After Breaking Rules During Protest, Students Demand Exoneration
In an open letter to top officials and the Board of Trustees at Claremont McKenna College, a group of students identified as the “CMCers of Color” criticizes the college’s effort to punish students who violated college policy while protesting conservative scholar Heather Mac Donald as the “further criminalization of already marginalized students” and calls upon the college to end its “investigation.”
The letter comes as Hiram Chodosh, the president of CMC, fulfills his vow to punish students who defied college regulations in the course of the protests.
“Blocking access to buildings violates College policy,” he wrote in an April 7 email, one day after protesters shut down Heather Mac Donald’s talk by blockading the entrances to the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum, where the Manhattan Institute scholar was scheduled to appear. “CMC students who are found to have violated policies will be held accountable. We will also give a full report to the other Claremont Colleges, who have responsibility for their own students.”
Multiple sources report that the college analyzed photo and video evidence supplied by onlookers and student journalists to identify the individuals who violated campus rules at the protest and target them for sanctions.
The CMCers of Color, however, complain that these efforts to uphold college policy are “distressing” and amount to “acts of violence” by the administration against students of color, whom they allege are the principal targets of the investigation:
“CMC has threatened to prevent students from walking at graduation and holds the power to withhold transcripts, barring students entrance into a competitive job market. CMC has also threatened suspension and expulsion. For low-income and first generation students, graduation is a culminatory moment that should not be revoked. On campuses where students of color already feel unsafe, it is distressing that these institutions resort to punitive measures to resolve issues resulting from their own negligence. These are acts of violence, and if advanced, would severely harm the survival of these students, particularly those of whom are graduating this coming week.”
The CMCers of Color also criticize the college for inviting speakers like Mac Donald, speakers who, according to the group, endanger students of color:
“While inflammatory speakers are framed as generating open dialogue on campus, they merely create dangerous campus environments for students of color. The institution’s financial backing of speakers who examine Black livelihood, suggesting its debatability, shows that fraudulent calls for open dialogue take precedence over students of color. CMC is effectively complicit in threats to the safety of students of color by legitimating the very politics that denies their humanity.”
The letter further claims that “[t]here has been no talk of investigation for violent counter protesters — only talk of further criminalization of already marginalized students.” But Chodosh’s original statement announcing the investigation stated that policy violators would be punished, and violence is against the student code.
Moreover, several eyewitnesses consulted by the Independent recall seeing no violent counter protest at the event, and multiple videos taken at the scene corroborate this account. The witnesses also confirm that the protesters engaged in various forms of physical intimidation, including “shoving, blocking,” and “forming human walls” to ensure that no one could enter the Athenaeum to view Mac Donald’s talk. Additionally, student journalists and onlookers, including but not limited to writers for the Independent, reported receiving threats of violence from students protesting Mac Donald. CMC’s student code prohibits “actions which cause, or could cause, personal injury or death,” actions which include “threatening to assault” or “intimidating another person.”
Concluding their letter, the CMCers of Color call for an end to CMC’s investigation. “We stand in solidarity with the actions taken against Mac Donald,” they write, “and we demand that the investigation and criminalization of CMC students stop immediately.”
The signatories to the letter of the CMCers of Color are private; as such, it is unclear how many have signed it.
Requests for comment from President Chodosh and other CMC officials were unanswered at the time of publication.