On Tuesday March 11th, Najib Hamideh’s (PZ‘15) reserved carrel in the Honnold Mudd Library was found with a graffitied message: “This carrel is reserved for me to fuck N. Hamideh in the skull.” Two days later, a sharpened key was found hammered into one of Hamideh’s car tires.
The physical threats follow an exchange between Hamideh and Claremont McKenna College (CMC) Professor Yaron Raviv that took place during a street theater simulation of an Israeli Defense Force checkpoint organized by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) as a part of Israeli Apartheid Week. According to a statement issued by SJP on March 8th, the event “consisted of passing out fliers, asking passersby for their IDs as part of a checkpoint simulation, and actors (who had given consent prior to the event) being ‘detained’ off to the side of the checkpoint.”
In an interview with The Orange Peel, SJP member Sonia Mehrmand (SC’13) said, “We were recreating something that is a reality for people on the West Bank and Gaza… We weren’t outside with signs [or] having people protest with us. We were playing our roles and people had to pass through. It was street theater with a political theme but it wasn’t a demonstration.”
During a checkpoint simulation outside of Collins Dining Hall, when Hamideh asked repeatedly to see Professor Raviv’s ID, Raviv replied “fuck off, you little cockroach.”
The investigation has focused on SJP’s adherence to the Claremont Consortium Policy on Demonstrations. In an email to the Pitzer and CMC student bodies on March 7th, the respective Deans of Students wrote: “Pitzer and CMC are jointly investigating this matter to determine what occurred and whether the Policy on Demonstrations was followed. Based on the results of this investigation the colleges will take appropriate steps.”
In response to the email, some students were concerned that the incident was not being investigated as potentially bias-related, and further, as a free speech violation.
“I sincerely hope that when you say ‘investigating this matter to determine what occurred and whether the Policy on Demonstrations was followed’ you also mean that an [sic] thorough investigation into the harassment of a Pitzer student by a CMC faculty member will be conducted,” wrote Kristen Dobbin (PZ’13) in her response, directed towards Pitzer Dean of Students, Moya Carter, “I hope your primary concern is the individual student as well as the entire Pitzer student body, which were both the subject of outrageous and biased statements on the part of the faculty member in question. While the free speech issue is certainly an important one, this incident must be treated as a bias-related incident with the same degree of seriousness as other such occurrences on campus regardless of the fact that it involved a faculty member.”
In a letter sent to the Pitzer student body on March 8th, Mita Banjaree, Pitzer’s Faculty Executive Committee (FEC) Chair, affirmed that Professor Raviv’s comments need to be investigated as a potential “bias-related incident.” She continued: “We think it is unfortunate that the initial, public communications about this issue were focused on potential demonstration policy violations.”
CMC and Pitzer have concluded that SJP did not violate the demonstration policy. However, Pitzer’s administration has made it clear that investigating Professor Raviv is out of its jurisdiction.
“[Investigating the professor] is CMC’s responsibility because he is their faculty member and I don’t run, and the college doesn’t run, investigations about faculty and staff who are not employed by our campus,” said Pitzer President Laura Trombley in an interview with The Orange Peel, “I don’t know what CMC is doing internally, I haven’t been a part of those conversations. I have sent a note, that’s a confidential note, expressing my concern and asking that this matter be looked into and addressed expeditiously.”
Banerjee, in a March 15th email, reiterated that “it is CMC that has the responsibility for further investigation into Professor Raviv’s behavior, and conducting that investigation is not within Pitzer College’s purview.”
It has since been determined that SJP was not violating any Claremont Consortium policies, and the focus of the investigation remains in question. Neither dean offered comment on the investigation of Professor Raviv until it is complete.
Hamideh wrote in the SJP public statement: “as a Palestinian who has lived under the illegal occupation for 10 years of my life, I have been subject to this form of abuse many times before. It is a great irony that at a checkpoint simulation on campus that I helped to organize, I experienced an Israeli calling me a cockroach, just as has been done to me many times before at actual checkpoints in the West Bank. To me, this is a discriminatory incident and I personally do not feel comfortable as a student on a campus where a faculty member is allowed to demean me and curse at me.”
There is no indication that CMC has begun an investigation of Professor Raviv. Although Pitzer and CMC administrators have been informed of the physical threat against Hamideh and the popping of his tire, neither have publicly commented or taken further action.
For a more detailed account of Professor Raviv’s comments, visit: http://www.claremontportside.com/students-accuse-professor-of-hate-speech-following-palestine-justice-event/