To test the limits of 5C demonstration policies and advocate for changes, a group of about 15 students held a protest March 8 in front of the Revelle House, home of Scripps College President Lara Tiedens.
The protest was inspired by punishments Claremont McKenna College issued to its students who blockaded an April 2017 talk by conservative pundit Heather Mac Donald. Seven CMC students who were determined to have violated 7C demonstration policies received punishments ranging from conduct probation to yearlong suspensions.
The Scripps protesters were specifically concerned by the section of the demonstration policy that states that “a demonstration may not prevent, foreclose, or interfere with teaching, research, administration, or other authorized activities on campus. For instance, no one may block the flow of pedestrian and vehicular traffic on the campus or access into or out of campus buildings or parking lots.”
This inspired them to protest by blocking off a road, drawing with chalk, and destroying flowers — actions that violated the prohibitions against blocking the flow of pedestrian and vehicular traffic on campus on Amherst Avenue, as well as damaging the college’s property.
“We’re hoping that by going about it [in] a cute and feminine and artsy way, that we can point out the hypocrisy within the policy,” said Sophie Peters SC ’20, who helped organize the protest.
Added organizer Elizabeth Murphy SC ’19: “It’s a small action to test the demonstration policy. There’s a reason we’re here. We want to test what conditions provoke a response.”
Many disliked the policy’s wording.
“Right now, what the policy hinges on is the word ‘disruptive,’ which is so vague,” Arianna Chan PO ’21 said. “Really, any protest is disruptive. By nature, protests are inherently disruptive. We can be punished for drawing with chalk.”
Many protesters argued that potential punishments for violating the policy, which include revocation of financial aid, were much more detrimental to low-income students, creating a class bias. This discouraged some people from participating in the March 8 protest.
“I don’t want to take the risk when I don’t know what the administration’s response will be,” Niyati Narang SC ’20 said.
Most of those present were part of the Race in American Politics class at Scripps. Although it wasn’t a class assignment, students were inspired by in-class discussions.
According to Peters, the March 8 crowd was small because the organizers are still working on mobilizing the student body. However, the organizers said they plan to continue protesting.
Peters also cast doubt on Scripps’ institutional moves to address the issue.
“Although the creation of committees on diversity and inclusion is a nice display of good intention, we want to see true action in these committees and the incorporation of student voices,” Peters said.
Scripps spokesperson Karen Bergh did not respond to TSL’s request for comment on the protest. In response to an inquiry about the protest, CMC spokesperson Joann Young referred TSL to the college’s website on freedom of expression.