actions with legal counsel and our peer institutions. I assure you that Pitzer College supports our students, faculty, and staff in responding to these troubling actions. Furthermore, Friday’s immigration ban executive order targets people from Muslim-majority countries with the practical effect of creating a religious ban against people of Muslim faith. Pitzer stands in solidarity with Muslims against these actions; this is antithetical to the core educational objectives of social justice and intercultural understanding that are the heart of Pitzer’s values.

Although currently Pitzer College does not have enrolled students from the seven countries targeted in the executive order: Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, we have yet to see how the current administration’s enforcement of its order may evolve to impact others, such as those who possess dual nationality, who are legal permanent residents of the U.S., or what the status of administration and court rulings will be next week, next month or next year. For now, we advise anyone from these targeted countries  to carefully consider not traveling outside the United States until the law is clarified.

As our understanding of unfolding events deepens, we are reviewing and expanding ways to improve assistance to our community members. We are sharpening our already strong policy of keeping student personal information confidential. We are seeking ways to provide legal counsel for affected students and their families. And our newly formed Sanctuary working group convened by Associate Dean of Faculty Kathy Yep is compiling critical resource information for community members.

Events are occurring rapidly. We will continue to monitor and report on relevant developments. We ask that you remain alert for information that will help members of our community navigate these changes.

Any Pitzer students with visa status concerns should contact Todd Sasaki (Todd_Sasaki@pitzer.edu) or Michael Ballagh (Michael_Ballagh@pitzer.edu). Students feeling emotionally distraught from this situation should consult staff in OSA for referral to appropriate services.

The same year, 1963, that Pitzer College was founded, Martin Luther King observed that the measure of worth of an individual is not in how they “stand in moments of convenience and comfort” but rather where they stand “at times of challenge and controversy.”

Pitzer College has always stood as a campus that mobilizes to advance social justice for the vulnerable and to work for an inclusive society regardless of the political climate. I trust that we will continue to stand together to support each other on campus and around the world in these uncertain times.

Melvin L. Oliver
Pitzer College

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Page last updated on January 30, 2017

President Oliver and the Board of Trustees Declare Pitzer a Sanctuary College

Dear Pitzer Community,

Over the past several weeks, in the aftermath of the recent presidential election, our campus has been actively engaged in discussions about “what is to be done.” Our campus,­­ committed to social justice, intercultural understanding and the richness of diversity in our community, is rightly concerned that important members of our community—immigrant students, DACA students, Muslim students—will be targeted because of their immigration status or religious beliefs. As a community, we stand with them and as a college we pledge our support to them. It is for these reasons that I, and the Board of Trustees, declare Pitzer College to be a sanctuary college regarding immigration.

We join other colleges across the United States that have declared themselves sanctuary colleges. What this means differs from institution to institution. For Pitzer College, a sanctuary college includes:

  1. Pitzer College commits to protecting members of our community from unfair deportation, investigation and/or other forms of intimidation.
  2. Pitzer College will not voluntarily comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or other public authorities, in any investigation of the immigration status of any member of our community.
  3. Pitzer College will continue to uphold the right of undocumented and DACAmented students to complete their educations with Pitzer financial aid, and we will continue to recruit future such students as domestic applicants.
  4. Pitzer College will provide enhanced support for undocumented and DACAmented students so they can continue to reap the full benefits of a Pitzer education.

Pitzer College’s mission has distinguished itself with its focus on social justice and intercultural understanding.  It is thus fitting that we join the struggle to support those in our community who may be vulnerable to new threats. We pledge to work with other institutions in the emerging sanctuary movement to fight against efforts that undermine the ability of undocumented and DACAmented people to pursue educational and employment opportunities.

As president of Pitzer College, I will continue to join other leaders in the higher education community to make our voices heard by the incoming administration on policies and other issues related to diversity, funding and oversight of higher education. As a first step, I have endorsed a statement by college and university presidents to national leaders in support of the DACA program and undocumented immigrant students. In addition, I will be working with the other Claremont Colleges presidents to ensure that all vulnerable students at The Claremont Colleges are supported and successful. And finally, I am working with a national task force of immigration educators and attorneys to monitor the current situation and to intervene in productive ways in emerging immigration policy.

I am aware that these are small steps, some of which are already policy, but it is the beginning of a long process to ensure that all our students are protected to the fullest extent possible. This means that we will pursue resources to support those efforts so that all our students, including undocumented or of immigrant status, can continue to benefit from a Pitzer education and become socially responsible citizens of the world who truly make a difference.

Melvin L. Oliver



Estimada Comunidad de Pitzer,

En las últimas semanas, como consecuencia de la reciente elección presidencial, nuestro campus se ha visto involucrado activamente en discusiones sobre lo que “debe hacerse”. Nuestro campus, comprometido con la justicia social, el entendimiento intercultural, y la riqueza de diversidad de nuestra comunidad, se encuentra justamente preocupado por la posibilidad de que importantes miembros de nuestra comunidad –estudiantes inmigrantes, estudiantes con DACA, estudiantes musulmanes—puedan ser acosados a causa de su estatus de inmigración o creencias religiosas. Como comunidad, los respaldamos, y como universidad nos comprometemos a apoyarlos. Por estas razones, yo, junto con el Consejo Directivo, declaramos a Pitzer College, miembro de los Claremont Colleges, como “universidad santuario” de inmigración.

Nos unimos a muchas otras universidades en todo el país que ya han declarado a sus campus “universidad santuario”. Lo que esto significa difiere de institución a institución. Para Pitzer, una universidad santuario incluye:

  1. Pitzer College se compromete a proteger a los miembros de nuestra comunidad de una deportación o investigación injustas, u otras formas de intimidación.
  2. Pitzer College no acatará en forma voluntaria las órdenes del Servicio de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas (ICE) u otras autoridades públicas en la investigación del estatus de inmigración de ningún miembro de nuestra comunidad.
  3. Pitzer College continuará defendiendo el derecho de los estudiantes indocumentados y “DACAmentados” de completar su educación con ayuda financiera de Pitzer, y continuará reclutando a estos estudiantes como solicitantes domésticos.
  4. Pitzer College reforzará el apoyo a los estudiantes indocumentados y DACAmentados de modo que puedan continuar disfrutando completamente los beneficios de una educación en Pitzer.

La misión de Pitzer se ha distinguido por su foco en la justicia social y el entendimiento intercultural. Es por lo tanto apropiado que nos unamos a la lucha en apoyo de aquellos miembros de nuestra comunidad que pueden ser vulnerables a nuevas amenazas. Nos comprometemos a trabajar con otras instituciones en el naciente movimiento de santuario para luchar contra los esfuerzos por socavar la capacidad de perseguir oportunidades de empleo y educación de las personas indocumentadas y DACAmentadas.

Como Presidente de Pitzer College, continuaré uniendo mis esfuerzos a los de otros líderes de la comunidad de la educación superior para que nuestras voces sean oídas por la próxima administración en cuestiones de política educativa y otros temas relacionados a la diversidad, financiamiento y supervisión de la educación superior. Como primer paso, he respaldado una carta de presidentes universitarios a los líderes nacionales en apoyo al programa DACA y a los estudiantes inmigrantes indocumentados. Además, trabajaré con los otros Presidentes de los Claremont Colleges para asegurar que todos los estudiantes vulnerables en los Claremont Colleges reciban apoyo y tengan éxito. Y finalmente, estoy trabajando con un cuerpo especial nacional de educadores y abogados de inmigración para monitorear la presente situación e intervenir en formas productivas en la política de inmigración emergente.

Soy consciente de que estos son pequeños pasos, algunos de los cuales ya existen como políticas, pero es el comienzo de un largo proceso para asegurar que todos nuestros estudiantes estén protegidos de la forma más completa posible. Esto significa que buscaremos recursos para apoyar estos esfuerzos de modo que todos nuestros estudiantes, incluyendo a aquellos indocumentados o inmigrantes, puedan seguir disfrutando de una educación en Pitzer y convertirse en los ciudadanos del mundo socialmente responsables que verdaderamente hacen una diferencia.

Melvin L. Oliver

Page last updated on February 27, 2017

November 23, 2016

Dear Pitzer Community,

Dean Boyle and I met with our Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) students last night. We discussed the concerns that have arisen regarding their educations here at Pitzer, and also concerns about the family members of DACA students, the undocumented family members of non-DACA students, and the welfare of our DACA alumni.

We are working to address concerns in a very uncertain climate. The well-being of our DACA students is a top priority and we will work with FEC, Cabinet and peer institutions to protect their interests. In the meantime, we would like to express our own solidarity with all members of our community who fear the consequences of current political changes.

Melvin L. Oliver

Page last updated on November 23, 2016

November 9, 2016

Dear Pitzer Community,

As we absorb the impact of yesterday’s election results, I urge the Pitzer community to come together to consider the implications for all members of our community, and for a college committed to social justice and intercultural understanding.  We need to express our fears and concerns and to discuss how we can move forward.  I am working on planning campus-wide events to create opportunities for us to do so later today.

However each of us chooses to respond to the challenges presented by the results of this historic presidential election, I encourage us to care for one another and focus on our shared positive values.  In the meantime, please talk to one another and be aware that additional resources are available.  Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services can be reached by calling (909) 621-8202. The Office of Black Student Affairs can be reached at 909-607-3669 and Chicano Latino Student Affairs at 909-621-8044. The Chaplain’s office can be reached at 909-621-8685, and the Queer Resource Center can be reached at 909-607-1817. Staff at the Dean of Faculty’s office (909 621-8217) and the Office of Student Affairs (909-607-2821) will be available all day to add additional support for the Pitzer community.

Melvin L. Oliver

Page last updated on November 22, 2016

September 30, 2016

Dear Pitzer Community,

I know all in our campus community have been following the events that have occurred in Tulsa, Charlotte and El Cajon over the past week. Terrance Crutcher, Keith Scott and Alfred Olango join a far too long list of African American’s who have recently been killed by the police.

The loss of black lives in incidents of this type weighs heavy on all of us at Pitzer College but we must acknowledge the particular pain it causes our African American students, faculty and staff here at Pitzer and across the nation. I want to reach out in solidarity with all on campus who feel the pain, the anger, and the frustration that these events engender.

From my perspective, it is crucial that we understand that these are not isolated events but symptoms of a larger set of problems that inform the context of these shootings. The architecture of systemic racism informs how police and blacks interact; from the way media and cultural representations portray black people, particularly, black men as dangerous and criminal to the racialized social policies that built ghettoes and isolate many African Americans into communities characterized by concentrated poverty and limited economic opportunity to the policies that promoted mass incarceration for the past 20 years. Such an understanding, demands remedy, it demands accountability, it demands justice; but it also demands that we recognize the corrosive nature of systemic racism that makes us all, no matter our social position, vulnerable to its dehumanization and the stereotyping of others.

I would hope that our faculty, our students and staff could take time out of their classes and their workday to reflect on these issues. Understanding is the first step towards progress. In addition, I am proposing that we consider a series of “Roundtable Discussions,” keynoted by outside speakers, for us to approach issues of race, inequality and social justice during the Spring 2016 semester. I will be approaching the faculty, Student Senate, Affinity Groups and other organizations to develop a steering committee to oversee this initiative. These roundtables should be a forum, spirit and practice true to Ptizer’s values; that is, open, non-hierarchical and transparent.

Finally, let us not lose hope, for there will be, no doubt, more killings, more setbacks, but our salvation lies in our struggle to make a better world through education, personal transformation and intercultural understanding, and the pursuit of social justice.

During these difficult times, self-care is critical. Students in need of emergency or urgent counseling assistance are encouraged to contact Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services after-hours through Campus Safety by calling 909-607-2000 or during regular business hours by calling 909-621-8202 or stopping by Tranquada Student Services, 1st Floor. Student Affairs also offers walk-in hours daily from 1:30 – 3:30 PM, Monday-Friday. Chaplains are available by calling the Chaplains Office during regular business hours at (909) 621-8685 or visiting the McAlister Center at 919 N. Columbia Avenue. Faculty and staff members are encouraged to contact Human Resources for more information on the Employee Assistance Program.

Melvin L. Oliver

Page last updated on November 22, 2016

August 10, 2016

Members of the Pitzer Community,

Recently, an article in local media quoted Facebook comments made by Pitzer students regarding their preference in race for their roommates in non-Pitzer housing. Specifically, the post indicated that only people of color should inquire about the housing option.

While Pitzer is a community of individuals passionately engaged in establishing intracultural safe spaces for marginalized groups, the Facebook post and several subsequent comments are inconsistent with our Mission and values. Pitzer College’s Mission is to create engaged, socially responsible citizens. We rely on Pitzer’s core values, including intercultural understanding as well as Pitzer’s community values of diversity, dialogue, inquiry and action to help us achieve this mission. We come together to live and work in a shared learning environment where every member is valued, respected, and entitled to dignity and honor. Our shared goal is to create a balanced approach to engaging complex intercultural issues, not to isolate individuals on the basis of any protected status.

This is but another example to us that social media is not an effective platform to engage in complex dialog on seemingly intractable critical issues that have varied histories and contested understandings. They create more heat than light and invite extreme viewpoints that intentionally obfuscate the nuanced context that surrounds these issues. Pitzer offers its new 2-course Intercultural Understanding requirement and dedicates new curricular and extra curricular programming to address difficult issues of racism, diversity, community discourse and national and international political conflict.

During these difficult discussions, self-care is critical. If you need additional support during the summer, Monsour Counseling has an on-call therapist available for students. Call (909) 621-8202 and press option 1 to be connected to the on-call therapist. Chaplains are available by calling the Chaplains Office during regular business hours at (909) 621-8685. Employees should contact Human Resources for information on the Employee Assistance Program.

As we move forward in the academic year ahead, I look forward to participating in these discussions in the best tradition of Pitzer College.

Melvin L. Oliver

Page last updated on November 22, 2016