Scripps Tightens Public Lecture Security Following Audience Disruption

A member of We the People Rising, the group that protested a Scripps College talk about Islamophobia, interrupts speaker Hussam Ayloush. (Corinne Mitchner • The Student Life)

After three protesters disrupted a Tuesday Noon talk by Hussam Ayloush, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, earlier this month, Scripps College has instituted new security measures at all lectures open to the public.

While the events will remain open, video recording them is now prohibited, and at the start of each lecture the guidelines for audience engagement will be announced, Scripps Dean of Faculty Amy Marcus-Newhall wrote in an email to the Scripps community on Oct. 18.

“Although there is no requirement to open events to the public, doing so often allows for deeper conversations and allows us to build bridges with our surrounding communities,” Marcus-Newhall wrote.

In the case of events with more controversial speakers, like Ayloush, the college will work with Campus Safety to develop a security plan.

“We don’t expect that our colleges would change their long history of making many of these events open to the public,” director of Campus Safety Stan Skipworth wrote in an email to TSL. “We support them in the preventive security measures they are looking at … while we work collaboratively and with vigilance about the right approach to safety and security for each and every event.”

At events where such “diverse perspectives and ideas” are represented, Skipworth said, there must be a balance between creating a safe, successful event and “respecting the constitutional rights of those in attendance.”

The new security measures include training the student ushers on staff at Scripps events, according to Tori Smith SC ‘20, an usher at the Garrison Performing Arts Center. Smith said the ushers were told how to respond if another group tried to disrupt the event.

“We are now using an acronym – ATM – ask, tell, make,” Smith wrote in a message to TSL. “Step one is to ask the person to stop, step two is to tell them to stop and step three is to make them stop, although, at the third level, we are supposed to get one of our bosses involved.”

Ushers were also given photos of the protesters from Ayloush's talk in case they appeared at last week’s Humanities Institute lecture by Angelica Salas, the executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Los Angeles.

“We separated students, faculty, and staff into one line, and the general public into another, just to make sure the same man would not show up again,” Smith wrote. “I think [increased] security is never a bad thing, and it has not changed the job of the usher -- it has only made us more aware of how to handle [an] unexpected situation."

The policy changes come at a time when the 5Cs are facing more disruptions and contending with a more politicized college environment, wrote Karen Bergh, associate director of media relations for Scripps.

“We feel called more than ever to present the models for civility and mutual respect, and call on our visitors to do the same wherever possible,” Scripps wrote in a statement to TSL.

Marcus-Newhall expressed a similar sentiment in her email.

“Inviting outside speakers to present their ideas, scholarship, and life stories is essential to providing the rich intellectual environment that we seek,” she wrote. “Faculty, students, trustees, and the administration bring speakers to campus with the goal of creating opportunities for us to think more deeply and more broadly about a wide array of questions, problems, and ideas.”