Physical Threats Emerge as SJP Investigation Continues

130319-najib-hamideh-320x245By Liz Scherffius and Emma French

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/

17 thoughts

  1. I’m pro-Israel, Jewish Pitzer student. This being said, president Trombley: you can do more than send a confidential note to CMC’s administration. I understand you’re busy analyzing Twain and trying to grow the endowment, but looking after the learning environment of your students should never deviate from being priority #1. What was said by professor Raviv is not only damaging to one student, it hurts us all.To not even attend a meeting or publicly demand an investigation is hanging us all out to dry. Instead you chose to hide behind the curtains of bureaucracy; saying “it’s outside of Pitzer College’s purview” just doesn’t cut it. Even though it is outside your direct jurisdiction, you can still exert more pressure than you have. I’m appalled. You are paid to be a leader. Lead!

  2. there are enough people to point fingers at, Trombley’s not the villain here.

  3. I don’t understand why not more is being done with this situation. A student is getting threats and getting personal property damaged and all the administration can do is send a ‘confidential note’? Why isn’t CMC getting involved? Why isn’t the campus shouting in outrage?

    It’s already been proven that demonstration wasn’t in the fault… and now the 5Cs are just going to be, ‘oh, cool, whatever…’. I am appalled by the lack of action of Pitzer and CMC. I’m astonished that a large part of the student body seem to be okay with their administrations acting as such.

    Is there anything that the student body can do to pressure the administration to take action against the Professor?

  4. Both the girl and the professor seem like provacateurs.. And both act in a manner detrimental to the much more important conversation that needs to be had about how we can immediately advance rights and sovereignty for all people living between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. Because time is running out

    1. Very true. Also, is there any proof whatsoever that the professor has anything to do with the threats, or is that 100% speculation as it seems to me?

      1. Any connection between the Professor and the physical threats that you’ve found here is inference on your part. Try reading what’s actually written, you’re reaching.

      2. There is no evidence that it was the professor. More likely, it was an angry student who felt threatened for by the street theater.

  5. I can’t bear to live at and support a school whose administration is concerned with ANYTHING BUT incidents that the small -minded bureaucrats at the other 4Cs deem “not Pitzer’s concern.” If we want a name for ourselves, we HAVE to get involved, students and faculty alike. It’s time to bring an end to Claremont McKenna’s bloated posturing, Pomona’s anti-intellectual lust for post-graduate employment, Scripps’ flailing delusions of relevance (we’re all people after all!!), and Harvey Mudd’s total lack of interest in any of this DIRE, DIRE issues! It shan’t be through a larger endowment that very utterance of “Pitzer College” will cause the ground to shudder, nor will a less radical (trust-funded) faculty lead us, hand- in-firm-hand, out of hypocrisy! Burn your money, comrades! Be the change, don’t pay for it. This pit all lined with greased palms and smooth-rubbed elbows.

    1. I remember when I was a freshman.

      But seriously, if you feel strongly about the issue, go do something about it. If you feel strongly about demonstrating, transfer to Berkley. It’s not rocket science.

      1. Yeah, why in the world would any college student except those at Berkeley care enough about injustice to go so far as protesting about it? Just shut up and follow orders!

        :-/

  6. 1) This professor is not qualified to be teaching at CMC — the school is remiss in failing to vet for bigotry. This is doubly true given that he teaches a class on the economics of Israel/Palestine.

    2) Trombley and Gann are also dropping the ball.

    One would expect them to stand up for what is right — imagine if a professor called an African-American student the N word, or a Jewish student one of the many epithets — but they are in damage control mode, hoping to keep this incident quiet and keep the money flowing in. It is the responsibility of students to put pressure on both administrations.

    3) If any physical harm befalls Mr. Hamideh, there will be full legal repercussions for those that inflict them.

    1. ACLU Member, are you sure you’re a member of the right organization? The ACLU has supported, for years, a VERY robust reading of the First Amendment. Indeed, so much so that they were the principle counsel in Brandenbrg v. Ohio, the famous KKK speech case. California’s Leonard Law ensures full First Amendment protections to Students at all private, higher education, institutions in CA. CUC’s–and all the 5C’s for that matter–has speech policies that violate both the Leonard Law AND the First Amendment. Should Professor Raviv be censured? Yes. Should President Trombley be the person leading the “charge” in that regard? I believe so. Should Professor Raviv be fired? Well, it looks liked he’s already been tenured (He’s an Associate Professor) so that situation will be left to CMC’s respective faculty committees to hash out. Though I believe that students from all the colleges should
      press CMC to condemn Professor Raviv’s statements and actions. Incidentally, that is EXACTLY the proposed solution proposed by the ACLU on their website. Ideally, Professor Raviv would never make the rank of Full Professor. His actions in this regard should preclude him from that “honor”.

      For better or for worse, the First Amendment protects this kind of speech, offending and vitriolic as it may be. His speech was not likely to incite both imminent or likely action, the test set out in Brandenurg.

      Perhaps then this will make people sensitive to the consequences of an absolutist interpretation of the First Amendment, and the Constitution more
      broadly. Want to punish Professor Raviv? Mobilize. Organize. Protest every day in the center of CMC’s campus. Ensure that every person that walks through that space knows exactly what he said, what has resulted from it, the problems with vitriol on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and force CMC to do something. This should not be swept under the proverbial, old-boy’s-club, CMC, rug.

      1. I agree that this incident “should not be swept under the proverbial, old-boy’s-club, CMC, rug,” and I hope that students AND concerned outside individuals and organizations continue pushing for appropriate sanctions against Raviv. I do doubt, though, that this incident will ultimately keep him from getting promoted, let alone get him fired. He’ll probably end up a hero in many people’s eyes, and he’ll be able to simply bask in that glory, like so many blind, Israel-is-always-right people do. (Not that he necessarily thinks Israel is always right, though he did show his thoughts and feelings on the issue pretty clearly when he called a student he must have recognized as Palestinian a “cockroach.” Wow.)

  7. Yet another reason why turning a blind eye the conservative “old boys” club that is CMC has turned into a nightmare. (Obviously I went to Scripps.)

    But all they do is leach from the 5Cs and try to be Pomona by then hoarding its resources to itself and not allowing access to the other 5Cs in this so-called consortium. Honestly what did we expect when they INVITED Antony Scalia to come and speak in 2007?! Don’t even get me started on the speakers Scripps has invited though…but to be perfectly frank CMC has flouted the idea of a liberal arts education and anything that does not represent the ultra conservative right wing. During my years their alumni were causing such a problem by “hanging out” (aka getting shit-faced) with underage kids, that they had to change their reunion dates to outside the school year. They do not promote graduates with any sort of societal ethics. I am not saying that Harvey Mudd or Scripps is sooo much better, but the constant stance of this school’s student body and its administration is so right leaning, that its hard to not envision an anti-Palestinean voice coming from their midst. This is not a school that represents the education-based ethical principles with which the Claremont Colleges were founded. I cannot help but be totally unsurprised that they will likely brush aside this professor’s hate speech.

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