By Aditi Garg ’22 and Jacqueline Loh ’22
Sept. 26, Vol. XXIX, Issue 1
Transitioning from high school to college can be a scary time. For some, this is their first experience away from home in a new environment. For marginalized students, coming to Scripps can be especially daunting. Arriving on move-in day and entering Orientation events seeing little to no representation of oneself can feel especially isolating for students of color and/or of LGBTQ+ identities arriving to Claremont. When this translates into a classroom setting, it can be difficult to have to separate your identity from the topics discussed in class, especially when class content, oddly enough, often treats rights for marginalized populations as a point of contention.
Many marginalized students struggle with their identity and trying to fit in, an internal struggle that is intensified by the microaggressions and overt acts of discrimination many marginalized students face. All of these experiences can culminate in feelings of isolation and helplessness, which can have serious implications for students’ mental health. For example, LGBTQ+ youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide or engage in self-harm, according to Mental Health America.
At a predominantly white institution like the Claremont Colleges, students of color can feel especially isolated in and out of the classroom. Specifically at Scripps, as reported by the institution itself, 39.9 percent of the student body consists of students of color, which is starkly disproportionate to the number of white students on campus. A study from the University of Texas at Austin found that Black, Latino and Asian students, although performing on par with white students, felt intense imposter syndrome, and reported varying levels of anxiety and depression. Similarly, a study from the National Center for Health Statistics found that Asian American women “constituted the highest risk race–gender group for suicide for reasons ranging from alienation and depression to racism and sexism.”
To rectify the difficulties faced by marginalized students, there are a plethora of clubs and organizations on campus to offer extra support to those who need it most. Scripps’ Communities of Resources and Engagement provides a space for various affinity groups that offer support to the student body. In doing so, these groups serve a crucial role in developing a sense of community among students who share similar identities and difficulties, especially in the context of being on a college campus.
Watu Weusi at Scripps is an organization that supports students that identify as being of black or African descent. In the past, Watu Weusi holds weekly meetings, in addition to hosting the Black Arts Festival and various movie screenings. With meetings and discussions centering black identity, Watu Weusi offers black students at Scripps a space to express themselves and explore their identity and heritage. Similarly, Café Con Leche (CCL) seeks to support and empower students of Latinx descent. They aim to raise awareness of the need for intersectionality and to critically analyze social, political and economic issues that affect Latinx womxn. CCL hosts events such as Chincax/Latinx Shabbat, Game Board and Karaoke Night and a Latinx Open Mic Night.
For first-year students of Asian descent, AASP (Asian American Sponsor Program) is crucial for forming strong relationships. Asian-American first years are paired with two sponsors who support and guide them through their transition to college life. AASP also hosts off-campus outings, snack breaks and an annual retreat to promote bonding between its sponsors and sponsees. Honing in more specifically on South Asian identity, SAMP (South Asian Mentorship Program) focuses on building strong mentor-mentee relations among all South Asian-identifying students at the 5Cs, hosting cultural events and workshops that help maintain ties to South Asian identity. The Asian American Student Union takes an active role in advocating on behalf of the Asian American-Pacific Islander community. AASU often hosts workshops discussing various topics that impact the API community, such as healthy relationships and representation.
Another noteworthy organization on campus is the Scripps International Community (SIC). SIC works to support all international students, including foreign passport holders, visa holding students, US passport-holders, permanent residents and green card-holders. There are four co-mentor pairs that are assigned six to eight international freshman students, which then plan study sessions or meals together.
“It’s difficult to learn what our identities mean within the US, think about how this affects our identity in a global context, and also remember what is important to us in discussions about identity in our home countries,” said the three heads of SIC, Anisha Soin ’21, Kirtana Sendyl ’21 and Shringi Vikram ’20 in a joint statement. “We try and remind first-years that they shouldn’t feel bad about not knowing things, or feel like they need to hide their cultural backgrounds, while also helping them acquaint themselves with what is important here.”
In addition, QQMP (Queer & Questioning Mentor Program) is a 7C organization that creates an environment of acceptance for students who identify as LGBTQIA+. Through mentor-mentee pairings, students learn how to navigate their identities surrounding gender identity and sexual orientation, as well as their corresponding intersections with race, religion, culture, and class.
Maintaining a strong presence on campus, Questbridge occupies a niche position as a form of support for students from low-income backgrounds. By sharing resources and experiences, and employing a system of “accountability buddies” to encourage each other, Questbridge members strive to directly address the needs of their community.
This mission “has allowed first-years, in our experience, to feel empowered and know that their lived experiences are just as valuable as academia,” according to Questbridge President Aileen Villa ’22. “Sometimes, what our community needs are workshops on professionalism or financial aid, sometimes it’s an outing that otherwise would not have been possible for us to pay on our own, and sometimes it’s just time to socialize and vent to one another. Our goal is to be able to provide a balance of all of these to low-income students at Scripps (regardless of official affiliation with Questbridge).”
With each incoming class, there is a greater need for these affinity groups to exist at Scripps. They put in a great amount of work to support their members and promote the kinds of inclusive conversations that are normally inaccessible in a classroom setting. The importance of such organizations is unquestionable, especially for first-years who are finding their place in college while navigating their identities. These students are Scripps’ claim to diversity, but that doesn’t mean they should be made to feel like anomalies on their own college campus. That’s why students in a position of privilege can truly help by being supportive, unwavering allies, through listening to what marginalized students have to say, uplifting and supporting their message and putting marginalized students’ needs at the forefront of any activism.