The Story Behind the Squatter

As the southernmost dorm on campus, Marks Hall is often much quieter than the rest of Claremont McKenna College. A recent unwanted visitor on campus, however, seemed to shake up this peaceful vision of South Quad. On the evening of September 13, a student in Marks Hall noticed a woman in her mid-thirties showering in the second floor Marks bathrooms. An hour later, another student found the same woman sleeping in the Marks Hall lounge. Both students called Marks Hall Resident Assistant Kevin MacPherson, asking if somebody’s mother was staying in the dorm that night.

After MacPherson confirmed that the dorm had no registered visitors that night, he called Campus Safety and Security. By this point, the visitor had left the building, leaving behind some personal belongings and paperwork in the lounge.  Campus Safety inspected the building, collected the visitor’s belongings, and left after making sure that all the doors in Marks were locked.

Following the incident, MacPherson sent a dorm-wide safety advisory, issuing an ALL CAPS, Jim Nauls-esque briefing on the importance of locking doors and reporting suspicious visitors.

Photo Credit: Aseem Chipalkatti

Prompted by the email, rumors began to fly around the dorm. Some students claimed that the visitor was wanted in three different states for committing a hit and run. Others swore that she had stolen a child’s passport, and was on the run from the United States Marshall's Office. A few even declared that she must have been a Pomona student gone crazy with jealousy over the gratuitous amenities of Marks Hall, ranging from vintage coin-operated laundry machines to its hand-laid Italian linoleum that lines the floors.

Things came to a head late on the night of September 14. On the way to an intermural water polo game, Marks Hall resident Logan Solomon noticed a suspicious person hiding in the Japanese Garden behind Benson and Marks Halls. After a brief investigation, he realized that is was the same visitor that had been sighted in Marks the night before. After calling Campus Safety, Solomon and MacPherson stood in front of the entrance to the garden, ensuring that the visitor could not leave.

Upon Campus Safety and the Claremont Police Departments’ arrival, it was determined that the woman posed no immediate threat to students and was only in violation of local trespassing laws. According to Lieutenant Shelly Vander Veen of the Claremont Police Department, the visitor was only a local transient with no warrants out for her arrest. After advising her not to return to the Claremont campuses without prior permission from Campus Safety, two Claremont Police officers escorted her off the CMC campus.

The entire incident showcases the thoroughness of the protective cocoon that CMC provides its students. As stated by MacPherson, “RA's receive extensive training regarding a variety of scenarios anywhere from potential chemical explosions at the W.M. Keck Science Center to crowd control at the Athenaeum when rice krispies run out earlier than expected.”

While Lt. Vander Veen stated that unwanted visitors are a regular occurrence on the CMC campus, she did have this final piece of advice.  “Often times, dorm rooms are burglarized when doors are left unlocked…we would highly encourage students to lock their doors even when they’re just going to the bathroom or visiting a friend. It will go a long way in preventing them from being a victim of crimes.”

CMC students often refer to the “Claremont Bubble” – the idea that nothing bad can happen on the campuses of the 5Cs. While this incident ended well for everyone involved, it proves that it still pays to lock doors and stay safe, even here at Camp Claremont.