Letter Sent to CMC President Criticizes Response to SJP Incident

A representative from the Center for Constitutional Rights sent a letter to Claremont McKenna College President Pamela Gann on Wednesday criticizing the college’s handling of informal and formal complaints leveled by Najib Hamideh PZ ’14. Hamideh’s complaints regarded an incident with a professor at a Students for Justice in Palestine demonstration in March. The letter warned that the Center would be monitoring further decisions that CMC takes regarding the incident and its related grievances.

“Recent developments indicate that CMC has instead conducted a process plagued by procedural deficiencies that severely undermine fairness and neutrality. These procedural deficiencies threaten the rights of Mr. Hamideh and (deliberately or not) chill the speech rights of Claremont students with similar viewpoints,” Cooperating Counsel Liz Jackson wrote in the letter, which was sent to Gann as well as a number of Pitzer College and CMC deans, Hamideh, and his academic adviser, professor Dan Segal.

With consent from Jackson and Hamideh, Segal forwarded the letter to the Pitzer faculty, asking them to consider its analysis of the situation. Segal also provided context for Jackson’s objections to new developments in the grievance process.

“On Monday of this week, Najib concluded that he could not complete his academic work this semester and navigate the increasingly complex demands of the formal stage of the CMC grievance process (including a demand that he sign a written confidentiality agreement that is not itself mentioned in the CMC Handbook). Najib then wrote to President Gann and requested that the grievance process be postponed to the fall, to allow him to give his academic work the attention it needed over the final weeks of the semester. Within three hours of receiving Najib’s request—and without consulting with him or his academic advisor … President Gann responded that Najib’s need to finish his academic work was not a ‘good cause’ for a postponement of the process. President Gann then dismissed the grievance in its entirety, on the grounds that Najib had missed CMC’s deadline for signing the confidentiality agreement,” Segal wrote.

Jackson’s letter argued that CMC’s refusal to postpone the formal process and its later dismissal of the complaint deny Najib’s right to an education at the Claremont Consortium that is “free from discrimination.” Jackson wrote that the college’s decision “coerces Mr. Hamideh into abandoning his grievance” and poses him with the choice between pursuing his right to the formal investigation process and his own academic standing, which she says has already been jeopardized by “the time loss and emotional distress he experienced as a result of the March 4th incident.”

Later, the letter condemned CMC’s decision to release the findings of the informal investigation to all students via e-mail, even though it had received notice of Hamideh’s decision to file a formal complaint one day prior, which Jackson claimed amounts to “pre-judging the outcome.”

“Despite having notice that the grievance process would continue, you released and accepted Dean [of Students Mary] Spellman’s findings on the same day. You did this with knowledge that Mr. Hamideh and multiple witnesses dispute key facts and the findings of Dean Spellman’s report,” Jackson wrote.

Finally, the letter stated, “when CMC deauthorized Professor Segal to serve as Mr. Hamideh’s advisor, CMC violated its grievance procedure, which clearly provides for a student to have an advisor of his own choosing, without condition.”

It concluded by urging CMC to reconsider, grant the postponement of the grievance process, and rescind the informal results that were disseminated to the student body until the formal investigation can be concluded.

“The civil rights organizations with whom I work will continue to monitor the violations of law and threats to student rights occurring at CMC, and we look forward to hearing from you on how CMC intends to remedy the situation. Thank you for your consideration,” the letter read.

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