Photo courtesy of Matthew Johnson ’20
Updated April 7, 2017 at 8:40 p.m: At 12:37 p.m., Friday, April 7, President Hiram Chodosh emailed the CMC Community with a message addressing last night’s protest as a violation of college policy. We have added the text of the email to the end of this post.
Claremont Consortium students protested tonight’s Athenaeum speaker Heather Mac Donald by gathering, chanting, and blocking people from entering the building. The talk was moved to live stream, where 250 people watched the talk and asked questions through email. Below is a timeline of the protests and emails that took place. The Forum will be publishing responses tomorrow as more information comes in.
At 4 p.m., a group of over 200 students, many wearing black, gathered outside Honnold Mudd Library and marched to the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum.
Fences were set up around the fountains, and about ten Campus Safety officers stood on standby around the area.
Students filled spaces around Ath, blocking the front and back entrances. Nobody was allowed to enter the building, including students and professors who had signed up for the talk. There was confusion about whether or not the talk had been moved.
Among other chants, protesters yelled “Black Lives Matter” and “How do you spell fascism? CMC!” while banging on windows of the Ath.
Subject: Heather McDonald talk
From: Peter Uvin
Date: April 6, 2017, 6:09 p.m.
Student protesters have made it impossible for guests to enter the Athenaeum for the Heather McDonald talk this evening. In the interest of safety, Heather McDonald’s lecture will be livestreamed as close to 6:15 PM as possible. The link will also be accessible from the CMC homepage and Athenaeum website. Viewers are invited to send questions for the Q & A portion of the event to the Athenaeum email account at [email protected]
At around 6:00 p.m., a group of protestors occupied the fourth floor of Kravis where the Rose Institute of State and Local Government—the organization that invited Mac Donald to campus—is located.
As a result, all card access to Kravis was blocked, and students were restricted from entering the building, including Lower Court classrooms.
Protesters moved back to the Ath where Mac Donald gave her presentation, which was livestreamed, in front of the Ath fellows, Sarah Sanbar and Michael Grouskay, and a few members of the kitchen and staff. The fellows asked two questions which were received via email before the livestream cut off. In total, the talk lasted 31 minutes.
Subject: Heather McDonald talk
From: Peter Uvin
Date: April 6, 2017, 7:05 p.m.
Dear members of our community,
Although 250 persons just watched the live stream, we are of course disappointed that people could not attend the lecture.
What we face here is not an attempt to demonstrate, or to ask tough questions of our speaker, all of which are both protected and cherished on this campus, but rather to make it impossible for her to speak, for you to listen, and for all of us to debate. This we could not accept.
I fully understand that people have strong opinions and different—often painful—experiences with the issues Heather MacDonald discusses. I also understand that words can hurt. And in a world of unequal power, it is more often than not those who have a history of exclusion who are being hurt by words. I support everyone’s right to make this world a better one. Questions about policing, police brutality, crime, and race matter a lot to our society. Yet precisely because these issues are so important, we must be able to debate them, to acknowledge that there exist different analyses and life experiences about these matters, and to listen carefully to each other.
Allow me a lengthy quote from a recent statement written by renowned Princeton professors Cornel West and Robert George, and signed by thousands of faculty, including some at the college.
“The pursuit of knowledge and the maintenance of a free and democratic society require the cultivation and practice of the virtues of intellectual humility, openness of mind, and, above all, love of truth. These virtues will manifest themselves and be strengthened by one’s willingness to listen attentively and respectfully to intelligent people who challenge one’s beliefs and who represent causes one disagrees with and points of view one does not share. (…)
The more important the subject under discussion, the more willing we should be to listen and engage—especially if the person with whom we are in conversation will challenge our deeply held—even our most cherished and identity-forming—beliefs.
It is all-too-common these days for people to try to immunize from criticism opinions that happen to be dominant in their particular communities. Sometimes this is done by questioning the motives and thus stigmatizing those who dissent from prevailing opinions; or by disrupting their presentations; or by demanding that they be excluded from campus or, if they have already been invited, disinvited. Sometimes students and faculty members turn their backs on speakers whose opinions they don’t like or simply walk out and refuse to listen to those whose convictions offend their values. Of course, the right to peacefully protest, including on campuses, is sacrosanct. But before exercising that right, each of us should ask: Might it not be better to listen respectfully and try to learn from a speaker with whom I disagree? Might it better serve the cause of truth-seeking to engage the speaker in frank civil discussion?”
At 7:05 p.m., Mac Donald was evacuated through the back door of the Ath. Protestors at the entrance attempted to prevent her from entering the car, but the Claremont Police Department escorted her off-campus.
The crowd dispersed around 7:45 p.m.
Subject: Last night’s Ath talk
From: Hiram Chodosh
Date: April 7, 2017, 12:37 p.m.
Dear CMC Community:
As you know, in a coordinated attempt to shut down Heather Mac Donald’s lecture last night, a large group of students from the Claremont Colleges, including a small number of CMC students and some individuals from external communities, gathered to protest and blocked guests from entering the Athenaeum.
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.
Notwithstanding these efforts to stifle a speaker, Heather Mac Donald was able to give her presentation to a small audience at the Athenaeum. We also live-streamed her talk. Nearly 250 people viewed the presentation live, and her presentation that is posted on our CMC homepage has already been viewed over 1,400 times. In the end, the effort to silence her voice effectively amplified it to a much larger audience.
Blocking access to buildings violates College policy. 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.
Finally, the breach of our freedoms to listen to views that challenge us and to engage in dialogue about matters of controversy is a serious, ongoing concern we must address effectively. Accordingly, we will be developing new strategies for how best to protect open, safe access to our events.
I want to thank all of the staff, students, and faculty who worked to manage the evening at the Athenaeum, to keep everyone safe, and to ensure that Heather Mac Donald was able to communicate her presentation.
We will be in touch with further developments.