The Claremont Colleges have been lauded as some of the happiest higher educational institutions in the country. One might attribute this to our seemingly laissez-faire social policy – a sort of “live and let live” approach to doing things. This ideology sets an interesting framework for interactions between students of the 5Cs. All students here are certainly aware of the constant joking and ribbing done among the colleges, i.e. the jokes that all Pitzer students are extreme socialists, that CMC students are all budding stockbrokers at Goldman Sachs, and that the reason we never see Harvey Mudd students is because they’re all building a nuclear reactor in the basement of their dining hall.

The jokes, however, turned bitter when former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited CMC’s campus on November 30th.  Campus news articles and blog posts became online battlegrounds of political rhetoric, pitting “conservative” CMC students against “liberal” Pitzer students.  On the campuses themselves, there was a prescient sense of animosity; in class, I could truly sense a distance among Pitzer students during some of the more heated days of the online controversies.

Most people, Pitzer and CMC students alike, went to Ducey Gymnasium on Wednesday expecting to be involved in a tense shouting match.  In some small ways, the expected malice was there. When I introduced myself as a CMC student to Marcus, a demonstrating Pitzer student, his response was “you’re from CMC?  Baby-killer!” Marcus, however, certainly was not representative of the entire student population at the protests on Wednesday.  In general, the protests were incredibly constructive and peaceful, with little in the way of altercations beyond a few students who seemed intent on provoking a fight where there was none to be found.

Indeed, the aggressors in the crowd seemed to be more the exception than the rule.  Protestors and CMC students alike were generally incredibly respectful of one another.

Christian Neumeister, a CMC freshman who attended the talk, was understanding of the protests. “I certainly think [the protestors] have the right to voice their opinions.  I don’t necessarily agree with their opinions, but it’s their fundamental American right to voice them,” Neumeister said.

An unnamed Pitzer demonstrator agreed: “CMC brought Dr. Rice because it hopes to foster a discussion as part of its Athenaeum program.  That is all well and good – the reason we’re here is not to stop that discussion, but rather to promote our own outside.”

The protests themselves were very different from the disorganized mess that some predicted they would be. During the talk, professors and students lectured bystanders and demonstrators on different topics, which ranged from the use of torture to the impetus behind the Iraq War.  Near the Northeast corner of the parking lot, a group of students held a waterboarding demonstration in order to provoke student dialogue around the moral and ethical issues involved with the practice.  These lectures – while certainly biased to present an anti-Condoleezza Rice perspective – created an environment more conducive to learning than to accusation, and were a welcome presence on a college campus.

Feel free to chalk it up to my freshman naiveté and optimism, but this made me happy to be a student at the 5Cs.  To me, the 5Cs are built on a certain morale and community camaraderie that governs our campus-to-campus interactions, including a certain sports rivalry (in which CMS is most certainly superior).  It is certainly true that the anonymity and immediacy of the Internet allowed the controversy of Dr. Rice’s visit to become more malicious than intended.  Yet, once CMC and Pitzer students were face to face, the conversation took on a human face, one that represented our students in a much more flattering light.


  1. “It is certainly true that the anonymity and immediacy of the Internet allowed the controversy of Dr. Rice’s visit to become more malicious than intended.  Yet, once CMC and Pitzer students were face to face, the conversation took on a human face, one that represented our students in a much more flattering light.”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself.  Thank you for this article.  It renews my faith in the 5Cs getting along, instead of degrading one another.  We all need to learn to be more respectful of one another.  It is fine to disagree, but you don’t have to be mean about it.  Hopefully this can be a learning experience for all of us the next time a controversial speaker is brought to the Ath.  Let us engage in discussion, not degradation.  

  2. I appreciate this perspective, Aseem; previously, it was so easy for me to get caught up in the comments sections of these Condi protest articles and lose faith in my fellow 5C students. I visited the teach-in/protest briefly and completely agree that it was, from what I witnessed, peaceful and interesting. I think we should be aware that there were more than just Pitzer students participating in the protest, though- Occupy-oriented community members, professors, and Pomona students were also in attendance (though maybe were outnumbered? Not sure that anyone cared enough to take a poll).
    I was especially proud of the unique political and social positions of our consortium on that day- we had a protest, a dining hall boycott, AND a fantastic speaker all in one night! How many other colleges can say they have a traditionally conservative school constructed next to a stereotypically “hippie” school just across the street? Call it poor planning, but I think it begs for fun and challenging ideological clashes, which we can all learn from. I feel grateful that at the 5C’s, we can have thoughtful discussions with each other outside of class about important issues beyond the scope of the Claremont bubble.

  3. I think my question is, why doesn’t Pitzer put on some major event on their campus? Either bringing in a major anti-war speaker, or host some debate, and invite such major players like Rice. To run down a member institutions private event is rather low. Especially after what happened when they showed they couldn’t control their protests, such as the Karl Rove event. I mean, I’m as liberal as the next Democrat, and a CMC student, but I feel that they had no right to be affronted and say that “It was a shameful move”, and all that garbage, of moving the event to Ducey. I mean, honestly. Hindsight is 20/20, and sure, the event was respectful and very insightful. But you can’t know that in advance based on what some students say. Especially when as young as we are, you’ve never been really involved in a protest, where all it takes is one thing to let it spiral out of control. So forgive me if I’m a little offended by some of the talk.

    Maybe it’s just the opinions of a few that offended me, however. I’m more than willing to see it other ways, because the event itself seemed to be fine.

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