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Between 100 and 150 students organically gathered in North Quad on Claremont McKenna College’s campus to socialize this past Saturday night, November 2. A number of Resident Assistants and Campus Safety officers were present. At approximately 11 PM, a student began to play music out of his dorm room towards the crowd.

At 11:30 PM, Deans Mary Spellman, Eric Vos, and Director of the Center for Civic Engagement Amy Bibbens instructed the Campus Safety Officers on hand to confiscate the speakers, and then began telling students they could no longer stand in North Quad. When asked where they should go, Dean Eric Vos responded, “I don’t know, back to your rooms?”

Vos cited the fact that this was an “unregistered party,” that the ASCMC Social Affairs Chair had not completed all his forms on time, and that therefore people could no longer stand together and socialize in the middle of North Quad.

ASCMC had registered a dodgeball tournament ten days beforehand. According to the SAC, “All necessary parties signed off on the event.” Over 40 teams registered to participate. The administration required that the event be dry. He agreed to that condition, stating, “you don’t need alcohol to play dodgeball.”

The Deans alerted the student body that the event was cancelled less than eight hours before it was scheduled to take place. At 1:57 PM. on the day of the event, Amy Bibbens emailed the student body: “The event has been rescheduled and is not happening tonight. You will receive more information when we have additional details.” The student body received no further information from DOS that day.

Three hours after Bibbens’ email, the SAC sent a school-wide email addressing the cancellation. “You’re probably wondering why?” he said. “Since when is dodgeball a circumspect activity…? My sentiments exactly. But as it stands, no camp sec, then no dodgeball.” He then encouraged students to “team up, dress up, and engage” regardless, given that it is “Halloweekend.”

As one may expect, students searched for a place to socialize on the Saturday night after Halloween. The on-duty RAs had been concerned all day: “When a registered event is cancelled, we worry about students drinking excessively given the lack of an organized activity,” said Appleby RA Nick Gillette ’14 who was on-duty Saturday night.

“As the night progressed,” the SAC said, “students were in primarily one area that could be easily supervised by RAs and the on-duty campus security officers. Though some students were drinking, they were doing so in the open instead of behind closed doors.”

The Deans met with RAs early in the night to discuss the potential situations, then left campus. The crowd of students between Green and Appleby Hall grew from 10:30 PM. to 11:30 PM, and RAs met to discuss the best course of action. “We did not receive any noise complaints, but if a gathering becomes too large, we are instructed to either shrink it or shut it down entirely. As the crowd grew, Ben Baker [another Resident Assistant] and I were assessing potential risk,” Gillette said. As they were discussing, Spellman, Vos, and Bibbens showed up and demanded that the crowd disperse.

According to a school-wide email from Dean Spellman on Sunday night, “the gatherings on north quad evolved into a large, unregistered party with several hundred people, the visible presence of alcohol, underage drinking, and public intoxication. Ultimately, the Dean of Students staff determined that the gathering was unsafe and in violation of College policy and needed to be disbursed [sic].”

Many students questioned the effect the Deans’ decision had on student safety. According to Luke Mayer ’14, “shutting down large social events promotes unsupervised drinking behind closed doors, which jeopardizes student safety.” He continued, “College students want to socialize. If they don’t have an approved forum in which to do that, the reality is that they are going to drink without supervision.” Nicole Appleton ’14 agreed: “It seems much safer to have people all together where RAs can respond quickly to any issues that may arise. When people are spread out, it is harder to keep track of who needs help.” Jessica Jin ’16, the Student Life Chair said, “When we don’t have a registered party, students are not as safe.”

On Saturday night, when asked how the decision to shut down the unregistered gathering would help keep students safe, Dean Spellman replied, “I could go on and on, but I’m not going to right now.”

According to ASCMC President Gavin Landgraf ’14: “Unregistered events do present real safety concerns. But ASCMC had a registered dry event planned for Saturday, at least until the Deans went back on their decision to allow the dodgeball tournament, which they had approved a week and a half earlier. People were going to go out on Saturday. Especially when they cancel the event a day before, it’s hard to control the number of people who will be in North Quad.  Furthermore, I don’t think the Deans made anyone safer by breaking up the unregistered gathering and telling people to go back to their rooms.”

After students dispersed, according to Jin, many went to satellite events throughout campus.

Dean Mary Spellman, Dean Eric Vos and Dean Amy Bibbens could not be reached for comment.

Article updated 11/5 at 10:05am: Jessica Jin is class of 2016, not class of 2015.

33 COMMENTS

  1. This is depressing, irrational, and completely contrary to historical precedent. Where are students supposed to go if they can’t congregate in North Quad?

  2. Why did Spellman ever want to work at CMC anyways? She seems to hate EVERYTHING about it.

    We should kick her out in the same way that she pretty much kicked all of us 2013 grads out of the Apartments on the last day. Didn’t even give us a chance to say goodbye to our friends of the last four years.

    Spellman, let me spell it out for you – L E A V E C M C

  3. It’s hard to imagine how fast the transition happened from a dean that was pretty much universally loved by students to one that seems to be universally despised.

    They will do nothing unless the important donors can be convinced there is a real culture issue at the college. They do not care about small donations anymore, so threatening to not donate as a alum does nothing.

  4. last time i had balls flying towards my face was inside a north quad room, not outside. Do I have to fear Spellman shutting that down?

  5. Why do you hate Spellman?

    “I could go on and on, but I’m not going to right now.”

  6. I heard a freshman circulating the rumor that Spellman cancelled Rage in The Cage because Mark refused to let the deans form a team. There name was to be “Team No Fun”

  7. Aside from Spellman’s “buzz-killing” she’s also making this school more dangerous. Drinking behind closed doors is more likely to lead students to binge drink. They are in a space where they have no supervision and nothing to do for entertainment outside of drink. Perhaps Spellman should think further about what our goals are.

    If the goals are to keep students safe, we should be allowed to have events and gather outside. If the goal is to avoid liability, I would argue, we should be allowed to have events and gather outside. If we are gathering inside our rooms and drinking there because our Deans told us too, isn’t that a greater liability?

    • It’s worked throughout our history. How many alcohol-related deaths have there been in CMC history? I thought so. Compare that with other colleges that aren’t like ours. LOTS more. The supervision and doing it all in a congregated place is what made it easy to take care of others and keep an eye on everyone.

  8. The closer we come to Pomona’s culture, the more I worry about our students. While I don’t have exact data right now, sources working for Campus Security have told me that Pomona’s transfer/hospital rates skyrocketed when they made the transition to dry campus. Drinking indoors means that there is no supervision. Drinking surreptitiously guarantees that students will attempt to hide their peers drunkenness and need for help until it’s truly worrisome.

    CMC has never had a death where the cause was directly alcohol – this is a tremendous achievement, and one I think we’re backpedaling from as we tighten our rules for drinking. The more students drink in doors and feel as though they cannot seek help, the more likely they are to find real trouble.

    What’s more, data shows that dry campuses are much more likely to have drug issues. I would rather have students gathered with red cups, than shooting up in their rooms. What about you DOS?

  9. Thanks for the article Nate, it’s nice to get the full story
    after the misleading emails from DOS.

    What bothers me most about the recent efforts by DOS is that their proclaimed
    interest in student safety is clearly taking a back seat to other agendas. If
    everyone (RAs, campsec, and even DOS) agrees that having an official
    centralized party is the best way to mitigate potential safety issues than DOS
    should be trying to work with Mark and ASCMC in whatever way possible to make
    those events happen. If everyone also agrees that a wet campus policy is the
    most desirable way to provide a safe, fun, and inclusive social scene then DOS
    should be working to preserve the balance that has worked for this school in
    the past. They are not doing that. They are making a concerted effort to hinder
    the traditional party planning process and, as this weekend showed, are
    directly opposed to the reasoning behind a wet campus policy.

    It is clear from their actions that legal liability and more generally subduing
    the social scene on campus take precedence over student safety. The two week
    rule itself is an example of this. The rule is in place to ensure that enough
    time is given for campsec to properly staff events. While this is a legitimate
    concern and the rule should be followed whenever possible, the fact that four campsec
    officers were already dispatched to north quad with no registered party
    certainly implies that a dry event dodgeball tournament could have been
    provided for (how many officers could it really take to keep townies from
    submitting a team?).

    Personally, what’s more frustrating for me is not that DOS is attempting to obstruct the
    party planning processes but rather that they are lying about their focus on
    safety and in the process actually making the campus less safe. The new fencing
    requirements that put fences in the inside hallways of Crown Hall, completely
    blocking an exit route for student rooms outside the fence that could face a
    fire at their other exit, is a glaring example of this. When Bibbens was asked
    about this completely contradictory policy, her response was that in a smoke
    filled emergency situation, students would most likely be able to push the
    fencing down to escape… such hypocrisy can only be rivaled by Dean Vos’s
    suggestion that students move the party back to their rooms.

      • As flattered as I am, this was NOT me….glad that everyone seems to associate me with Braveheart though…this has been my life’s goal since age 4.

        Also I endorse the above caption. Keep fighting the good fight CMC. What Spellman dont know, dont hurt Spellman

  10. You made me laugh, but let’s move beyond the Mary-bashing and take this comment thread in a more productive direction. She’s not evil– she’s doing her job, albeit in a way that some of us think is deeply misguided. I would encourage everyone (including the Deans, if you see this) to reply with your thoughts on the following questions:

    1) Do large, unregistered gatherings present more potential hazards to students than similarly sized registered ones? (I think the answer here is yes).
    2) Was it in students’ best interest for the Deans to cancel the highly-anticipated Saturday night dodgeball tournament the day before it was supposed to take place? Was the dodgeball tournament a threat to student safety?
    3) From a liability perspective, was it in the College’s interest to cancel the dodgeball tournament?
    4) How should the College decide between the sometimes conflicting goals of minimizing liability exposure and protecting students?
    5) Did the gathering that developed on Saturday night turn into an unsafe situation? Were students engaged in irresponsible or destructive behavior or was it a generally civil and safe gathering?
    6) Regardless of your answer to the previous question, what can we as a student body do to self-regulate more? What are the standards to which we should hold ourselves and each other? Are you generally satisfied with the standard of behavior at CMC on a typical weekend night?
    7) Did the Deans make students safer by coming to campus and shutting down the gathering in North Quad? Did the Deans reduce the College’s liability by doing so?
    8) What do you make of the stated justification for shutting down the gathering? (“visible presence of alcohol, underage drinking, and public intoxication”)

    Thank you to the people (Ethan Landau, for example) who have already started answering these questions.

    • Gavin, were you forced to write this with Spellman pointing a gun at your head?

    • Gavin,

      I would, but I think the time for “productive conversation” is long since gone. I might be jaded, but let’s be honest: There was Pai’s memo which warranted a response by Huang: http://cmcforum.com/news/03072013-cmc-vice-president-huang-responds-to-social-scene-memo

      Then, nothing changed. And now it’s come to this. And at least we know Huang genuinely cared for the students.

      So how about it, Dean Vos? Are you going to step up in your big boy shoes and answer some questions?

      You are all Leaders in the Making. Not followers. Make them accountable to answer the tough questions.

      Spellman fucking brutalized her last school. When I was at CMC, some student posted an interview of how she turned the social scene at her last college into a nightmare of puritanism and reclusiveness.

      Jesus. The days of Yohei as party-planner would have made Spellman cry.

    • i have one more question: when the deans and camp sec officers showed up, seven of them, to shut down hundreds of students, why did we go meekly into the night? there were no other speakers in north quad? we’ll fight for our campus on the internet but in the heat of battle we run away?!?!?!?!?! VIVA LA REVOLUCION

  11. Interesting debate as a potential CMC parent as I did not realize what a “controlled” atmosphere it appears to be or becoming. Strikes me in the end as a dull place if you have to “register” to assemble. (and isnt there some kind of law against that, hmm). What am I missing?

    • Hi,
      For the most part, there are good reasons for events for be registered as it allows the school to make sure appropriate security is provided, the necessary rooms unlocked, etc. Private events in dorm rooms or apartments do not require registration. But yes, it makes us wary that students are not allowed to gather freely in an impromptu and informal manner. Many students chose CMC because of its socially inclusive atmosphere, and we are concerned that the engineering of social events by the administration threatens this culture. Moveover, we believe that drinking in public is safer for all than drinking in private, and that open communication and supervision by RAs, DOS, and CampSec is much safer than encouraging students to congregate in their rooms and making students apprehensive about bringing problems to the administration.

      Despite the efforts of the administration, we are not remotely dull. I hope your son/daughter gets in and comes here, it’s nonetheless a great place!

  12. Does shutting down a huge social event really cause more behind-doors drinking? If people just pregame big official parties anyway, I’m not sure there’s such a huge difference. That seems to be our one big argument against DOS every time they want to curb the social scene, but let’s be real: if we desire hazardous activity, we do it, registered event or not.

    • A good quote from that interview: “I think the number one thing for me… is really understanding that you have to know the community and the students and listen to them and bring them into the discussion.”

  13. From the Claremont Conservative:

    “Just so you get a clearer picture, I was at SLC for all four years Mary was, and her ‘politics’ in the Republican sense never really came out.
    What did come out, however, was a moral puritanism (which I don’t necessarily equate with conservatism). Severe intolerance for drinking, even when a student was of age. Punishments of a draconian nature as compared to whatever infraction was committed. A punitive approach, rather than attempting to find any sort of ‘teaching moment’. I have more details, if you want.

    But also, she definitely calmed down last year (both her and my final year). Maybe it was that the last students to have experienced someone else as dean had graduated, or who knows what else. I can only imagine what she’s wrought upon your school.”

  14. […] had been canceled by the Dean of Students (DOS) a day earlier. These events are described in this Forum article and the ASCMC Weekly Beat, which describes ASCMC’s discussion of the events and prompted me to […]

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