Category Archives: Editorial

Dear CMC: Stop Treating Our Social Scene like a Case Competition

On August 30, the CMC administration and ASCMC announced their “new strategy of responsible moderation” that will be implemented this year. In this strategy, students are given tactical guidelines for how, when, and where to socialize on campus. Framed as a way to support a “healthy, inclusive, and respectful residential culture,” this new strategy is the heaviest set of rules and regulations enacted at CMC to control student behavior and social interactions.

First, I want to fully acknowledge the real and serious concerns that CMC is trying to address. No one disagrees with the administration’s basic premise: all students should feel safe and act responsibly when they go out. And there is no doubt that in these past few years, high-risk alcohol and drug consumption has been a problem that has put students at risk and caused harm to our community. However, the individuals that engage in such dangerous behavior constitute a small minority of us, and the latest policy changes are a classic example of administrative overreach that infringes on CMC’s most cherished freedoms.

There are a lot of things that make CMC special, but our vibrant and inclusive social scene is a point of pride that distinguishes us from every other college in the country. Unlike other schools, all of our parties are planned by our student government, rather than through an exclusive Greek system. From 6:01 to Pirate Party, everyone is invited and welcomed with open arms—no matter your class year, background, or whether or not you choose to drink. It is not just our high-caliber academics and engaging courses that make us a strong community; it is our unparalleled social scene that makes everyone feel included and comfortable to be themselves.

The administration’s new guidelines are highly inconsistent with CMC’s character in this respect. The guidelines are divided into two parts: formal and informal activities. If students are in groups of more than 15 people and alcohol is present, they must register with the Student Activities Office at least two business days in advance. The event is limited to 30 people and must comply with the “Guidelines for the Use of Alcohol at Formal Activities or Events.”

The “Informal Activity Guidelines” focus on the day-to-day activities of students, such as gatherings in dorm rooms and residential lounges. These “gatherings” are limited to 15 students who are allowed to drink alcohol, as long as they are not being disruptive. Students were told that if their informal gathering grows to 16 people, they must “reduce the number of people at the gathering to 15 or less or the gathering will be shut down.”

The problem with this policy, in particular, is that it promotes exclusivity. A gathering of 15 people or more could easily form by accident from students just hanging out in their dorm hall, friends inviting their friends, and others who walk by and feel welcomed to join. Instead of encouraging these students to intermix and mingle, the 15-person limit forces students to kick other students out of their gatherings and bar anyone new from coming in. In effect, these policies encourage negative, cliquey behavior—which is antithetical to CMC’s traditionally open culture.

Furthermore, these “informal gatherings” can only occur at designated times and spaces. They are permitted between 5:00 PM to midnight on Sunday through Thursday, and from noon to 1:00 AM on Friday and Saturday. They may only take place in residential areas, such as dorm halls, designated lounges, BBQ areas, and the Senior Apartments. (The Dean of Students created a map to clarify these parameters.) In these “designated areas,” you can carry an open, single use serving of alcohol. Outside of these areas, such as in North Quad and Parent’s Field, you can carry alcohol, but only “if you are headed somewhere.”

As for activity regulations, beer pong is permitted in six designated spaces (north side of Beckett, Green BBQ area, Wohlford BBQ area, Claremont Hall amphitheater, Apt. 681 BBQ area, and the Wagner BBQ area south of Kramer Walkway). Other drinking games, high frequency shots, loud music, and discourteous behavior that infringe on others’ right to use those spaces are violations. By designating the times, spaces, and activities for student interaction, the administration can more easily manage CMC’s social scene.

This comprehensive strategy sounds like the most optimal method to minimize CMC’s legal liabilities. CMC is now given full control over almost every aspect of how students interact in public spaces. The problem is that it hurts students more than it helps them by setting the most unnatural, unrealistic guidelines for students to follow.

These policies do little, if anything, to mitigate the high-risk alcohol and drug problems on campus that this strategy was intended to address. The administration has not shown any positive correlation between group sizes and levels of alcohol or drug consumption. The drinking problem is a cultural problem: if people want to drink, then they are going to drink, whether they are with 15, 30, or 100 people. These restrictive policies are more likely to encourage students to privately binge drink in their rooms and go out heavily intoxicated, so they can avoid breaking any new guidelines for carrying alcohol or drinking at unregistered events. Instead of cultivating an open, safe environment for students, or addressing the root cause of these problems, these guidelines incentivize students to engage in more dangerous behavior.

The worst part is that the administration and ASCMC are acting as if these new guidelines are actually in the best interest of students. How is it in our best interest to limit how many people we can interact with? How is it in our best interest to create exclusive guest lists? How is it in our best interest to be treated like walking liabilities, rather than human beings?

We do not need a “strategy” to interact with our friends. We are not just another component of what seems like CMC’s ongoing case competition to find various ways to minimize as much legal risk as possible for our institution. 

It is clear that we are never going to have the same open culture and social freedoms afforded to us in years past. I, along with many other students, have come to terms with that. But for the administration to say that it is trying to create a “healthy, inclusive, and respectful residential culture” through its new policy is naïve at best, and disingenuous at worst.

So cut to the chase, CMC. What are you actually trying to achieve through this policy? We want your honest answers, not your calculated strategies.

_______________________________

Image Source: Flickr

Goodbye, Claremont

The Claremont Independent is: “too conservative,” “too libertarian,” “too controversial,” “not controversial enough.” Over the past year, we have heard it all.

When we joined the CI as staff writers some three years ago, we started a discussion about what we planned for the future of the publication. We wanted it to become more like us, i.e. classically liberal.

Thankfully, the CI has become something else entirely. Instead, it has served as a forum for discussion, a reserve of dissent, and a source of original reporting. With intellectual diversity at the Claremont Colleges so lacking and dissent from mainstream, left-wing views discouraged, it is essential that someone introduce the student body to a diverse array of different perspectives (especially those that are never heard of or ignored). Many know us as the “conservative” magazine; however, we see the CI as an entity that supports a free exchange of ideas for those willing to engage in the process. We have aimed to provide an intellectual space for those interested in pursuing the purpose of a liberal arts education, which is to prepare students for making the most of their time on earth through some combination of thinking and doing. We believe that the intellectual development of individuals and society occurs more through debate and discussion, rather than “safe spaces” and intellectual homogeneity. In other words, the CI has attempted to burst the Claremont “bubble” this past school year.

After the events of this year, it is safe to say that we have succeeded. We broke the story that George Will was disinvited from a speaking engagement at Scripps College. This original piece prompted a statement from the Scripps College President calling sexual assault an issue “too important to be trivialized in a political debate,” an editorial from us, one from the Scripps Voice, and a response to the Voice’s editorial. We published an opinion piece opposed to Plan B vending machines at Pomona College, which produced a series of responses varying from the less to more thoughtful (when the Voice published a similar piece two years ago it generated nary a gasp). In a move that showcased the variety of opinions in our staff, we also released piece that gave a free-market argument in favor of the vending machine. We exposed the rotten core of Scripps’s Core I, infiltrated Claremont’s Fight Club, discovered that CMC might as well rebrand itself as a School of Economics in a few years, and exposed issues in the appointment process for the Athenaeum’s new director. One of our current associate editors, who comfortably sits on the left, bemoaned the state of the campus progressivism in what became our most successful article of the year. And, as either the ultimate sign of our success or of their desperation, the Golden Antlers wrote way too many articles about us.

This year, we also saw our staff expand to over 30 people, with members from all five colleges (yes, even Pitzer). Web traffic to the CI site more than quadrupled year-over-year. Several articles were given national attention, being featured in the likes of National Review, Newsweek, and the Washington Post.

We are happy that, considering how few conservative, libertarian, classically liberal, and centrist students there are in Claremont, we inspired and engaged in some real debates that would not have occurred otherwise. At the very least, we helped provide space for those who want to debate and to grow intellectually.

Next year, expect a stronger, smarter, more engaged CI. With Hannah Oh as Editor-in-Chief and Steven Glick as Publisher, we are confident that the magazine will grow and mature into a more professional and permanent fixture of the Claremont Colleges.

We Who Must Not Be Named

In a recent issue of The Student Life, we came across a funny little name for CI articles that ruffle campus progressives’ feathers: “That One Article.”

Some would see a problem. We see an opportunity. As a long-ignored voice on campus, it is great to see others acknowledging our efforts to challenge progressives’ control of the campus debate this year.

But, why, some might ask, is it even beneficial that we exist and grow as a publication? Simply put, we are showing a different way forward for those who are unhappy with the mainstream campus debate on both on- and off-campus issues. Instead of basing ourselves on intolerant “inclusiveness” and censorious “safety,” we believe in the fundamental importance of individual rights, and the principles that are the basis of Western civilization.

One of these rights is due process, including the presumption of “innocent until proven guilty.” Sadly, such a right does not mix well with the impulses of campus activists. In the case of the Ferguson shooting of last year, students marched out against what they assumed was the racist murder of an innocent man before the facts were out. While some might argue that the justice system is inherently racist, the Justice Department’s recent report supporting the decision of the grand jury should at least give activists pause.

America is still infected with racism, but that fact should, if anything, make us want to strengthen individual rights, rather than abrogate or infringe on them. Instead of immediately resorting to ill-founded assumptions and angry rhetoric, we urge students across the political spectrum to take a step back. Listen to and understand your fellow Americans. Get to know your fellow human beings as individuals with hopes, dreams, and fears, not as caricatures that are labelled by any number of hateful adjectives. This goes for both conservatives and progressives.

We believe that you have the right to speak your piece whether or not we agree with you, regardless of what some students might say. Case in point, over the past year, a number of centrist and self-identified liberal students have joined our staff because they felt there was not enough room for their views in the mainstream campus debate.

In a campus that is so obsessed with tearing down the “establishment,” we will continue to build up those who do not conform to the established view on campus. The CI is at its strongest in years, and we are eager to grow further and challenge more of the comfortable conformity that attracts well-intentioned progressives. While it is central to our conservative principles that everyone be safe from physical harm, no idea should be safe or privileged from discussion and debate.

We are the publication that must not be named, and we are here to stay.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Vie, Liberté, Propriété, Charlie

By now, you have doubtless heard every analy­sis of the Charlie Hebdo tragedy. As we at the Inde­pendent saw our social media feeds flood with support for the “Je Suis Charlie” movement, we realized that “Charlies” are often the same people who chide the CI and others for publishing articles that don’t line up with the progressive, politically correct agenda. Sud­denly, everyone was a champion of free speech and the values of liberal democracy, but no one seemed to know what that means. 

Citizens of Western democracies, especially of the progressive or social democrat variety, must come to terms with reality. They have taken freedom, including, but not limited to, freedom of speech, for granted, and rarely appreciate its import.

In 2014, for the ninth consecutive year, accord­ing to Freedom House, the tide of freedom retreated around the world. Last year, nearly twice as many countries saw declines in freedom as saw improvements. About as many peo­ple live in “free” countries (2.9 billion) as in those that are “not free” (2.6 billion). No continent, no region is immune from il­liberalism. 

While the Charlie Hebdo killings hit close to home, similar and far worse tragedies are being orchestrated daily across the globe. For example, in Pakistan, a pregnant Farzana Paveen was stoned to death by her father, brother, and her spurned cousin-fi­ance because she chose to marry a man she loved. She was just one among the hundreds, if not thousands, of women killed in the name of honor in Pakistan every year. Raif Badawi, a blog­ger in Saudi Arabia, faces 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for allegedly “insulting Islam” on his blog, “Free Saudi Liber­als.” Among its countless acts of barbarism, ISIS is throwing gay men out of buildings, stoning women, and crucifying young men who refuse to convert to Sunni Islam. The abridgement of freedom is not in any way limited to Muslim-majority nations. In Nigeria, Boko Haram (“Western Education is Forbidden”) is ramping up its murderous campaign in Nigeria against those who refuse to live under its inhumane rule. Journalists the world over face threats of murder. Officially secular China is continuing to aggressively censor its media and stifle religion, Christianity in particular. Xinhua, a Chinese Communist Party-run newspaper, called for more censorship in light of the Charlie Hebdo massa­cre. Russia, Vietnam, Belarus, Cuba, and many other nations also deny basic freedoms.

Conservatives are often chastised for saying we want to promote freedom and democracy around the world, as if it’s some sort of imperial plot to subjugate the savages. Such couldn’t be further from the truth. We tend to think that people around the world deserve to be free and that opponents of freedom must be challenged as much as possible. As history has shown, the expansion of freedom is hardly inevitable. And when there is more freedom, not only is there less oppression, but there is also a great flourishing of humanity, technology, and other forms of progress. Look at China since the death of Mao. Even a modi­cum of additional freedom in marriage, work, travel, trade, and thought has brought about an enormous explosion in well-being.

There is no reason why people in China, Chad, or Syria are any less deserving or capable of being free and creating Charlies of their own than Europeans or Americans. They should have that chance.

At home, we should work to maintain our democratic insti­tutions. Progressive justice warriors, resist the temptation to cen­sor others. Instead of seeking to silence those you disagree with, engage with them. When a straight, cisgender white male speaks, confront his ideas and not his traits. If you think something is im­portant, make your argument. Tweet. Post. Blog. Write. Speak. Debate.

The ones who bring about progress in society are often those with “incorrect” views. If the left truly wants to see socie­tal progress, as opposed to greater statism, allow for and engage with those marginal views. If they’re good, help them go main­stream. And if they’re not, defeat them with your arguments, not through censorship.

We want to live in a free society. You probably do too.

Je Suis Charlie Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

December Editorial

November 4th was a good day for Republicans. They won the Senate and significantly expanded their majority in the House. In 2015, they will hold 31 of 50 governorships and control 69 out of 99 state legislative chambers. But is the Republicans’ success a victory for America?

If conservatives want their recent successes to have real meaning, they must offer their own positive agenda for 2015 and beyond. When the GOP only controlled one half of one branch of the federal government, it had a hard time making its case to the nation. Now there are no excuses.

Over the years to come, conservatives should emphasize that their policies are good for all Americans. Republicans in Congress and in statehouses across the nation could pass a new reform bill every day to restore confidence in our nation’s political institutions. Every day, Congress could put a popular bill with Democratic support on the President’s desk. Obamacare fixes. Immigration reforms. Anti-poverty efforts. Trade bills. Education bills. Body camera laws. Prison reform. You name it, every day. Whenever the President vetoes these bills, then it’s on him.

Conservatives must propose solutions to problems in our criminal justice system. We should not hesitate to acknowledge the role of modern policing in the precipitous decline of rape and murder in recent years. But some aspects of the criminal justice reform need fine tuning – adding body cameras on police, for instance, makes sense.

Texas, one of the most conservative states in the nation, has recently found incredible success in reforming their prison system, which used to be one of the most broken (not to mention expensive) in the nation.

In true conservative form, Texas chose to focus on the individual criminal and the choices they made that led them to commit crimes in order to fix the way prisons worked in the state. Through programs such as the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, which teaches inmates useful business skills and even offers them a chance to get a certificate of entrepreneurship from the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University, Texas has been able to enable inmates to find employment options when they leave jail.

Because of its effective reforms, Texas has been able to close three prisons instead of building new ones. As Marc Levin, a criminal justice researcher with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, notes, “studies have shown that vocational education reduces recidivism more than anything else you can do”. The Prison Entrepreneurship Program is an especially good example of this, as it has been found to reduce recidivism by 380% compared to the average of other rehabilitation programs in Texas, not to mention yielding a 340% return on investment due to avoided incarceration, increased child support payments, and reduced reliance on government assistance. All of these programs focus on building a sense of purpose, community, and brotherhood between past and current inmates, and are all built upon a foundation of conservative values of liberty and personal freedom (it is Texas, after all).

Instead of increasing the reach of the nanny state, Texas has shown that empowering individuals to lead the life they want to live discourages a life of crime. Texas’s conservative approach to law enforcement, one that seeks to do more than tear people down, should be lauded across the nation.

Now that conservatives have regained power across the nation, it is time for them to show America that conservative values can not only empower people to live the life they choose, it can also help them get back on their feet when they fail.