Viewpoint: An open letter to Claremont

by Guy S. Foresman, M.Div. M.A.

As a graduate of both Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Graduate University, it is my responsibility to speak about the values of both institutions. Each celebrates the values of truth over cleverness, humanity over self-interest, and equity over opportunism, and when faced with these choices, each institution is wise to live up to them.

The values of truth, humanity, and equity have served us well as invitations and obligations to reach beyond ourselves, and to not leave others behind. We have all benefited from that.

I worked hard to earn a Master of Divinity from CST and a Master of Education from CGU, and I still remember biking beneath the eucalyptus trees each day between the two campuses. As an educator, I was able to give my best to others through the study and the training I received from both institutions. I believe that this speaks to the values of both Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Graduate University.

Unfortunately, I am now faced with witnessing the Claremont Colleges make choices of self-interest in place of humanity, and opportunism in place of the wiser choice, that of equity.

I know the words that make up the various Latin phrases, statements, and mottoes that grace the five undergraduate schools and two graduate schools. They speak of high ideals and values, and of the personal capacity we each possess to meet and uphold these ideals and values.

Many commencement addresses have also spoken of our personal and collective capacity to act and share in the ideals and value of truth, humanity, and equity. Yet where the Claremont system of colleges have chosen to stand, is on the throat of its neighbor. The opportunistic land-grab being perpetrated against CST has been born out of a desire to pay 1957 prices for present day land value. Blunt but true.

With the intent of the Claremont system of colleges to acquire land at an unfair discount, the solemn words carved into the stone at College Avenue and Sixth Street, “They only are loyal to this college who departing bear their added riches in trust for mankind,” are fully set aside. Instead, these words are being traded in for clever and opportunistic self-gain.

What value is there in these and the other genuine words that hold us to account when the actions of executives calculate so differently? What do the Claremont Colleges stand for when the words in support of its students and faculty are so completely set aside for its executives?

Words matter because actions matter. And when words and actions do not agree, it is not the insufficiency of the words, but the inconsistency of the actions that become apparent.

The governing body for the Claremont Colleges is acting far outside of its own words. The governing body would be wise to visit these words of truth, humanity, and equity, and act accordingly.

What the Claremont Colleges and Graduate Schools promote:

• Pomona College: “Let only the eager, thoughtful and reverent enter here” and “They only are loyal to this college who departing bear their added riches in trust for mankind” and at its founding, “Our Tribute to Christian Civilization”
• Claremont Graduate University: “Multa lumina lux una, Many lamps one light”
• Scripps College: “Incipit vita nova, Here begins new life”
• Claremont McKenna College: “Crescit cum commercio civitas, Civilization prospers with commerce”
• Harvey Mudd College: (Pictograph emphasizing the connection between humanity and technology)
• Pitzer College: “Provida Futuri, Mindful of the Future”
• Keck Graduate Institute: “Innovators Start Here”
• Claremont School of Theology: “Tell your children to tell their children’s children to dream this dream for God.”

And what I learned: Purse the truth, and be mindful when it’s right in front of you.

A call to Claremont, its colleges, and its seminary:

Our shared history and desired future are before us. I ask the Claremont community, near and far, to stand and support the words of our colleges, graduate schools, and seminary.

Please encourage the governing body of TCC to honor the words that have supported Claremont and its educational ideals all these years; and to accept this as an invitation and an opportunity for TCC and SCT to sit down and build upon the educational prosperity that has been our past, and is our future.

1 Comment

  1. Joseph Lyons

    After personally following the tug of war between the Claremont School of Theology (CST) and The Claremont Colleges (TCC) described in Guy S. Foresman’s An open letter to Claremont, I feel compelled to echo some of his comments in light of the subject of the commencement address I delivered to the 2015 CST graduating class. I was asked to reflect on Claremont’s reputation as a model Community, and focused on the long standing heritage of volunteerism, citizen participation in civic affairs, positive town and gown relationship, and the historically collaborative, intercollegiate and mutually beneficial association between The Claremont Colleges and Claremont School of Theology, as being contributors to this well deserved reputation.

    On May 16, when it was deliverd, most in the audience, and certainly the graduates, were becoming accustomed to living with a renewed hope for the future,

    And then, literally within a month of presenting this forward looking and optimistic horizon of possibilities, it was replaced with the unimaginable future we are living through to this day. A future that includes a sociopolitical movement that has perfected the politics of polarization with the intent to disrupt the relational social contract on which our Nation was established, and our Community was based.

    Which is why, like Mr. Foresman, “it is my responsibility to speak about the values of both institutions” as a person with no formal ties to either, but as a Citizen of Claremont, and former Mayor and City Councilperson who appreciates the contributions both have made to our Community.

    As esteemed institutions in their own right, each exposes their students to both the greatest achievements and catastrophic failings of humankind, while celebrating and promoting “the values of truth over cleverness, humanity over self-interest, and equity over opportunism” – core values that are relational, and upon which moral and ethical principles of public conduct were once derived. This so called moral compass placed a premium on civility, mutual respect, and compromise, which in there absence, have been proven to be necessary for the just, inclusive and humane conduct of human affaires.

    Restoring these values and the moral framework they support, must become THE AMERICAN PRIORITY. If we are to solve the numerous existential threats that have been created and gone unaddressed due to the prevailing adversarial and highly polarized sociopolitical environment, we must make it our duty to act in ways that clearly convey in both words and deeds our commitment to values and moral principles, and hold those who act on our behalf to the same high standards.

    And herein lies the conundrum, how do any of us, whether as individuals or institutions, engage in relationship centered conflict resolution, when the infrastructure, practices, and operatives for resolving disputes, our courts and judicial system, have been intentionally entangled and corrupted in special, self-interest litigation, which creates case law that both parties claim represents the interests of we the people.

    As an angst-filled observer of what has been a methodically pernicious process to undermine the checks and balances institutionalized by our Constitution, I think the options available to help restore these democracy sustaining safeguards has been reduced to one.

    We as individuals and institutions that recognize what is at stake, must not only acknowledge the historical significance of “the values of truth over cleverness, humanity over self-interest, and equity over opportunism,” we must celebrate and promote these values, AND hold ourselves accountable to conduct our affairs in ways that reflect and honor civility, respect, and mutually beneficial compromise as the means to restore the foundational principals on which our Nation was established, and our Community was based.

    To that end, and recognizing that a great deal of time and resources have been invested in establishing the existing divide, I would ask that the leadership of both institutions, absent their legal and financial counsel, meet and consider the relational toll that creating the transactional divide has had, not only between their institutions, but on their relationships with their surrounding Community.

    My hope, which I suspect was the hoped for outcome that guided early negotiations, is that by sitting together and reflecting on their “shared history and desired future,” and the opportunity to “build upon the educational prosperity that has been [their] past, and [could be their] future,” that a mutually beneficial outcome will reveal itself during deliberations that are true to the values each aspires model and convey to those they are charged with educating.

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