Official CMC report intensifies controversy

By Summer Sturtevant and Liz Scherffius

The five-week-long investigation into the interaction between Claremont McKenna College (CMC) Professor Yaron Raviv and Pitzer College student Najib Hamideh culminated in the first official statement issued by CMC’s administration on Friday, April 19. The report reignited debate regarding the incident at the March 4 Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) street theater demonstration.

The report summarized the review process, listed factual findings, and drew the following four conclusions.

1. The CMC faculty member made statements to the Pitzer student that were inappropriate and unprofessional and which do not meet the expectations set forth in the College’s Statement on Professional Ethics. 

2. With respect to the claims of racial bias and harassment, the facts surrounding these claims are in dispute. Nevertheless, even if bias is assumed, the comments made, when viewed in context and in their totality, were not sufficiently severe or pervasive as to constitute a violation of the College’s Harassment Policy.

3. When impeding access to the main entrance of Collins Dining Hall, the SJP event was not in compliance with CMC’s Demonstrations Policy and The Claremont Colleges Demonstrations Policy, both of which prohibit disruptive and/or non peaceful events, including ‘actions in which there is deliberate disruption or an impedance of access to regular activities of the College or of the College community, including those which restrict free movement on the campus.

4. The CMC faculty member did not improperly interfere with or attempt to stop the event by requesting that the event not impede access to the dining hall.

Pitzer Professor Dan Segal, Hamideh’s advisor, raised several objections to the report. In an open letter to the CMC faculty on April 20, Segal argued that the report misconstrued the order of events by giving greater weight to Raviv’s account than to that of Hamideh or other available witnesses’ accounts. He called into question the report’s claim that Raviv had apologized. Additionally, he disputed the finding that the SJP demonstrators had violated campus demonstration policies and the conclusion that Raviv did not interfere with the demonstration.

“Overall, the CMC report is a deceitful document that blames the victim—and specifically, the victim of a verbal, dehumanizing attack by a professor on a student, which is, fundamentally, an attack on speech rights on campus,” said Segal at a press conference on April 18.

Before the CMC report was issued publicly on April 19, it was released to Hamideh and Segal in a private meeting on April 18.

Pitzer Professor Dave Bachman, who is a friend of both Segal and Raviv, said that the CMC incident should “die out.”

“I don’t actually think that if [the incident] were to just go away then it would have any lasting effect,” Bachman said. “It’s a college, there’s high turnover, every four years people go through here. Four years certainly will not have any effect.”

Following the CMC report’s publication, several students demonstrated outside the CMC Office of Admission with signs such as, “I am not a fucking cockroach.”

On Sunday, April 21, Pitzer’s Student Senate issued a public response to the CMC report. The response denounced the “discriminatory speech” made by Professor Raviv, and called it “unacceptable, as is any discriminatory speech made by professors against students.” The statement said efforts to restrict speech and protest on campus will not be tolerated and demanded that both colleges’ administrations publicly “clarify the cooperation between the two in producing CMC’s final investigative report.”

According to the CMC report, the investigation was based on interviews with 11 witnesses and a review of documents including the event registration form, e-mail communications about the event, and the Campus Safety report, as well as relevant laws and policies. CMC administrators asked SJP to propose remedies early in the review process. SJP responded on March 16 with six requests.

1. Professor Yaron Raviv should cease to have a role in CMC admissions process, and this should be in effect for a minimum of 3 years.

2. Professor Raviv should make a public statement acknowledging and taking responsibility for (i) his conduct in this episode and (ii) ensuring, in accordance with CMC’s Faculty Handbook, that his classroom is an environment that welcomes all students.

3. CMC leadership (President and Deans of Faculty & Students) should make a public statement that (a) decries this and all incidents of verbal racial attacks and (b) recognizes CMC’s responsibility to create an environment that welcomes, and does not merely tolerate, political dissent and free speech.

4. CMC agrees to give SJP a lead role in programming a minimum of three Athenaeum events per year for the next three years, with a budget commensurate with the average for all other Athenaeum speakers.

5. The report on this grievance shall be made a permanent part of Professor Raviv’s personnel file at CMC and his conduct in this incident shall, necessarily, be an element in CMC’s next annual and next promotion review.

6. Professor Raviv will in 2013-2014 participate robustly in a SJP [or perhaps “L.A. ACLU, AAUP, or other organization designated by SJP”] organized public forum on the importance and value of welcoming political dissent and free speech on college and university campuses; such participation may involve completing readings in advance of such a forum.

“We drafted our remedial processes to be … very focused on education and not punishment, because we’re not out to get anybody,” Hamideh said. “We’re not out to punish anybody; we’re out to have our right to speak freely about the things that we feel need to be spoken about.”

As the CMC report holds the demonstrators at fault and does not accede to any of SJP’s requests, Hamideh is considering whether to proceed with a formal grievance. CMC has asked that he sign a confidentiality agreement if he chooses to do so.

 

View the CMC report here: Report to President Gann re SJP Event

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