Pitzer College Leaders Can’t Agree If It’s OK for Students to Advertise for Non-White Roommates

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By Emily Zanotti | 3:34 pm, August 12, 2016

So is it OK for college students to take out ads seeking non-white roommates for their off-campus house?

Well, at Pitzer College in California, it depends which senior administrator you ask.

Students at Claremont Colleges (of which Pitzer is one) advertised an opening in their off-campus home on Facebook that listed “POC” (or “person of color”) as one of the requirements to apply. The student are also resident advisors at the school. Although other students immediately pointed out that the policy was discriminatory, the RAs countered that the segregated housing “protected” students of color and created a “safe space” for members of their community.

One student of color defended the policy to Claremont’s student newspaper, saying that it meant she “didn’t have to tiptoe around fragile white feelings in a space where we just want to relax and be comfortable.”

Another told the Claremont Independent that “white people always mad when they don’t feel included but at the end of the day y’all are damaging asf [as f*ck] and if a POC feels they need to protect themselves from that toxic environment THEY CAN! Quick to try to jump on a POC but you won’t call your friends out when they’re being racist asf.”

After complaints, the incoming president and current vice president of Pitzer College both got involved. But they can’t seem to send a clear message to students as to whether segregation in housing is acceptable on the college’s campus.

Pitzer President Melvin Oliver, who is the first African-American to lead one of the Claremont Colleges, chastised the RAs for their divisive behavior, calling the post “inconsistent with our mission and values.” He went on to tell students that the purpose of higher education “is to create a balanced approach to engaging complex cultural issues, not to isolate individuals on the basis of any protected status.”

He went on to say that “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.”

But immediately after his email went out to students, Vice President of Pitzer Brian Carlisle sent his own conflicting message. He took the students who complained about the discriminatory policy on social media to task, accusing them of creating the hostile environment. “Our dedicated resident assistants have been targeted by Twitter trolls who publicly defame them and attack their contributions to our community,” he said.

Students are, no doubt, more confused in the wake of the administration’s response than before they weighed in. Some told the Claremont Independent that it was imperative that the administration clarify its stance. In the meantime, the students who posted the original ad have found a roommate.

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