CMC Refuses to Condemn Hamas Attacks; 65 Faculty Release Independent Statement
The aftermath of the Hamas attack.
Last week, Claremont McKenna refused to condemn Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks on Israeli civilians. Administrators cited the college’s stated policy against taking partisan institutional stances on political issues.
In response to the college’s refusal, 65 faculty members released an independent statement condemning the attacks. Professor Lenny Fukshansky, the principal author of the statement, said, “We felt compelled to condemn the heinous attacks perpetrated by Hamas.”
The attacks left more than 1,300 Israeli civilians dead. Hamas, a U.S.-designated terror group that controls the Gaza Strip, targeted Israeli civilian populations.
The faculty’s statement reads, “Hamas terrorists committed a heinous massacre of Israeli civilians.” The victims included innocent children, as well as many American citizens. The document also states that the attack “had no military purpose, but was specifically designed to target and kill as many innocent civilians as possible.”
In its final paragraph, the document explicitly condemns the attack. The statement says, “Claremont McKenna College has a policy of not issuing statements. Therefore we, as members of the faculty, take it upon ourselves to condemn this horrific act in the harshest words possible. This was a demonstration of pure evil at work – may it never happen again! We grieve for the deceased victims and pray for peace, recovery and safe return of those alive.”
More than 65 CMC faculty members have signed on to the statement.
The faculty’s statement comes after the Dean of Students, Dianna Graves, did not take a stance on the attacks in an email to students that was then forwarded to faculty. The email said, “In response to escalating violence in Israel, Palestine, and the surrounding territories, I am writing to offer support to you all ... We mourn the lives lost and the ongoing terror many continue to feel on the ground.”
Many CMC faculty felt that the Dean of Students’ email did not sufficiently address and condemn the attacks perpetrated on civilians. CMC Professor Mark Blitz, who co-signed the faculty statement, said, “It was the complete inadequacy of the Dean of Students’ email, to say the least, that prompted me to push for the statement we now all signed.”
“The main problem with the Dean’s email was that there was no acknowledgment of Hamas’ savagery and brutality. There was also no one responsible for the attack,” Blitz continued, “it was like the violence just sprung forth out of the ground. The statement makes you think there was no perpetrator.”
According to the faculty statement, the administration refused to condemn the attacks, citing the college policy on “institutional nonpartisanship.” In 2018, CMC’s Board of Trustees voted to prevent the school from issuing “partisan statements” on behalf of the college. “To ensure the full freedom of faculty, students, and staff to express their views, the College shall refrain from establishing partisan institutional positions that are not directly related to its educational mission,” the policy reads.
Professor Fukshansky took issue with the administration characterizing Hamas’ attack as a partisan issue: “I agree that CMC should not be issuing official statements on political or partisan matters. This being said I do not see a condemnation of a terrorist attack as a political or partisan statement.”
Professor Blitz agreed with Fukshansky’s sentiment. “I do not see how condemning the murder of innocent civilians could be seen as taking a partisan stance,” he said.
When asked to explain CMC’s neutrality policy, Chief Strategic Communications Officer Megan Jordan cited the University of Chicago’s Kalven Report. In February 2023, the CMC Board of Trustees endorsed the report, which is supposed to guide the college’s “role in political and social action.” The Kalven Report states that a university “is a community which cannot take collective action on the issues of the day without endangering the conditions for its existence and effectiveness. There is no mechanism by which it can reach a collective position without inhibiting that full freedom of dissent on which it thrives.”
Several CMC students have signed a response letter expressing disapproval of the faculty statement. The students argue that the faculty statement omitted important context. Their response states: “While the loss of innocent civilian life should always be condemned, the decision to ignore the 75 years of oppression that Palestinians have faced, as well as the genocidal campaign against Gaza which has ensued since Oct. 7, paints a one-sided and misguided image.”
Editor's Note: The student response letter has since been removed from the original document.