What happened this week at Claremont McKenna was unprecedented. Marginalized voices were brought out into the open; stifled dialogue commenced. The majority of this conversation was, and is, rooted in real, painful concerns about our college. However, parts quickly morphed into a torrent of seemingly uncontrollable anger that left casualties in its wake.
It should be noted first that we could not be more supportive of the ideals of the CMC’ers of Color movement. There are undoubtedly a host of issues that were taking too long to be addressed by the entirety of the CMC administration. However, regardless of your personal opinion about Claremont McKenna’s shortcomings, what happened on Thursday with Dean Spellman’s forced resignation was wrong. The Dean of Students has a legal responsibility to care for and support the students of this college; a hunger strike is a legal twisting the administration’s arm. Collectively, many of us fearfully piled together all our complaints and angers about deeply rooted institutional problems conveniently onto the shoulders of Dean Spellman and then sacrificed her, on an altar of heated rhetoric.
Those that knew her understood Dean Spellman would sacrifice anything if it meant keeping the students of the college safe and healthy. Those that knew her believed her to work tirelessly to make this school a better place. Many of us – students, faculty, and administrators – are guilty of standing silent while Dean Spellman fell alone. No justice system with a shred of integrity condemns an individual through megaphones and curses in a mere 24 hours.
Dean Spellman was a cornerstone of CMC and advocated each day to ensure its constant improvement, be it building support services for victims of sexual assault, fighting for safety on this campus, or individually counseling hundreds of students in her office. Her genuine love for this community cannot and should not be understated. CMC is her family, and she wanted nothing but to build us up. While she undoubtedly has made mistakes, it is not fair to say every mistake or prejudice that comes out of DOS stems and should be attributed to her. Those who worked with her more closely than any of us students have – professors and other administrators – have come forward to say that Dean Spellman was an incredible supporter and proponent of marginalized voices. The ratio of anger about this subject that deserved to be attributed to her should be no greater than that of the other administration.
For better or for worse, what was done cannot be undone; we can only move forward. Despite any poorly worded email, Mary Spellman is still a role model, a person, and a member of the CMC community. Now, with a freshly stained reputation and demonizing headlines, Dean Spellman enters the job market. We ask every student, faculty member, or administrator to do what we should have done earlier: speak out. Please, if Dean Spellman has made either a direct or indirect positive effect on your time at CMC, send a letter detailing that experience to firstname.lastname@example.org. We are compiling the stories of so many that she touched, in the hopes to make her search a little bit easier, reminding everyone that the ramifications of this week and the curses being shouted in her face are not wholly representative of our feelings toward her time here.
We could not agree more that the job of a dean is to provide support to ALL students; however, wrenching a standing dean out of the community that was beloved and relied on by many mid-year has consequences. If there is one thing we have learned thus far, it is that there were many more of us relying on Dean Spellman than one might first think.
Please submit letters to email@example.com by Friday, November 27th, and specify if you would like to maintain confidentiality. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to Rachel Doehr (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Katharine Eger (email@example.com). Please share this with other members or former members of the CMC community.