I realize that many of you have heard varying amounts of information regarding the activity on campus over the past few weeks, but I want to give you a more comprehensive overview of these events than you may have learned about from my recent email, the Family Facebook Page, recent news stories, or your student.
Before continuing, I invite you to visit a website the College has created that contains a complete timeline of events, activity and communication leading up to and continuing through the most recent campus events. In the rest of my letter, I’ll provide a little additional context and some information.
To begin with, it’s important to acknowledge that the College community has faced some extraordinary challenges this year—even before the recent events occurred on our campus. As some of you know, this includes the death last summer of Tristan Witte ’18 in a car accident and the subsequent campus memorial early in the fall, the divisive political climate, a fatal motorcycle accident in early December involving Adam Cave (a recent Pitzer alumnus and son of a long-time HMC professor Bob Cave), and the on-campus death of senior proctor Willie Zuniga ’17 shortly after the beginning of spring semester.
The compounding emotional toll of these events had already deeply affected the HMC community by the time The Claremont Colleges student newspaper, The Student Life, published a “leaked” copy of what has become known as “The Wabash Report.” The confidential report, commissioned by the College’s Teaching and Learning Committee as part of its considerations around the honor code, workload and curriculum, contained some quotes from faculty and students that were unexpectedly harsh and troubling.
The faculty made an initial decision not to share the full report with students (choosing to share a summary of the report instead) to avoid giving students the impression that these comments were reflective of how the majority of faculty members feel. Unfortunately, the unplanned release of this report on the same day as the on-campus memorial for Willie Zuniga ultimately had this very effect, sending a shock wave through much of the already weary and grieving student body.
Many recent events have been highly emotional and challenging for our entire community (they are all captured, in order, on the newly-created website). Some of those events have continued beyond the release of the Wabash Report, including the death of Scripps student Tatissa Zunguze (a student of color who was well connected with Mudders), the paid administrative leave for Associate Dean for Health and Wellness Qutayba Abdullatif (Dean Q), and the protests and difficult campus conversations.
At the same time, this has led to some short-term decisions by the faculty and administration to create opportunities for open and honest dialogue, add time for rest and reflection, offer activities to reconnect community members (especially faculty and students), and support the overall health and wellbeing of our student body.
This week, the College proposed additional funding for programs, staffing and student groups. This proposal included items identified with input from a wide range of students provided before, during and after these events. The College did this to ensure that additional support is in place for the students’ health and wellbeing—as well as for their academic success—and that this support is adequate and accessible for the remainder of the semester and through the 2017-18 academic year.
While these decisions address the current campus situation, the additional funding is a one-time commitment, and we will determine any extended or permanent allocations based on a review of the impact following the 2017-2018 academic year. In addition, the faculty has made no lasting changes to the curriculum, to courses, to the Core, or to the mission of the College. Permanent change—especially when it comes to curriculum and workload—will require more time for careful consideration and direct involvement from all members of our community.
The curriculum is a living thing. It evolves, sometimes in minor ways and sometimes in major ways. The last faculty Core Curriculum review was completed about seven years ago, so we’re due for another one. Considering workload in relation to the curriculum is part of that normal review process. The College continues to recognize that rigor is essential to the Harvey Mudd experience and brand, but at the same time, the faculty wants to ensure that the curriculum is not unmanageable. We have already seen success in courses such as CS5—and more recently E79—where the faculty have made adjustments to the curriculum that have resulted in a more manageable workload for students without sacrificing learning outcomes. As faculty members move through the review of the Core Curriculum, they will involve student and alumni voices that represent varying perspectives, with the goal of strengthening the Mudd experience for all, not weakening it.
The College is committed to providing ongoing information for shorter and longer term items identified through our ongoing conversations. In addition to talking with your student, I encourage you to visit our website from time to time and to join the Family Facebook Page.
Thank you for the valuable role you play in helping ensure not only your child’s success, but the success of Harvey Mudd College.
Harvey Mudd College