FAQ on the April 6, 2017, blockade of the Athenaeum

Claremont McKenna College has completed its Conduct Process for the students it identified as participants in the effort to block access to the Athenaeum and Kravis Center on April 6.

Since April 6, the College has received many questions and reviewed many misstatements in the press to which it could not respond without jeopardizing the integrity and impartiality of the conduct process.

In order to address questions and provide background information, facts, and context, the College has prepared answers to frequently asked questions in four categories:

  1. What is the relationship of Claremont McKenna College to the other Claremont Colleges?
  • Claremont McKenna College (approximately 1,300 students) is one of five separate and distinct undergraduate colleges within The Claremont Colleges. The other four undergraduate institutions are Harvey Mudd College (approximately 800 students), Pitzer College (approximately 1,050 students), Pomona College (approximately 1,650 students), and Scripps College (approximately 950 students).
  • The Claremont Colleges also include two graduate schools, Claremont Graduate University and Keck Graduate Institute.
  • Each college has its own mission and by-laws, student body, faculty, staff, board of trustees, and endowment.
  • The colleges are located contiguously and share services including a library, student health services, and a campus safety department.
  • Enrolled undergraduates can take classes at any of the other undergraduate colleges.
  1. What are the College’s commitments to freedom and diversity of expression and civility and respect?
  1. How does CMC educate its students about the importance of freedom of expression?
  1. How does the College realize these stated commitments?
  • In addition to the mission of our liberal arts program, the CARE Center, programs in dialogue, leadership training at our centers and institutes, orientation, and other community programs, the Athenaeum embodies CMC’s core values of academic freedom and freedom of expression marked by civil, intellectually engaged discourse, and constructive dialogue.
  1. Does the Athenaeum present a wide range of perspectives on critically important issues?
  • Yes. Since its inception in the early 1980s, the Athenaeum presents a dinner and guest speaker program, four nights a week, each week of the academic year, as well as frequent lunch and group presentations by a wide range of speakers.
  • In the past decade, Athenaeum speakers have included: David Brooks, Bill Clinton, Laverne Cox, Maureen Dowd, Shirin Ebadi, Eve Ensler, Henry Louis Gates, Anita Hill, Jon Huntsman, Jr., William Kristol, Fran Lebowitz, Stanley McChrystal, Charles Murray, Robert Reich, Condoleezza Rice, Karl Rove, Salman Rushdie, Justice Antonin Scalia, Nate Silver, George Will, and many others.
  • Please see this list of notable speakers selected from the more than 100 who appear each year.
  1. Does the College endorse the views of the speakers it invites to campus?
  • No. The College does not endorse the views of any speaker.
  1. Has the College ever cancelled or disinvited a speaker?
  • No.
  1. Is there an opportunity to speak with, engage, and support or challenge the views of speakers at the Athenaeum?
  • Yes, speakers often meet with small groups of students before a presentation.
  • Some speakers attend classes as well.
  • Speakers are present at the social gathering directly before dinner.
  • Speakers sit at the head table with students only.
  • Student fellows introduce the speaker.
  • During the 30 minute question-and-answer period, students have priority over faculty, staff, and other guests.
  • Students often have a chance to talk with the speaker after the program ends.
  1. Who appeared at the Athenaeum to address race and law enforcement issues this past year?
  • Peter Wagner, executive director of the Prison Policy Initiative, Wednesday, September 21, 2016, Who Suffers When a Country Locks Up 1% of its Adult Population?
  • Khalil Gibran Muhammad, professor at the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study at Harvard University, Thursday, October 27, 2016, In Policing We Trust: The History of Crime Fighting in Black America.
  • Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP, Tuesday, January 24, 2017, 2017 MLK Commemorative Speech, President and CEO of the NAACP.
  • Phyllis Morris-Green, public defender for San Bernardino County, Thursday, February 2, 2017, Racial Disparity in the Criminal Justice Court System.
  • Lucius T. Outlaw, Jr., professor of philosophy at Vanderbilt University, Monday, February 6, 2017, Enforcing Laws, Maintaining Order: Policing in the U.S.
  • CMC Professors Daniel Livesay, Sarah Sarzynski, and Tamara Venit-Shelton, panelists, Thursday, February 23, 2017, Racial Hierarchies and the Historical Process: A Panel Discussion.
  • Jason Riley, fellow at the Manhattan Institute, Wednesday, March 1, 2017, The State Against Blacks.
  • Ayana Mathis, author and professor of writing at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Thursday, March 2, 2017, Against the Loveless World: To Be Raced in America.
  • Heather Mac Donald, fellow at the Manhattan Institute, Thursday, April 6, 2017, The War on Police.
  • Michael A. Hestrin, district attorney for Riverside County, Tuesday, April 11, 2017, California Deincarceration Experiment.
  1. How does the College address security concerns in anticipation of Athenaeum events?
  • Athenaeum events are peaceful, and rarely stimulate significant controversy or protest.
  • However, some events have generated protests in the past. The College allowed peaceful, non-disruptive protest, and addressed conduct or behavior that was non-peaceful or materially disruptive.
  • When events are identified that may stimulate possible protests, the Athenaeum Director monitors them in coordination with relevant members of the President’s Executive Cabinet.
  • In managing these events, the College has always placed a high priority on its commitments to:
    • Hold the event in protection of academic values of free expression and assembly;
    • Implement reasonable security measures to ensure physical safety, including arrangements for peaceful and non-disruptive protest; and
    • Respond to conduct that becomes non-peaceful or materially disruptive, both during the event when possible and afterwards to ensure accountability for policy violations.
  • When appropriate, the College develops security plans for the event. These plans typically include:
    • Perimeter fencing or other physical access control measures;
    • Increased security personnel;
    • When necessary, relocating the event from the Athenaeum to another venue on campus;
    • When necessary, limiting or controlling access to the event to registered guests only (Athenaeum lectures are normally open to the public); and
    • When necessary, facilitating a live-stream of the event.
  1. Who is Heather Mac Donald and what was the process in bringing her to speak at CMC?
  • Ms. Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the recent book, The War on Cops (2016), which provides a critical assessment of the Black Lives Matter movement and its impact on policing and crime.
  • Heather Mac Donald was invited to speak at the Athenaeum by two of the College’s research institutes: The Rose Institute and the Salvatori Center.
  1. What were the preparations for the Heather Mac Donald presentation?
  • The College identified Ms. Mac Donald’s appearance as one that might motivate protests and planned to implement additional security measures in the event of disruptions.
  • The College did not have knowledge of an attempt to organize a protest or other disruption related to Ms. Mac Donald’s talk until the week of April 3.
  • The first indication that there might be a protest was through social media.
  • The College’s incident management team developed an event security plan that was based on all available information as of the morning of April 6.
  • This information involved continuously monitoring social media, as well as monitoring the reaction to Ms. Mac Donald’s April 5 speech at UCLA.
  • Significantly, Ms. Mac Donald’s appearance at UCLA included modest but unsuccessful attempts to shout down Ms. Mac Donald from within the event.
  • The key elements of the College’s security plan included:
    • Closing the event to the public and restricting access to registered guests;
    • Fencing the perimeter of the north side of the Athenaeum to provide access control for registered guests, and to designate a boundary for protestors that was reasonably proximate to the Athenaeum, allowing for peaceful and non-disruptive protest activities, consistent with the College’s commitment to free speech and with The Claremont Colleges Policy on Demonstrations;
    • Adding additional Campus Safety personnel to monitor fencing perimeter and activities around the Athenaeum more generally;
    • Having two police officers on site from the Claremont Police Department (“CPD”); and
    • A provisional live-video stream to ensure access to the event and a way to collect questions from the audience.
    • The College attempted to establish contact through text and cell phone with a student from another Claremont College who appeared to be organizing the protest; however, that individual did not respond.
  1. When and where did the blockade take place?
  • Beginning at approximately 4 p.m. on Thursday, April 6, 2017, a group of 40-50 people gathered on the lawn on the south side of the Honnold/Mudd Library of The Claremont Colleges where a student was directing protest activities, including plans to “barricade the door.”
  • Beginning around 4:30 p.m., the group marched east along Eighth Street and entered the CMC campus at the southeast corner of the Athenaeum.
  • By this point, the group had grown significantly larger and totaled approximately 170 individuals (the “Blockade Group”).
  • The Blockade Group marched into Flamson Plaza, just north of the Athenaeum entrance, gathered around the fencing perimeter, and temporarily stopped behind the security fence on the northwest side of the entrance to the Athenaeum.
  • Almost immediately, members of the Blockade Group began to break down the security fencing. As this was happening, three Campus Safety Officers moved toward the Group to advise them to stop. However, before the officers could arrive, the Group had dismantled the fencing and streamed into the south side of Flamson Plaza. The time was approximately 4:36 p.m.
  • In the meantime, the Campus Safety Officers retreated back to the top of the stairs that led into the Athenaeum to establish a secondary security boundary. The Blockade Group paused its movement in acknowledgement of that boundary for almost two minutes.
  • However, at approximately 4:38 p.m., several members of the Blockade Group moved past the officers, and, almost immediately thereafter, the remainder of the Group followed, establishing a human blockade at the front entrance to the Athenaeum.
  • Concurrently with this activity, and then subsequently over the course of the next 2-3 hours, participants in the Blockade Group deployed to block access to each of the other Athenaeum entry points, as well as other locations on the CMC campus, including the Kravis Center.
  • In addition, during this period, a significant but undeterminable number of other students became aware of these activities and participated in the Blockade Group’s activities in varying degrees.
  • This included some who engaged only in permissible protest activities and violated no College policies.
  • In sum, the Blockade Group demonstrated an unexpected level of speed, coordination, and intentionality to establish blockades, particularly at the Athenaeum, where the Group entered the campus and breached two separate security boundaries to establish its blockade in a span of less than five minutes, and including almost two minutes where the Group paused in recognition of the Campus Safety Officers’ position at the top of the stairs leading to the Athenaeum.
  1. Why didn’t the College request the police to respond, including by making arrests?
  • The CPD had two officers on site from the beginning of the incident.
  • Given the volatility of the situation, the CPD officers on site advised that arrest attempts would require activating mutual aid for additional regional police support, and that this could also result in confrontations that would have jeopardized the physical safety of numerous bystanders, including students, faculty, and staff.
  • Based on this information, the College decided not to physically engage with the Blockade Group, but instead to activate its contingency plan to live-stream Ms. Mac Donald’s presentation.
  • Some students were protesting peacefully, which is protected behavior under College principles of freedom of speech and assembly, and such students were not responsible for any conduct violation of policy.
  1. Who was involved in the Blockade Group?
  • The Blockade Group primarily consisted of students from The Claremont Colleges and also included some individuals who were not associated with the Colleges.
  • Although it is not possible to provide specific breakdowns, a substantial majority of the Group appears to be students from the other Claremont Colleges, with approximately 10 CMC students that were involved in some form, and a small number of outside individuals.
  1. Which elements of the Blockade Group’s behaviors were not permissible?
  • Intentionally blocking or restricting access to College facilities or programs, or aiding and abetting such conduct, is not permissible.
  1. In which ways did the College not anticipate the full intensity of the blockade?
  • Although the College has experience in managing protests and demonstrations associated with controversial speakers in the past, this was the first time that individuals intentionally breached security fencing or an established line of Campus Safety Officers.
  • The degree of coordination, planning, and direct intention to block access to a building was also unprecedented.
  • The College is conducting an after-action review of all aspects of the security planning for this event and for future management of peaceful demonstrations and protests in order to prevent attempts to disrupt college programs in a non-peaceful, materially disruptive way.
  1. Could students have reasonably concluded that the blockades of entrances and exits of College buildings were permissible as a proper exercise of their rights to free speech and protest?
  • No.
  1. Was the College able to prevent a complete shut-down of the presentation?
  • Yes. The contingency plan in place to live-stream Ms. Mac Donald’s lecture on the CMC website was activated.
  • The lecture remains available to view online, and has had over 12,000 visits on the CMC YouTube and Livestream pages.
  1. Was anyone injured?
  • No.
  1. What College polices were violated?
  • The range of conduct encompassing the blockades and other material campus disruptions implicated Sections 1, 3 and 8 of CMC Student Code of Conduct as well as The Claremont Colleges Policy on Demonstrations .
  • In violating these policies, the barricade deprived many of the opportunity to gather, hear the speaker, and engage with questions and comments.
  • By blocking entrances, the barricade also blocked the exits and created unsafe conditions for people both inside and outside College buildings.
  1. What is the conduct process for investigation, findings of responsibility, sanctions, and appeals for all serious violations of policy?
  • The Student Conduct Process can be found in CMC’s 2016-2017 Policy Library.
  • Potentially serious conduct violations are reviewed pursuant to the Investigation and Review Process (See Section 4 of Student Conduct Process), which provides a fair and equitable process to review all serious charges of misconduct.
  1. Do students have notice and training in what is permissible under its student conduct policies and procedures, including both the College and Claremont College demonstration policies?
  • Yes, through many programs and communications.
  • During new student orientation, students are introduced to the CMC Code of Conduct and understand it is their responsibility to familiarize themselves with standards of conduct as members of the community.
  • The Section 1 of CMC’s Student Code of Conduct expressly forbids actions that disturb or disrupt the personal safety, peace, or the well-being of the community or any community members, or which disturb or disrupt the normal functions of the College (including actions that interfere with maintaining order on campus).
  • Behavioral expectations are continually reinforced through educational programs, workshops, and frequent discussions and dialogues.
  1. How are students able to participate in the Investigation and Review Process?
  • The Investigation and Review Process includes full and neutral process where each student has an opportunity to participate, introduce or challenge evidence, request additional investigation, provide information to the investigator and the panel, provide input regarding sanctions, and file objections (e.g., conflict of interest) and appeals.
    • Each student has the right to choose to participate or not participate (without prejudice) in the conduct process as they determine is most appropriate.
    • Constructive participation can inform the investigation process and provide important evidence that may impact whether a violation occurred, or the severity of any potential misconduct.
    • In addition, a student’s acknowledgment and acceptance of responsibility, where appropriate, can have an impact, particularly on the level of sanctions.
  1. Who is responsible for the ultimate findings of fact?
  • The final investigation report is reviewed by a panel of three trained community representatives, which makes final findings of fact and determination of responsibility based on a preponderance of evidence.
  • In these cases, the panel included one faculty member, one staff member, and one student.
  1. How are sanctions determined, and who determines them?
  • If a student is found responsible, the matter is then forwarded to a sanctioning officer.
  • Sanction determinations are individualized and include a review of the case record, a student’s consideration of sanctions statement, and, where applicable, the student’s prior conduct history, including any academic dishonesty violations. Variables that influence sanctions may also include severity of violations, students’ understanding of impact and acceptance of their responsibility in the incident, and scope of impact of their actions.
  • Sanctions are structured to address the conduct (based on its relative severity), remedy its effects on the College community, prevent its recurrence, and facilitate learning and personal growth.
  1. Is there a right to appeal?
  • Yes. After sanctions are determined, the student may appeal to an appeals officer on the following grounds:
    • New information (that arises after the panel determination); or
    • Significant procedural error (that had an impact on the result).
  1. How long does the student conduct process normally take from beginning to end?
  • Up to 90 days.
  1. How many CMC students were found responsible through this process?
  • Seven (7) students (less than 1% of the CMC student body and less than 5% of the Blockade Group).
  1. What sanctions were assigned?
  • Suspension for one academic year: 3 students
    • Students receiving this sanction were determined to be responsible for participating in the Blockade Group with conduct indicative of a leadership, organizational, or coordinating role.
  • Suspension for one semester: 2 students
    • Students receiving this sanction were determined to be responsible for participating in the Blockade Group, but there was no evidence that the students did more than intentionally participate in blocking access to the Athenaeum or other campus facilities.
  • Conduct probation: 2 students
    • Students receiving this sanction were found responsible for participating in blocking access; however, other mitigating factors (e.g., information provided through the investigation process, genuine remorse, commitment to learning from their mistakes) all resulted in conduct probation.
  1. What is CMC’s response to blockading students from the other Claremont Colleges?
  • CMC provided the other Colleges with access to our relevant video and photographic evidence and requested that they pursue disciplinary action against students who actively participated in the Blockade Group.
  • In addition, The Claremont Colleges maintain an inter-campus banning policy related to disruptive persons, which provides a process to ban a student from another campus for disruptive behaviors. This banning process is independent from the home campus’ disciplinary process.
    • These bans are non-academic.
    • To this point, the College has identified four students from the other campuses where the College has reasonable cause to believe that these individuals engaged in conduct that would justify implementing the banning process, and CMC has activated a provisional suspension of non-academic privileges for these students.
    • Pursuant to the banning policy, each of these students will have an opportunity to be heard before any ban is fully implemented.

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