Last summer, a team of students at Scripps College, a liberal arts women’s college in Claremont, California, spent around 500 hours putting together a 217-page “Unofficial Scripps College Survival Guide,” according to a description on the school’s website. The guidebook was created to help new students adjust to life on campus, with topics ranging from health and time management to social issues like race, privilege and gender identity.
The project was led by Scripps junior Jocelyn Gardner.
“My intention for the guide was to have something for every student,” Gardner said at the time of the guide’s release. “I came up with a list of topics and opened the list up to student feedback. I wanted it to reflect the Scripps experience on the whole and address anything a new student could have concerns about.”
But some students might find that they have more concerns after reading the guide than they did before picking it up.
According Campus Reform, the guide, which features the writings of more than 40 students, suggests that the term “Preferred Gender Pronoun” (PGP) should be replaced with “Gender Pronoun” so as not to offend students who identify with a gender that doesn’t correspond to their biological sex.
“While it may seem new and positive, PGP is actually not a good thing,” they guide reads. “There’s nothing wrong with Gender Pronouns! However once we say ‘preferred’ we’re invalidating the entire idea. How people identify is how they identify; it is not a ‘preference.’”
Another section teaches students that they can become a “Trans* Ally” by asking each of their peers for their preferred gender pronouns in order to avoid assuming that they all identify as women. “Enacting a life of accountability and ownership over your own domination and privileges is the only way you can exhibit allyship,” the guide says.
The survival guide defines “White Privilege” as “the set of unearned benefits white people gain as a result of systematic racism and discrimination” that “benefits even those white people who are disadvantaged by other forms of institutionalized oppression like ableism, classism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia.”
The authors assert that “asking people of color to educate us about racism,” “asking people of color to absolve us of our guilt,” and “identifying the ways that we are engaging in the perpetuation of white supremacy” are all things that “we need to stop doing right now.”
A section titled “Dear white students” states that “[r]everse racism cannot exist because white people maintain power over people of color” and “because there are no institutions that were founded with the intention of discriminating against white people on the basis of their skin [color].”
What began as a lighthearted project to acclimate students to life at Scripps had some far-reaching results. Campus Reform reported that since the guide was published last September, a range of student movements have sprung up across the Claremont College system, also known as the “5C’s.”
One group called the 5C Students of Color Alliance held a “Hurting and Healing” event to advocate for the creation of racially segregated “safe spaces” that deny access to white students.
According to Campus Reform, The Motley, a student-run café on Scripps’ campus, has hosted events exclusively for people of color, which the survival guide justifies by claiming that some places are “harmful” for people of color, and that having segregated safe spaces is “the least we can do” for non-white students.
“Anger is a legitimate response to oppression,” the authors state in a section directed at white people, “as is sadness, fear, frustration, exhaustion, and a general distaste or hatred of white people.”
“For people who experience oppression, stigma, shame, or fear due to the silence around certain topics, simply having those topics in the guide will let them know that Scripps supports them,” Gardner wrote of the publication. “Students will know it’s okay to have discussions about those topics, and the silence will end.”
The guide also contains a prolific list of prohibited words (“insane” and “stupid” are among the forbidden) and the denunciation of “capitalism and consumerism” as concepts that “can lead to [the] dangerous promotion of certain ideals and widespread circulation of stigmatizing information.” The seemingly anti-conservative guide ironically includes a section titled “Conservatives at Scripps.”
And while the guide is technically “unofficial,” the Scripps College administration has voiced its support for Gardner’s project.
“This student-conceived and student-authored publication is an excellent example of how serious Scripps students are about supporting the newest members of the Scripps community,” Scripps’ Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Charlotte Johnson said when the guide was released. “Congratulations to Jocelyn Gardner and the other contributors for bringing this idea to life.”
Follow the author of this story on Twitter: