An unauthorized party with students and alumni in and around Claremont McKenna College’s Green Hall Lounge was shut down by a combined force of the Claremont Police Department (CPD) and La Verne Police Department on the night of Jan. 31. Dean of Students Mary Spellman said she asked Campus Safety to call CPD when the crowd did not comply with orders to disperse from Resident Assistants (RA), administrators and Campus Safety.
According to an Feb. 3 email to the CMC student body from President Hiram Chodosh and Vice President for Student Affairs Jefferson Huang, the RA’s first “identified an unregistered event with alcohol in the Green Hall Lounge, which was hosted by a group composed of current student-athletes and alumni, and an additional gathering of well over 100 people in the outdoor area adjacent to the lounge, with glass bottles of hard alcohol and the projection of loud music” around 10:45 p.m.
According to the email, alumni were on campus Jan. 31 to attend several spring sports teams’ annual alumni games.
Spellman said that Assistant Director of Student Activities Kari Rood and Campus Safety officers were on campus at the time to assist an Associated Students of Claremont McKenna College (ASCMC) party on the steps of Bauer Center, right across Green Hall, when RA’s asked for their assistance to move the students in Green Hall to the ASCMC event. Rood then called Spellman for help.
According to the Feb. 3 email, students engaged in a series of aggressive behaviors against RA’s, such as physically pushing a female RA and using profane language to encourage students to ignore the RA’s orders.
Spellman said that she and Campus Safety officers decided to call the police when they noticed the party growing in size. According to CPD’s Call History Record, CPD received a call at 11:27 p.m. and arrived at the scene at 11:32 p.m.
“The only option we had left was [to call the police]. And we warned students we would call the police and that still did not impact them,” Spellman said.
About five CPD officers stood with Campus Safety officers in the middle of North Quad and used loudspeakers to announce that Spellman had asked the crowd to disperse.
Officers from La Verne then arrived at 12:04 a.m to assist CPD. The scene was cleared at 12:25 a.m., 58 minutes after the police had been called. No arrests were made.
CPD Detective Lieutenant Mike Ciszek said that the goal at that time was to simply disperse the crowd.
“The issue is if you have 300 people and they’re all being crazy, [and] if you send in a few officers to grab one body, where’s the safety?” Ciszek said. “We’re not sitting there checking everyone’s ID … That’s just not feasible at the time.”
Chodosh and Huang wrote in an email to the student body on Feb. 3 that they were “disturbed by… recurring patterns and reports of unacceptable, embarrassing, and disrespectful behavior” and called on the students to “exercise greater responsibility to abide by the interim guidelines.”
The Interim Guidelines Regarding Alcohol, written by administrators, RA’s and members of ASCMC, was released in fall 2014 to help students understand expectations regarding unauthorized social gatherings on campus. The guidelines were sent out again Jan. 29.
“We sent them out as a reminder as we were seeing more and more groups gathering and already had some concerns that we wanted to remind students,” Spellman said.
According to CPD Call History Records, there have been 16 occasions since 2010 when the police came to the Claremont Colleges for noise complaint.
“It’s a tool if we are having concerns about something but it’s … not something we do lightly,” Spellman said.
Alex Miele CM ’17, a student-athlete who was at the party, said that even though the RA had come by to ask students to move, the students were “confused.”
“It was definitely a shock when the police showed up,” Miele said. “And I think a lot of that stemmed from the fact that the culture at CMC is evolving a bit, and I think policies are becoming a little bit tighter. And I think, since the alumni were there, they weren’t really aware of it.”
Benjamin Waldman CM ‘15, who witnessed the scene, felt that the police were controlling the scene more effectively than the deans and Campus Safety.
“I think it’s definitely a trust issue between DOS and the students,” Waldman said.
Spellman said that the administration has heard allegations of racial profiling by the police at the scene. Even though there have been no direct reports, a student has reported to the administration that she has spoken with a student who was a target of racial profiling. Huang and Spellman said that the administration has reached out to these students and encouraged any one who feels that he or she has been a victim to report to the administration.
Ciszek said that the police has not received a complaint about racial profiling and that a case of racial profiling is a serious issue for CPD. Ciszek also said that all CPD officers are trained to act based on “criminal element,” not the color of a person’s skin.
“It bothers me when people say [racial profiling], because they throw the word around like it’s nothing. To us, it means something much greater than that. To be accused of racially profiling offends me because that’s not the way that I do business nor the way the people that work for me do business,” Ciszek said.
Huang and Spellman said that there has been an increase in the size of parties and noncompliance from students at parties in the past few years. This has led to the creation of the Personal and Social Responsibility Initiative and the Interim Guidelines, Spellman said.
“We’ve reached a point, and on that night particular, that we felt that the only way to address this was to enlist some assistance from our colleagues at the police department,” Spellman said.
Investigations are being led by Assistant Vice President for Investigations Marcie Gardner. According to the Feb. 3 email by Chodosh and Huang, the administration will “apply appropriate disciplinary action against culpable individuals.”
“It’s important for us to understand what happened for everybody’s sake, for students’ sake, for our sake,” Spellman said.
Lauren Ison and Trevor Pontifex contributed reporting.
Update: This article was updated Feb. 8. It originally spelled Mary Spellman’s last name incorrectly.