Four Of 5Cs Pledge Punishments For High School Gun Protests Will Not Impact Admissions

High school students with Teens For Gun Reform protest near Washington, D.C., following the latest U.S. mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, elementary school. (Courtesy of Lorie Shaull)

In the wake of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting Feb. 14, high school students around the country are planning protests against gun violence. Some school districts, such as Needville, Texas, have threatened to suspend students for demonstrating during school hours.

However, Pomona College, Pitzer College, Scripps College, and Harvey Mudd College have pledged that disciplinary action taken by high schools against students who protest will not affect prospective students’ admission decisions, joining with more than 240 other U.S. colleges that have made such pledges. The Claremont McKenna College Office of Admissions does not have a blanket policy on this issue for all applicants, and will evaluate students on a case-by-case basis.

HMC announced its policy in a statement posted on its website Feb. 23.

“In recent days, questions have been raised about how colleges and universities will react if students who have applied or been admitted to the college are disciplined by their schools for protesting in response to last week’s tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School,” wrote Thyra Briggs, Mudd’s vice president for admissions and financial aid, in a post on HMC's website. “We assure you that any disciplinary action taken by a school in response to students’ walking out of class or protesting in response to gun violence will not be held against you in our admission process.”

Briggs wrote that civic activism was central to the vision of HMC’s founders, who felt that “technology divorced from humanity is worse than no technology at all.” She added that “we challenge our community members to reflect on their responsibility as engaged members of our community and of society.”wrote that civic activism was central to the vision of HMC’s founders, who felt that “technology divorced from humanity is worse than no technology at all.” She added that “we challenge our community members to reflect on their responsibility as engaged members of our community and of society.”

Pomona followed suit in a statement the following day.

“Pomona College wants to assure you that participating in peaceful protests in response to gun violence, even if this leads to suspension or other school disciplinary action, will have absolutely no impact on your admission to Pomona,” the statement read.

“We felt it was important to support those applicants with a public affirmation of their peaceful participation in these acts of civic discourse and say clearly that ‘If you participate, it will have no impact on your application to Pomona,’” wrote Adam Sapp, director of Pomona College admissions, in an email to TSL.

Pitzer followed three days later with a similar statement, which cited its founding values.

“Born in 1963 of idealism and pragmatic activism, Pitzer College believes every student has a right and responsibility to speak, be heard, and engage in active citizenship, including peaceful protest,” the statement read. “We assure you that Pitzer will not penalize you for such activities and they will not affect your admission.”

Pitzer’s statement, unlike HMC’s and Pomona’s, made a guarantee to participants in all peaceful protests, not just those in response to gun violence.

Scripps also made a guarantee applicable to all protests in its statement, provided that such protests are peaceful and non-disruptive.

“The admission committee supports a student’s right to express their opinion,” the statement noted.

The admissions offices at HMC, Pitzer, and Scripps could not be reached for additional comment before press time.

CMC did not publish a statement on its website similar to those of the other 5Cs, but spokesman Peter Hong wrote in an email to TSL that “CMC would consider any such matter individually. Any applicant or accepted student with concerns can contact the admission office directly. Freedom of expression is a core CMC value.”

Hong also referred TSL to CMC’s Freedom of Expression pages, which detail the college’s policies, and specifically noted that CMC protects peaceful assembly and expression, and prohibits interference with the exercise of such freedoms by others on campus.

The college followed through with that promise last year, suspending five students who blockaded the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum to protest conservative speaker Heather Mac Donald.

This article was updated on March 5 to reflect that Hong had referred TSL to a specific section within the Freedom of Expression pages, and to reflect that Briggs' quote came from the statement on HMC's website, not an email to TSL.