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.