C/W: racism, anti-immigration, xenophobia

Dear Pitzer Community,

I am writing to share that Vice President for Student Affairs Sandy Vasquez and I met last week on October 26 with the Latinx Student Union in response to the anti-Mexican, anti-immigrant, and xenophobic remarks made on October 8 near Atherton Hall and following my initial letter to the community. We had an honest and productive conversation about the incident as well as Latinx and undocumented students’ experiences at Pitzer overall. We sought to both better understand and better address the continued challenges our Latinx, undocumented and immigrant students face on campus. We are grateful for the rich discussion about solutions we could develop in partnership to improve their experience and success, while maintaining a balance to prioritize the voice and safety of our undocumented students.

Members of the administration, faculty and campus leadership, including OSA, Office of the Dean of Faculty, and the chairs of the Diversity Committee, have plans to continue to meet with our undocumented students in the coming weeks.

As we discussed in our meeting last week with LSU, we agree there is more the College can and should do to support the success and wellbeing of Latinx students at Pitzer. I write to share some of our initial thoughts that emerged from this first meeting and outline initiatives we are committed to implementing over the next 24 months.

Within the next six months:

Proper investigation to identify student(s) involved in the October 8 incident and the creation of a tool for anonymous reporting of helpful information

An investigation has been launched and is ongoing in partnership with LSU. A draft of a bias incident response protocol has been vetted by the Office of the Dean of Faculty and Associate Dean Adrian Pantoja and will be shared with Student Senate, Identity Board and other shared governance bodies for feedback. Additionally, contact was made with the reporting and impacted parties, and all available footage has been reviewed. An update was provided at Student Senate on Sunday, October 24. An Anonymous Reporting Form was distributed to the community on October 27 in partnership with LSU.

Host two to four workshops and/or events per year to educate the student body on Latinx and/or immigration issues

We are committed to making ally training by experts available to the Pitzer community, enhancing partnerships with Student Senate and Identity Board to further promote student resources, and further developing Career Services workshops and pathway opportunities for undocumented students (including within The Claremont Colleges Services (TCCS) Centers). Partnership with TCCS Centers, Racial Justice Initiative, Campus Life, Student Affairs, Office of the Dean of Faculty, and Diversity Committee will continue to support the enhancement of these efforts.

The new Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students will reimagine the Pitzer Community Dialogues Program to prioritize partnerships between students, faculty, staff, and TCCS offices. We hope the above-mentioned opportunities will also include collaborative topics on racial healing, intergroup/difficult dialogue, and transformative justice.

Creating accessibility to 5C established resources for undocumented/DACAmented students (central portal)

Pitzer College declared itself a Sanctuary College in November 2016 and continues to support the success of undocumented/DACAmented students. Together as collaborative partners, the Office of Student Affairs, Office of the Dean of Faculty, Office of Admission and Financial Aid, and the Office of Study Abroad and International Programs assist with advocacy, outreach, support, and resources for undocumented and DACAmented student success. Additional resources and information are available here.

While honoring our undocumented student voice in this process, we remain committed to their request to maintain confidentiality concerning the detailed, robust resources and services they receive. Within those constraints, we will further enhance public-facing information available regarding services and resources available to undocumented/DACAmented students at Pitzer, The Claremont Colleges, and TCCS Centers, through a one-stop centralized website portal, including information for prospective students that Admissions can further promote. Our Student Affairs Justice Education, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging Student Fellows are working closely with Career Services to further enhance resources and opportunities information available online for undocumented/DACAmented students.

Within the next 6-18 months:

Campus climate survey

Through the Liberal Arts Colleges Racial Equity Leadership Alliance, a Student Climate Survey will be launched on November 2, 2021, as part of Pitzer’s Racial Justice Initiative. We seek to gain important information and student perspectives so we can develop additional support and resources to create a successful educational experience for our students. 

Investment of resources supporting our undocumented student population

We remain committed to our robust support of our undocumented student population while maintaining confidentiality as we continue to prioritize each student’s safety. We value the ongoing trust and partnership we’ve built, via personal dialogue, between our undocumented students and the Office of Student Affairs around issues related to accessing resources and support. At this time, they have expressed they are grateful for the resources and support from Pitzer and do not want the College to publicly publish the detailed list of resources and services they receive as this can be detrimental to their safety.

A physical space on campus designated to be a resource and safe space for undocumented students at Pitzer

Following our dialogue with LSU and subsequent personal conversations with our undocumented students, we have determined that a physical space on campus would be detrimental to the safety of our undocumented students. We are united in support for the advocacy of a 5C center. 

Ongoing discussions with admissions to re-evaluate the number of undocumented students admitted each year

We remain fully committed to the ongoing institutional support for the admission of undocumented students, and we are committed to exploring financial and recruitment strategies for admitting more undocumented students.

Creation of a Pitzer advisory committee, composed of students, faculty, and staff, on supporting historically underrepresented students

During the pandemic, the Student Success Advisory Group to the Dean of Students was established to support low-income and historically underrepresented students. This group prioritized support and resources for our most vulnerable students, including undocumented students, during extremely challenging times. We appreciate LSU’s and our undocumented/DACAmented student feedback that the Student Success Advisory Group is the best advisory group to continue this most important work. We will partner with LSU for the inclusion of LSU representation. OSA Pitzer Justice Education, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging (JEDIB) Fellow representation will also be included.

Within the next 18-24 months:

Establishment of a Dream Center for undocumented/DACAmented students across the 5Cs

In partnership with LSU, we are committed to advocating for the establishment of a 5C Dream Center. This would require united support, approval, and resource contributions from across the Colleges.

Our Student Affairs JEDIB Student Fellows are working closely with Campus Life and Student Affairs to conduct research on best practices, structures, models, site visits to campuses with centers and frameworks.

Appointment of a full-time staff member to oversee Undocumented/DACAmented students at Pitzer College

The Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students has traditionally overseen direct support needs for historically underrepresented students. They have provided direct support to Undocumented/DACAmented students at Pitzer over the last several years. The Dean of Students works with partnering offices as necessary to support students. This was initiated in partnership with the former Dean of Faculty and the Sanctuary Working Group in 2017. The OSA Student Support Services Coordinator position was imagined during the pandemic to enhance support to historically marginalized students, including prioritizing support needs of undocumented students, in partnership with the Dean of Students. Plans are underway to hire an Assistant Dean, who would report to the Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students and help enhance support to historically underrepresented students, including Undocumented/DACAmented students. Further, the new Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students will explore the addition of a Graduate Assistant/Intern from CGU enrolled in the Allies of Dreamers Certificate Program.

Pitzer is committed to taking these next steps, and I want to thank the LSU for its extraordinary dedication and engagement over these vital issues. The College will continue to strive to live up to its mission and values and ensure our Latinx, undocumented, and immigrant students have the resources and support they need to thrive at Pitzer. 

Provida Futuri,
Melvin L. Oliver