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Claremont Courier - A Local Nonprofit Newsroom

Students, alumni protest punishment of Athenaeum talk protesters

Nearly 800 people signed an open letter addressed to Claremont McKenna College officials this week expressing concern over what they perceive as the “criminalization” of CMC students involved in a campus protest in early April.

Heather Mac Donald, the author of The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe, and an outspoken critic of the Black Lives Matter movement, was scheduled to speak at the college’s Athenaeum on April 6 in Claremont.

As many as 300 students from many of the Claremont Colleges arrived at the Athenaeum with the intent of shutting down the talk by blocking entrances from guests who were arriving. Ms. MacDonald’s talk did take place, however, only from a live feed by satellite from the CMC Kravis Center across campus. 

Ms. Mac Donald, organizers said in published material calling for the protest, “openly advocates and encourages mass incarceration of black and brown folks in the US by explicitly stating racist constructions of ‘black crime.’ As the ‘Amerikkkan’ state monopolizes violence, the judicial system is a branch of many institutions that protect the interests of rich white supremacists.”

The evening of the protest, no participants were arrested or cited and, despite a police presence, no effort was made to break up the demonstration.

In a statement the following day, Mr. Chodosh explained that blocking access to buildings violates college policy but that “based on the judgment of the Claremont Police Department, we jointly concluded that any forced interventions or arrests would have created unsafe conditions for students, faculty, staff and guests. I take full responsibility for the decision to err on the side of these overriding safety considerations.”

He added, “CMC students who are found to have violated policies will be held accountable.”

The college followed through with its promise last week after participating CMC students identified by video footage of the protest were called in for questioning by Sharon Basso, the CMC Dean of Students and VP of Student Affairs.

In response to the investigation, the letter of solidarity was sent out on Thursday, May 4. It states, in part:

“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…

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.

We stand in solidarity with the actions taken against [Ms.] Mac Donald, and we demand that the investigation and criminalization of CMC students stop immediately.”

But CMC is standing firm with its investigation.

“We have begun the conduct review process with individual CMC students, who will be afforded a full, fair, and impartial process before the determination of findings, sanctions, and appeals,” Mr. Chodosh said in a statement sent to a campus publication, the Claremont Independent. “Over the course of the next few weeks, students who are found responsible for violations of college policy will face sanctions appropriate to the severity of the violation.”

The Claremont McKenna College commencement will take place at Pritzlaff Field on Saturday, May 13 at 2 p.m. Wes Moore, a decorated Army combat veteran, Rhodes Scholar, best-selling author and CEO of BridgeEdU, will offer the commencement address.

—Kathryn Dunn

editor@claremont-courier.com

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