Students Who Blockaded Heather Mac Donald Talk Sanctioned With Suspensions, Probations

Students from across the Claremont Colleges blockaded the Athenaeum before a scheduled talk by Heather Mac Donald at Claremont McKenna College in April. (Liam Brooks / The Student Life)

Seven Claremont McKenna College students who participated in the blockade of conservative commentator Heather Mac Donald’s talk in April have now been sanctioned by administrators, according to an email sent to the college community Monday.

Of the seven students, three received year-long suspensions, two received semester-long suspensions, and two have been placed on conduct probation.

The degree of the sanctions was determined by “the nature and degree of leadership in the blockade, the acknowledgment and acceptance of responsibility, and other factors,” according to the all-campus email.

The sanctions come at the end of a months-long investigation by the college, by which President Hiram Chodosh promised that students would be “held accountable.”

The decision was made by a panel of three “trained community representatives” — one student, one staff member, and one faculty member.

The sanctioned students, who remain anonymous, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Nana Gyamfi, an attorney with Justice Warriors 4 Black Lives, a collaborative network providing legal and other support to people involved in anti-racism activism, informally represented and counseled the students.

To Gyamfi, the severity of the sanctions for students involved in nonviolent protest indicate they are being used as an example.

“The students were being held up as, ‘this is how we’ll whip you at the whipping post if you dare to speak up,’” Gyamfi said. “We had hoped that a college that claims to be about diversity and that claims to want to be inclusive would understand that this is not how you respond.”

The students were charged based on “a preponderance of video and photographic evidence and a limited amount of witness testimony.” A spokesperson for CMC declined to elaborate on the sources of the videos or photos.

When Mac Donald was scheduled to speak on April 6, up to 300 student protesters surrounded the entrances to the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum in an attempt to block her from entering the building.

“We CANNOT and WILL NOT allow fascism to have a platform,” wrote protest organizers in a statement published anonymously to Facebook before the action. “To protect the current police and prison system means that you are maintaining the racist system which constantly murders and dehumanizes people of color.”

In a timeline of the April 6 events released by the college as a series of frequently asked questions, student demonstrators are described as demonstrating “an unexpected level of speed, coordination, and intentionality,” moving past security fencing and Campus Safety officers to establish the blockade.

Mac Donald, who had been inside the Athenaeum since before the start of the protest, delivered her talk to a mostly empty room. CMC distributed it via a livestream.

She subsequently appeared for interviews on Fox News and penned an account for City Journal in which she wrote that the attempt “to try to prevent me or other dissenting intellectuals from connecting with students is simply an effort to maintain the Left’s monopoly of thought.”

In a statement to TSL Wednesday, she congratulated CMC “on following through on its promise to hold at least some students responsible” but questioned why the number of students sanctioned was not greater.

The college also “issued provisional suspensions of on-campus privileges to four non-CMC students who appear to have played significant roles in the blockade” and “provided evidence of policy violations by students of the other Claremont Colleges to their respective deans of students,” according to the all-campus email.

Miriam Feldblum, Pomona College’s dean of students, wrote in a statement to TSL that the college had received “photographs and information” from CMC, and that Dean Townes and Dean Waugh, who advise Pomona’s judicial council, would “determine the need for an investigation, oversee the investigation if appropriate, and then proceed from there, again, as appropriate.”

A spokesperson for Scripps College wrote in an email to TSL that the college had “received information from CMC and are reviewing the matter.”

Harvey Mudd College Dean of Students Jon Jacobsen wrote in an email to TSL that “the chair of our Disciplinary Board will follow up with CMC in the fall, when students return to campus, to discuss any allegations of HMC students violating the Demonstration Policy and any subsequent Honor Code actions.”

Pitzer College Vice President for Student Affairs Brian Carlisle wrote in an email to TSL that “Pitzer is in communication with Claremont McKenna College. We are currently reviewing all information provided.”

CMC will also be conducting an additional review to prevent what it calls “attempts to disrupt college programs in a non-peaceful, materially disruptive way.”

Updated July 23, 2017 at 4:18 p.m. PST to include comments from Harvey Mudd College and Pitzer College.
Updated July 19, 2017 at 10:14 p.m. PST to include comments from Heather Mac Donald, Pomona College,and Scripps College, as well as further information from a statement released by Claremont McKenna College.
Updated July 18, 2017 at 6:59 p.m. PST to include comment from Nana Gyamfi.
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