Radical Roots of Pitzer: Part 1

“What were your expectations and preconceptions of Pitzer before you came here?” This is one of the 21 questions that Pitzer seniors have been asked since 1968 when the Pitzer History Project began interviewing students nearing graduation. For 50 years, student responses have been surprisingly consistent, along the lines of: “I thought there would be a lot of freedom at Pitzer and that it wouldn’t be your traditional college or your traditional college education.”

The documents in the Pitzer College Archives, which picks up where the Pitzer History Project left off, make it clear that faculty, staff, and trustees have had a similar—and steadfast—impression of the College: in addition to being an exceptional college that’s part of a consortium of highly respected educational institutions, Pitzer is more progressive, experimental, hippie, disruptive, unruly, rebellious and unconventional than other colleges in Claremont and around the country. How do these perceptions emerge?

In an attempt to answer this question, the Pitzer College Archives mounted The Radical Roots of Pitzer, an exhibition that explores the principles, attitudes, and aspirations underlying these ideas about the College. Part One explores the development of Pitzer’s institutional and educational character. The remaining parts will delve into the roots of Pitzer’s Core Values:  Environmental Sustainability, Social Responsibility, Intercultural Understanding, Interdisciplinary Learning, and Student Engagement.