IFC Questions Treatment of Condoleeza Rice Protesters

The Intercollegiate Faculty Council (IFC) sent a letter to the presidents of the Claremont Colleges last month stating that Claremont McKenna College violated the 5C Demonstration Policy by placing “unwarranted restraints” on demonstrators  during former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s visit to the campus last semester.    

The letter pointed to a last-minute decision to relocate the event from the Athenaeum to Ducey Gym and to designate a protest zone outside of the fences around the gym, due to security concerns.    

The IFC consists of one faculty representative from each of the 5Cs. Each member signed the Feb. 21 letter to the Council of Presidents.    

Pomona Computer Science Professor Kim Bruce, a member of the IFC, said that the security measures were unnecessary, considering the peaceful and non-disruptive nature of the protest.    

“Many of us feel strongly that freedom of speech and protests are a very good thing. We want to encourage students to speak up when things happen that they disagree with,” Bruce said. “There is a policy from the Council of Presidents that deals with the complications of being in a consortium of seven colleges where you’re likely to have students and faculty from one school protesting on the grounds of another school. It seemed to us that the notion of fencing off protesters and having a special designated protester area was inimicable to the free speech rights and it seemed to be punishing peaceful and non-disruptive dissent.”    

Scripps History Department Chair and IFC Member Julie Liss agreed.         

“I think that freedom of speech is an essential value, one of utmost importance particularly at an educational institution,” Liss wrote in an e-mail to TSL. “The matter was brought to the attention of the members of the IFC by students and faculty because it involved an intercollegiate context (that is students and faculty from different campuses). I was concerned that the efforts to anticipate protest and contain it were excessive.”       

The letter also calls for an official clarification on the policy, which the Council of Presidents signed in 2001, for off-campus demonstrations.    

“The off-campus event also drew attention to the fact that the existing demonstration policy says nothing about such events,” Liss said. “It seems to me that institutions such as the Claremont Colleges need to uphold a high standard for the exercise of free speech, especially among members of our own community.”       

Pitzer Professor of History Daniel Segal, a member of the IFC, said that security guards threatened to arrest him when he passed out information cards at a private CMC-sponsored lunch with Rice at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, detailing his concerns about Rice’s public policy and diplomacy during her tenure in the Bush administration.   

“A bedrock principle of both intellectual inquiry and democracy is the open circulation of knowledge, information, and argument,” Segal said in an email to TSL. “CMC demonstrably and harmfully acted in violation of that principle in its handling of protest in response to Rice’s visit, both at CMC’s ‘public affairs’ luncheon for Rice and at her talk in the evening.”    

The CMC Communications and Marketing Office sent a memorandum in response to the letter, stating that the relocation of the event was necessary for the security of the audience members.    

“It is also important to emphasize that the fencing plan was not designed to enclose or ‘fence-in’ the protest group. The fencing was there to provide a safety barrier to ensure that the Rice event could proceed without disruption and protestors could also express their views,” the memorandum stated.    

CMC also responded to the IFC charges of policy violations at the private lunch, writing, “The College also respectfully disagrees with the letter’s comments related to the luncheon event at the Biltmore Hotel. This was a private event, and the rules and expectations related to free speech in this context are different than in the context of an open public forum event, such as the protest organized for the evening event at Ducey Gym.”

Segal said that CMC President Pamela Gann was unable to meet with him to discuss the event. Pomona President David Oxtoby confirmed that the letter is on the agenda for the Presidents Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday.

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