7C Demonstration Policy Review Committee Met Once, Incompletely

Protesters band together in front of Claremont McKenna College’s Athenaeum during the Heather Mac Donald protest last April. (Alexander Landau • The Student Life)

The Claremont University Consortium established a second Demonstration Policy Review Committee in the spring of 2017 with the hopes of re-addressing the flaws in its 2001 policy.

The primary goal of the meeting was to look at similar institutions nationwide as models for CUC, were it to potentially change its demonstration policy, according to Jacquelyn Aguilera PZ '19, the only student representative on the committee. In the end, she doesn’t think any action was actually taken and that the committee lacked student input.

The committee met only once – last spring – and consisted of Pomona College Vice President and Dean of the College Audrey Bilger, Scripps College Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Charlotte Johnson, CUC Campus Safety Director Stan Skipworth, CUC CEO Stig Lanesskog, and Aguilera. It was chaired by President of Claremont McKenna College Hiram Chodosh, who was unable to attend the meeting. There was no representative from Harvey Mudd College.

The committee was founded after CUC made revisions to existing policy regarding on-campus student demonstrations in 2015 – adding more specific examples of what is considered “disruptive or non-peaceable” actions – and students immediately protested.

The Associated Students of Pomona College passed a resolution on Nov. 2, 2015, criticizing the policy revision because it “gives officials the ability to shut down almost any demonstration.” In addition, ASPC wrote “participation in ‘disruptive’ demonstrations is prohibited, despite the fact that effective demonstrations are, by definition, disruptive.” CUC quickly withdrew the changes following numerous student complaints.

CUC explored possibilities for revisions by creating a 7C Demonstration Policy Review Committee (DPRC) in March 2016 that would collaborate with the Student Deans Council (SDC) in an effort to include more student voices.

The committee, which included student representation from each college, was supposed to collect and synthesize student feedback, but students on the committee were disappointed that the SDC was “unreceptive” and did not take the committee’s suggestions seriously enough.

After the committee stopped meeting, the 2001 policy remained in place. 

“The demonstration policy, approved in 2001, remains in effect,” CUC spokeswoman Kim Lane wrote in an email to TSL. “There was an effort … to revise the policy, but based on feedback, a decision was made to retain the 2001 version and to further consider how best to incorporate the input received on the suggested revisions.”

When Aguilera arrived at this new committee meeting this spring, she was surprised to find she was the only student representative there, finding it “intimidating” to be alone among administrators. Aguilera was concerned because she said the committee lacked transparency. She doesn’t think anyone took notes and said students were not notified that the committee was meeting.

Concern over the policy resurfaced this past semester after several students at Claremont McKenna were suspended for protesting and blockading the visit of anti-Black Lives Matter speaker Heather Mac Donald on April 6.

“I think a lot of students looked into what was actually being done and were concerned that there was only one student on the committee,” Aguilera said. “I’m concerned about the dangerous precedent that is set by having these types of meetings behind closed doors.”

Looking back, she said that while the committee was a good idea in theory, it failed to integrate student voices and has yet to take any definitive action.

“I think that it almost seemed like they were just trying to say that the committee had been formed, not as much creating change,” Aguilera said. “I’m hoping that the project will be continued but I’m a little worried…. It does seem like they’re waiting for students to fizzle out and not really know about the demonstration policy.”

The faculty and staff on the committee declined to answer any questions about the committee, including whether they feel it has lived up to student expectations, and whether CUC intends to revise the policy in the future.

Aguilera wants to keep fighting to improve transparency, increase student representation, and make the demonstration policy more geared toward respecting students’ right to protest. Overall, she said, students should have more say in the policies implemented on the Claremont Colleges campuses.

“I think the colleges and the CUC as a whole could make a big step by holding a town hall among all campuses to discuss this policy,” she said. “I would encourage students to challenge their administration, or ask more questions about why the policy that is currently implemented and that is actively affecting students do not have their input.”

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