Protests over racial tensions at another college campus in the US have led to the resignation of another high-ranking school official.
Mary Spellman, the dean of students at Claremont McKenna College — a private, liberal-arts school in Claremont, CA — has relinquished her post.
Spellman’s resignation Thursday comes after students began protesting over the way Claremont McKenna officials reponded to what many perceived as a racially insensitive photo.
According to a report from the student paper, Claremont Independent, Spellman’s resignation was the result of protests that began Wednesday. Protesters claimed Spellman and other school officials “had not done enough to create a safe space on campus for students from marginalized backgrounds.”
Claremont Independent claims the protests were bolstered by ongoing anguish over perceived racial predjudice on campus, and Spellman’s response to those claims. In an email sent to one student, Spellman wrote that her office was searching for ways to “better serve students, especially those who don’t fit our CMC mould.”
That language was reportedly taken as a suggestion that certain students do not belong at Claremont McKenna College. Students responded with protests, and according to the local newspaper, San Bernardino Sun, two students went on a hunger strike, seeking Spellman’s resignation.
Spellman’s resignation also follows an uproar over the way the school responded to a racially insensitive photo of students wearing Halloween costumes.
In the photo, alleged Claremont McKenna College and Scripps College students can be seen wearing sombreros, fake mustaches and ponchos. It’s one of many incidents in which college students have dress in Halloween attire that is seen as culturally insensitive because it is perceived as objectifying specific ethnic groups for the purpose of entertainment.
In a statement, Spellman says her resignation “is the best way to gain closure of a controversy that has divided the student body and disrupted the mission of this fine institution.”
Protests of a similar tone have spread throughout college campuses nationwide of late — most recently at the University of Missouri, where the school’s president Tim Wolfe stepped down this week. School chancellor R. Bowen Loftin followed soon after.
Here’s the full statement from forner Claremont McKenna dean of students, Mary Spellman:
Since 2010 I have been privileged to serve as Dean of Students at Claremont McKenna College. Today I am submitting my letter of resignation, effective immediately. I do so with sadness beyond words, because these nearly six years have been the most rewarding and fulfilling of my life, but also with the conviction that it is the right thing to do for the school and the students I care about so deeply.
I have been grateful for the support of the Administration and the heartening encouragement I have received from so many of my students, former students and colleagues. Among the calls, texts and emails I have received is a student who wrote:
“You’ve inspired me in my time at CMC. Please stay strong and realise students like me need you to stay here…I will always be honored to consider you a mentor, a role model, and above all, friend.”
And a faculty member who wrote:
“I also recognise how much you have worked to make our community more inclusive… I know I join many fellow faculty members and students in expressing my full support and confidence in you as Dean of Students here at CMC.”
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. Most important, I hope this will help enable a truly thoughtful, civil and productive discussion about the very real issues of diversity and inclusion facing Claremont McKenna, higher education and other institutions across our society.
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