Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and supporters held a candlelight vigil outside of Collins Dining Hall last night to “provide a peaceful and effective public forum with which to display the deep injury the [Claremont McKenna College] administration’s undue delay in response to the March 4th incident has slashed within our community,” according to SJP member Lily Lousada PZ ’14.
“It was also an opportunity to contextualize this episode within the broader framework of problematic Student-Administration dynamics at [CMC],” Lousada said, referring to an incident the group alleged in early March in which a faculty member swore at a student involved in a street theater action for Israeli Apartheid Week and called him a “cockroach.”
The vigil came five weeks after the verbal exchange between CMC associate professor Yaron Raviv and Pitzer College student Najib Hamideh PZ ’15 and a month after Hamideh’s written grievance against Raviv.
“I hope that the CMC administration acknowledges that people at large want to see a just response from the administration, and I hope that this pressures them into feeling like they need to respond,” Lousada said.
The CMC administration has not yet issued a response regarding Hamideh’s complaint other than a memo e-mailed to the student body by President Pamela Gann just before Spring Break. The update indicated that the investigation was still ongoing and that the administration was committed to ensuring a “fair and neutral process that respects the rights of both parties.”
“It is my hope and intention that we collectively take this opportunity to establish a constructive and positive dialogue around these issues on our campus,” Gann wrote.
The vigil was attended by more than 50 students, faculty, clergy, and invited guests. Members of the CMC and Pitzer administrations observed the event but sat removed from the vigil. Faculty members in attendance included CMC Dean of Students Mary Spellman and Pitzer Vice President for Student Affairs Jim Marchant. Both deans declined to comment for this story.
Pitzer anthropology professor Daniel Segal was also present at the vigil. He voiced concerns over CMC’s decision-making and called on the crowd to e-mail Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty Gregory Hess “to show that a substantial group of faculty, students, and community members from the colleges can’t and won’t accept verbal racial attack.” Hess, who has co-written academic papers with Raviv, declined multiple requests for comment.
“Dean Hess, President [Pamela] Gann, and Professor Raviv are adults,” Segal said. “And as adults, they should at the earliest possible moment step into the sunlight and say ‘it was wrong for Professor Raviv to address an SJP student as a fucking cockroach.’ It is shocking that nobody is willing to say that Raviv committed a horrible mistake and to take responsibility for it. They need to create a climate on campus that says ‘this is wrong,’ and they haven’t succeeded in creating such climate.”
“It is unacceptable to have a professor address a student in the manner Raviv addressed [Hamideh],” said Scripps College history professor Julia Liss, who took part in the vigil with Scripps anthropology professors Laura Deeb and Seo Young Park.
Esee Chandler, organizer for the Los Angeles chapter for Jewish Voices for Peace, was also in attendance at the vigil.
“I am appalled that the college has done nothing about the whole situation. I think there’s an argument to be made that if the student were Jewish, the reaction would’ve been different,” Chandler said.
The vigil was also witness to students speaking out on CMC’s culture as a whole.
“It’s not the first time CMC has been accused of similar actions. I regret not speaking up about it before,” Syndey Swonigan SC ’13 said.
Swonigan also said that CMC party themes such as “Bros and Navajos” reflect the administration’s “inability to care about diversity of providing a safe space for students.”