SJP Denounces Ongoing Investigation; Complaint Names Professor

In a written grievance submitted to the Claremont McKenna College (CMC) and Pitzer College deans early this morning, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) member Najib Hamideh PZ ’15 identified CMC Associate Professor of Economics Yaron Raviv as the person who allegedly made insulting and explicit remarks to Hamideh on March 4 while SJP was acting out a mock Israeli checkpoint outside Collins Dining Hall.

Hamideh’s statement accuses Raviv of violating two CMC college policies as stated in the college’s Faculty Handbook: section 4.2, which maintains that “professors encourage the free pursuit of learning in their students … [and] hold before them the best scholarly and ethical standards,” and section 10.6.2, which states, “It is the policy of Claremont McKenna College to maintain an environment for students, faculty, and staff that is free of sexual, racial and other unlawful harassment … Retaliation against a person who properly reports, complains about, or participates in the investigation of such harassment is likewise prohibited.”

Raviv declined to comment for this story.

CMC and Pitzer are now in their fifth day of a joint investigation of the altercation. But SJP submitted a separate statement this morning asserting its concern that the investigation thus far has questioned SJP students to determine whether they were breaking CMC’s Policy on Demonstrations without a formal complaint on which to base such an investigation.

“The administration has been conflating an investigation of the club event with an investigation of the hate speech espoused by a Claremont McKenna College professor by conjoining the two investigations and being unclear about the expected processes of both,” the statement reads. The statement specifically references “CMC’s investigation,” though according to SJP member Lily Lousada PZ ’14, who was questioned in the investigation, Pitzer Vice President for Student Affairs Jim Marchant also participated in her questioning.

Marchant, CMC Dean of Students Mary Spellman, Pitzer Dean of Students Moya Carter, and CMC Associate Vice President for Public Affairs Max Benavidez declined to comment for this story, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation.

The SJP statement claims that by questioning the participants’ obedience of college policy in their performance outside Collins, the college could be “retaliating against us for reporting the racial harassment, which in itself would be a violation of its own harassment policy which prohibits retaliation for reporting harassment.”

The statement continues, “We are demanding that the administration either end the investigation of SJP effective immediately or lodge an official complaint so that procedural rights can be upheld. If there are any concerns about the club event, we demand that you file specific grievances and reports per administrative protocol.”

An e-mail sent last Sunday to the Pitzer student body from the Pitzer Faculty Executive Committee expressed similar concerns. “We think it is unfortunate that the initial, public communications about this issue were focused on potential demonstration policy violations - we reassert that the right to peaceful demonstrations is an integral piece of an open, intellectually vigorous, college community,” the e-mail states. “We would also like to reaffirm that at the heart of any vibrant college community are the principles of free speech, peaceful assembly, and protection from verbal assault and harassment.”

The concerns arose after a joint e-mail from both colleges’ administrations last Thursday stated, “CMC and Pitzer are jointly investigating this matter to determine what occurred and whether the Policy on Demonstrations was followed.”

Last Friday, Marchant sent a follow-up e-mail to the Pitzer student body that stated, “While an investigation is underway, it has been determined that the group informed Campus Safety of their intentions prior to the events on [March 4], and also completed an event registration form at CMC that was approved.” Marchant indicated that the investigation would be concluded by this past week, but no update on the progress of the investigation has been released.

Campus Safety officer Mario Trinidad, who was on duty and present during the March 4 exchange, filed an incident report that described the altercation but did not identify the names of either party involved.

“I arrived at 1738 hours and noticed the performers standing near the doorway of Collins Dinning [sic] ... As I walked towards the group a male adult approached me and stated he did not want the demonstrators blocking the entrance to the dining hall,” Trinidad wrote in the incident report. “At this time a white male, a member of the performance group, approached the male adult and asked him for identification and who he was. The male identified himself as a professor and told the white male to 'fuck off.' The performer replied[,] '[W]hat did you say?' and followed up by asking, 'Do you have permission to be on campus?' The professor quickly flashed his CMC identification card and told the white male that he was a cockroach and to mind his own business. The professor then left the area. The performer was angry but in control of his emotions.”