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Claremont Dean Resigns After Suggesting Students Of Color Don't Fit The 'Mold'

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The Dean of Claremont McKenna College resigned today after students protested an email she sent to a Latina student suggesting that students of color didn't fit the "CMC mold."

Mary Spellman, the former Dean of Students at Claremont McKenna College, resigned today, telling students in an email that she is sorry if her decision disappoints those who have supported her, but that she believes "it is the best way to gain closure of a controversy that has divided the student body and disrupted the mission of this fine installation," KPCC reports.

Yesterday, students protested at the college saying they wanted more programs for students of color as well as LGBT, disabled and low-income students. Last month, a CMC student Lisette Espinosa wrote in the student publication The Student Life about how she frequently felt unwelcome and isolated as a low-income Mexican woman at the private liberal arts school. She noted a long history of a lack of diversity and inclusion at CMC, and pointed to several examples where she experienced these things firsthand. She even linked to an Onion article titled "Man Going To Trust Society's Determination That He Deserves His Privilege" where the fictitious character in question was a graduate of CMC.

Espinosa emailed Spellman her op-ed, and Spellman responded on October 25 by telling her that, "[W]e are working on how we can better serve students, especially those who don't fit our CMC mold."

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Telling students who already feel isolated that they don't fit their school's mold didn't go over well. Matters weren't helped by a photo that began circulating of CMC's junior class president, Kris Brackmann, posing with two white students who were dressed up like Mexican stereotypes for Halloween. Brackmann has also since resigned from her position.

One student, Taylor Lemmons, went on hunger strike yesterday, calling for Spellman's resignation and citing a history of inaction and a lack of understanding. "Advocacy and service are ineffective, if at a fundamental level the Dean of Students does not understand the students," Lemmons wrote.

Spellman sent an email to community members yesterday morning, saying that when she sent the email to Espinosa, her "intention was to affirm the feelings and experiences expressed in the article and to provide support, according to The Student Life. Spellman also spoke at the student protest, apologizing and saying that she was committed to changing things and had already been working on some issues.

A group of about 30 students of color provided a list of suggestions the school could take to make things more inclusive for students of color in April, but student Denys Reyes told KPCC that little had been done. These ideas included a resource center for students of color, more diversity among faculty and staff, mentoring programs, mandatory racial sensitivity training for professors and funding for multicultural clubs.

"The institution has only now started to respond to our efforts because it's a PR crisis," he said.

University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe resigned from his position on Monday after being accusing of mishandling racial tensions on the Columbia campus in several incidents. This included students hurling racial slurs at black students and organizations, and a swastika that was discovered made out of human feces in a dormitory.

Yesterday's protest can be viewed here:

Eds. Note: An earlier headline for this story read, "Claremont College Dean Resigns After Writing That Latinos Don't Fit In." We have since changed that to clarify that the dean suggested that students of color don't fit in the school's "mold."