Revision of 7C Demonstration Policy Prompts Strong Student Backlash

The Claremont Colleges Council of Presidents approved a revision of the 7C demonstration policy on Oct. 6. But after a significant student backlash to the revised policy, administrations across the colleges announced that there will be a re-evaluation of the demonstration policy with student, faculty, and staff input.

Pomona College Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum and students are sitting in Walker Lounge. Two people in frame, one in the bottom left and the other on the top right, have raised their hands.
(Will Gottsegen • The Student Life)

The existing policy was last revised in November 2001 and lists the steps the colleges can take to respond to protests that become “disruptive or non-peaceable, and infringes upon the rights of others, threatens property or public safety, or impedes the business of the member Colleges or CUC.”

According to Campus Safety Director Stan Skipworth, who chaired the review committee, only minor changes were made. The most substantial revision and the clause that has been receiving heavy student criticism is the addition of specific examples of what are deemed “disruptive or non-peaceable.”

The policy states: “Examples of demonstrations, assemblies or actions that may be in violation of this Policy include, without limitation, those that involve: fighting or other aggressive behaviors or actions; amplified sound that can be heard inside of classrooms or other TCC or CUC buildings during times of use; unreasonably impeding the ingress and egress of any facility; or the stationary positioning of demonstrators upon any roadway on or adjacent to any of the colleges that blocks passage.”

Students were first notified of the revised policy when Pomona College Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum emailed the Pomona student body on Oct. 10 informing students that the Council of Presidents had approved a revision of the demonstration policy. Feldblum also wrote that even though she welcomes comments, there will not be formal 30-day comment period because the revision was not made by a Pomona internal committee.

At 9 a.m. the next morning, Feldblum sent another email to Pomona students, writing that some students had expressed concerns about the revised policy and invited students to meet her at 1:30 p.m. in Walker Lounge if they had questions or concerns.

(Will Gottsegen • The Student Life)

About 50 students showed up, with many students upset at the lack of student input and ability to pursue legal action against protesters. In response to Feldblum’s explanation that no substantive changes had been made to the existing policy, many students criticized the policy for directly responding to the Black Lives Matter protest that had occurred on May 7.

“This policy happened in a very, very tumultuous year … We got an email from Deans last semester saying ‘we encourage Claremont students to participate in the Black Lives Matter movement,’ and now we’re getting a policy that endangers the very students who participated in that movement on this campus,” said Beshouy Botros PO ’17, who attended the meeting in Walker Lounge. “They didn’t think to include students when they were revising it—that rhetoric is deeply unnerving to me on many levels.”

Students particularly pointed to the new addition in the policy that prohibited blocking of roadways and amplified sound that can be heard inside of classrooms as being direct responses to the May 7 Black Lives Matter protest. The protest included students walking to each 5C president’s office and handing a letter to the president, as well as students blocking the intersection at Foothill Boulevard and Claremont Boulevard.

A day after the meeting in Walker Lounge, Feldblum emailed the student body that the Council of Presidents has temporarily suspended the implementation of the revised policy and has asked the Student Deans Committee to collect student, staff, and faculty feedback. In an interview with TSL, Feldblum also said that the Claremont University Consortium asked her how Pomona organizes its review period.

“My biggest concerns are one, that the demonstration policy as it existed before was very vague. Still a lot of ambiguity in it, but that ambiguity has become more dangerous now in that it uses examples of things that have happened in the last few years to call those things against the policy,” Isaac Tucker-Rasbury PO ’18 said. “I’d much rather prefer it be very specific … I want to know what is and is not allowed before I start taking action. But they’re allowing themselves so much flexibility that it’s more difficult to plan around legalities and policies.”

When asked why student input was not sought during the revision of the policy, Pomona President David Oxtoby wrote in an email to TSL, “This was a mistake. There should have been student input.”

Since then, students at all five undergraduate colleges have been informed by their administrations of the revised demonstration policy and the formation of a committee to re-evaluate the policy.

Student governments are also taking action in response to the revised policy. Associated Students of Pomona College is forming a committee to address the issue. Scripps Associated Students sent an email to the senior staff of Scripps’ administration on Oct. 11 criticizing the approval of the revised Demonstration Policy and held a BeHeard Forum with Dean of Students Charlotte Johnson on Oct. 13.

Phoebe Shum • The Student Life

Skipworth wrote in an email to TSL that he suggested the review of the policy shortly after he became the Campus Safety Director in November 2014 “to ensure it was up to date.”

“We regularly review policies and this one seemed well overdue,” he wrote.

According to Skipworth, the review committee consisted of assistant deans from Pitzer College, Scripps College, Claremont Graduate University, Pomona and Claremont McKenna College. Skipworth also claimed that the Black Lives Matter protest did not affect the outcome of the review.

“Our approach to protest and demonstrations will, as always, focus on ensuring the safety of all, while also respecting our student’s rights of free speech and peaceable assembly. Our work with Claremont Police will continue to emphasize the role we have in helping to maintain a safe environment,” Skipworth wrote.

Lauren Ison PO ’18 contributed reporting.

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