Jan 28, 2007 • Karen

Dear Scripps College,

You seem to be under the delusion that you are a finishing school.

The largest chunk of the recent funding campaign, "Campaign for the Scripps Woman," went to maintenance and grounds, so we could continue to overwater our fake green lawns in the middle of the desert. About half as much went to scholarships and financial aid for actual Scripps women, burdened by the unending tuition increases. One would hope that admiring pretty flowers would not be our main reason for being here.

Your literature touts Scripps as a place that fosters strong, confident, engaged women. In reality, being an activist at Scripps is a painful, disheartening process for virtually anyone who tries it, with bureaucratic hoops and unhelpful administrators at every turn. It is telling that the only activist organization that you have promoted on the front page of Scripps' website (to my knowledge) is a glorified bake sale, and that the only other established "activist" organization at Scripps is Babes and Blankets, a knitting circle. How feminist is this?

And then there's the favorite policy of Scrippsies everywhere: the escort policy. It is paternalistic and unrealistic.

I can understand some students' fears of evildoers lurking around the dorms. Apparently the cases of Scripps students stealing from other Scripps students have not alarmed them into actually locking their doors, however. The escort policy is security theater. It lulls students into a false sense of security even though talking one's way into the dorms without a key card is not hard at all--heck, my 40-year-old aunt has done it. Rather than improving security, its main effect is to alienate men--the only people that dorm residents can reliably identify as non-Scrippsies. No wonder none of my Mudd friends ever want to hang out at Scripps--even when I'm with them, they are the subject of wary, even hostile looks from my dorm-mates. Come on. As women (and, for some, as minorities) we ought to know something about the experience of the unwelcome stare. Is this progressive?

If I'm hanging out with the guys, and one of them needs to use the bathroom, is it really such a big deal for him to cross a hallway on his own? Our security would be far better improved if dorms had a semblance of community life so that we actually knew who our neighbors were, could identify male *and* female strangers, and could confidently challenge them if they were poking around suspiciously.

As a result of these policies, Scripps students have to go off campus for any social activity that includes males, merrily leaving their doors unlocked behind them. Being that the majority of us aren't man-hating harpies or cootie-fearing little girls, on Friday and Saturday nights Scripps' campus is usually dead. Congratulations.

Scripps is amazingly good at not listening to its own student body. Even when complaints against certain Scripps housing staff reached such a tempo that Scripps Associated Students tried to take action, nothing really improved. Even though 80% of the student body signed a petition calling for replacing the dining hall's styrofoam containers with biodegradable ones (as other Claremont colleges have done) and a campaign for it has been going on semester after semester, the administration has still refused to do it, claiming the five-cent increase in price was too much. The administration even scoffed at students' suggestions of raising the student fee to cover the difference. Scripps College spends its fundraising money on unsustainable, environmentally-unsound landscaping while refusing to put a pittance towards reducing its ecological footprint. We have spoken. But apparently Mother knows best.

The administration at Scripps has a choice. It can commit itself openly to its apparent finishing-school outlook (and delete the empty "feminist" rhetoric on its recruitment literature). Or, it can fix these and many other problems by a.) fixing its policies to be realistic and supportive of student freedoms, b.) actively hiring staff who treat students as adults, and c.) creating opportunities for students to actually have a meaningful contribution to the above. I personally would much prefer the latter. At the risk of sounding truly arrogant, the administration is in our collective employ. It is to serve students' needs, not mother us. But what does my opinion matter?

Actions have consequences. I don't know about the rest of my class, but I came here to be a dedicated student, have a supportive base for activism, and grow socially. To be completely honest, Harvey Mudd College has served those needs far better than Scripps has, and I don't even go there. I don't trust the Scripps administration as a whole; I don't believe its priorities best serve its students. If I donate any money to Scripps College after I graduate and enter the professional world, every cent will be conditional. My money isn't watering any flowers.