Students Allege Bias-Related Exchange with Professor

Pitzer College and Claremont McKenna College are jointly investigating a verbal exchange that occurred between sophomore Najib Hamideh PZ ’15 and a CMC professor on Monday, March 4. Hamideh, a participant in a Claremont Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) street theater action outside of Collins Dining Hall Monday evening, has filed a report stating the exchange constituted a bias-related incident. The professor, whose identity has yet to be confirmed by CMC or Pitzer, allegedly referred to the student as a “little cockroach” and told him to “f–k off.”

The professor declined to comment for this story.

As part of National Israeli Apartheid Week, SJP organized a street theater performance that set up mock checkpoints aimed at simulating those in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Students were asked to present identification before entering the dining hall, flyers were distributed, and actors participating in the presentation were “detained.” Three separate performances took place simultaneously on the campuses of Pitzer, CMC, and Pomona.

According to Hamideh, SJP submitted a bias-related incident report Thursday night to Pitzer Dean of Students Moya Carter, a copy of which was also provided to TSL. According to the report, the professor, who was not initially recognized as a 5C professor by the SJP organizers, entered the dining hall and returned with the managerial staff, insisting that they remove the performers from the premise shortly after the performance began. The staff asked the group to remove a rope that was partially impeding the entrance, a request with which the group complied. Shortly afterwards, the report details, the man later spoke with a Campus Safety officer who was on the scene.

According to the statement, the verbal altercation began next. Hamideh’s account of what occurred is written in the statement to Carter: “At this point, I … said to him ‘if you are a visitor, I’d like to see your visitor pass. If you’re a professor you need to identify yourself,’ to which he replied ‘f–k off you cockroach’ to which I replied, ‘Excuse me you can’t be addressing me in this way. I need to see your guest pass.’ He responded by saying ‘you should f–k off little cockroach, you’re all cockroaches.’ He then questioned me about which school I attended and when I informed him that I attend Pitzer College, his response was ‘all Pitzer kids are cockroaches.’”

Hamideh wrote that he then asked the Campus Safety officer to check the man’s ID. Hamideh reported seeing the ID, which identified the man as a member of the CMC community. According to Hamideh, the man then left.

Requests made Thursday with CMC’s Office of Public Affairs for interview opportunities with Dean of Students Mary Spellman and Dean of the Faculty Gregory Hess were not granted.

Campus Safety Officer Trinidad has filed an incident report which was subsequently passed along to CMC’s Dean of Students Mary Spellman, according to Director of Campus Safety Shahram Ariane. Ariane declined to allow TSL to speak with Officer Trinidad and spoke instead on his behalf. Ariane did not release details of the report, other than to say that Campus Safety responded to a disturbance call in the vicinity of Collins Dining Hall Monday evening.

According to the statement, the group has identified the professor but has opted not to include his name in the report at this point in the investigation for legal reasons.

Lissett Lazo PZ ’14, who was present during the exchange, said she heard the man call Hamideh a cockroach and tell him to “go f–k [him]self” multiple times.

Amber Neaves PZ ’13 said she also followed Hamideh when he approached the man. Neaves related identical use of expletives and insults by the man.

SJP’s statement continued, “Use of the term “cockroach” must be taken in its specific historical context as hateful, racist, enemy imagery. Much academic literature has been dedicated to the subject of animal enemy imagery for the way in which deeming a people ‘cockroaches’ allows for their dehumanization. Other relevant cases of racist cockroach enemy imagery include the reference to Tutsis during the Rwandan genocide and to Jews under Nazi Germany.”

“To me, this is a discriminatory incident and I personally do not feel comfortable as a student on a campus where a faculty member is allowed to demean me and curse at me,” wrote Hamideh in the personal account he included in the statement.

An e-mail was sent to CMC and Pitzer’s student bodies Thursday afternoon that stated, “CMC and Pitzer are jointly investigating this matter to determine what occurred and whether the Policy on Demonstrations was followed. Based on the results of this investigation the colleges will take appropriate steps. In the meantime, CMC and Pitzer remain committed to providing an environment that is supportive of free speech and peaceful assembly, consistent with all applicable policies and laws.” The e-mail did not make reference to whether the exchange would be reviewed as a possible bias-related incident.

According to the Scripps College website detailing the Claremont Colleges Communication Protocol for Bias Related Incidents, “Bias related incidents are expressions of hostility against another person (or group) because of that person’s (or group’s) race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, gender or sexual orientation, or because the perpetrator perceives that the other person (or group) has one or more of those characteristics.”

SJP asked for further investigation of the discriminatory nature of the alleged exchange.

“We feel that both the Pitzer and CMC administrations should be putting more effort into investigating the discriminatory and harmful actions of a faculty member rather than investigating the previously sanctioned, constitutionally protected event held by Students for Justice in Palestine,” SJP wrote in the statement. “Harboring a professor who demeans and harasses students with dehumanizing, racially charged language while simultaneously attempting to stifle legitimate political speech reflects poorly upon the Consortium as a whole.”

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