Category Archives: Editorial

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.

Scripps College, George Will, and Sexual Assault

As many of you now know, George Will was recently disinvited from speaking this coming February at Scripps College’s Elizabeth Hubert Malott Public Affairs Program, a series that is designed to bring one distinguished conservative figure per year to a campus that is, otherwise, ideologically homogenous.

Will assumed it was because of what he wrote in a controversial column on sexual assault. As he told the Claremont Independent in an interview, “they didn’t say that the column was the reason, but it was the reason.” Once the Independent broke the story, Scripps College President Lori Bettison-Varga issued a statement confirming Will’s theory.

The president’s statement and the wider debate on campus are filled with doubletalk. Among the most egregious: “Sexual assault is not a conservative or liberal issue. And it is too important to be trivialized in a political debate…”

Of course, sexual violence itself is not a political issue. It’s a criminal issue.

What is a political issue, however, is how we choose to respond to sexual violence on campus and as a nation. If we don’t “trivialize” such policies through reasoned debate, how do we know if they’re any good?

Each political perspective offers contrasting solutions to the problem of sexual violence.

The leftist perspective, comfortable with the goodness and effectiveness of the bureaucratic state, contends that school administrators should adjudicate cases of sexual violence (both sexaul assault and rape) under Title IX, treating sexual violence as a type of discrimination.

At Claremont McKenna College, rape is tried by administrators and faculty in makeshift courts. Let that sink in for a minute. Faculty and professors are sitting in as judge and jury in cases of rape, the most egregious sexual crime that can be committed against an adult, rather than real judges and a jury of one’s peers.

While college administrators may not desire to judge rape cases, they must do so because of an April 2011 Department of Education “Dear Colleague” letter, which mandates that, in order to stay in line with Title IX, colleges must try such cases, and under lower standards than those in real courts.

Such a system trivializes rape, treating it like a serious infraction. Furthermore, it imbues non-governmental entities with a worrying amount of power. There is already evidence that the current processes are excessively prone to outside influences, with cases being influenced by a student’s popularity or their relationship to a major donor or a national figure.

The conservative view (which, admittedly, Mr. Will could have done a better job of explaining) is that deans and professors shouldn’t be trying cases of sexual violence. Instead, our legal system should. Rights of the accused – like the presumption of innocence, right to an attorney, right to a judge, right to a jury that must reach a unanimous decision, and the right to cross-examination, among others – are weak or nonexistent in collegiate courtrooms. These rights do not exist in the court of public opinion, where debates over individual cases influence the national debate on sexual violence policy. However unpleasant, rights of the accused and a methodical judicial process are essential to ensuring that justice is done properly.

Rape shouldn’t be a “preponderance of evidence” infraction. Rape should be treated as a felony, a crime serious enough that must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Rape convictions shouldn’t result in simple expulsion.  Rape convictions should result in jail time and felon status.

The argument that it was correct to uninvite Will is wrong-headed. Let’s be clear, this is absolutely not a question of free speech. Of course Scripps can invite or disinvite whomever it wants. What conservatives think is that, while it is Scripps’ right to disinvite Will, it was wrong of them to do so. It sets a bad precedent. It is an insult to the students of Scripps College. And it goes against values that classical liberalism does and modern progressive liberalism claims to espouse, such as toleration, reason, and the value of debate.

Disinviting George Will only tightens the ideological straight-jacket that binds the students of Scripps College. Let us hope that the students of Scripps understand the disservice their administrators have done to their intellectual environment and that they find ways to compensate. Reading the CI is a good way to start.

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Editorial: Welcome to the Bubble

We at the Claremont Independent would like to welcome the Class of 2018 to the Claremont Colleges, or, as many like to call it, the “Claremont Bubble.” We look forward to seeing your new faces and hearing your perspectives at the 5Cs.

Unfortunately, as is the case with the majority of incoming college freshmen across the nation, we feel that you might have been told many awful things about conservatives and libertarians that simply are not true. Therefore, over the course of this year we hope to provide reasonable members of the right, left, and center an intelligent voice for the wide breadth of conservative and libertarian thought. Hopefully, through our website and social media presence you will find a forum for debate, discussion, collaboration, and intellectual growth.

We also will dedicate ourselves to hard-hitting, on-campus journalism. Thinking differently from the great majority of our peers provides us with a great opportunity to report on campus events from a different angle. With our perspective, the matter of course may seem peculiar. The boring detail, fascinating. Ultimately, the cornerstone of the CI’s reputation for over two decades has been well-written investigative journalism and we intend to keep it that way.

It is important to remember that, as the only major publication that receives zero funding from the schools, student governments, and student organizations, we are uniquely insulated from the pressures faced by the other campus publications. This allows us the freedom to write about whatever subject we want and express views that established campus institutions might fundamentally disagree with.

We look forward to being a part of discussions across the Claremont Colleges and cannot wait to hear what you think about our magazine.

In Defense of the Independent

The Claremont Independent has come under fire recently. Not only were several copies of our most recent issue physically torn apart on the Scripps campus for brandishing the sign of the devil (the drawing on the cover was of the GOP elephant), but the magazine also found itself being torn apart within the opinion pages of The Student Life, where one columnist opined on what he found most “incredulous” about the Independent.

It is worth pointing out that we believe it a complete coincidence that the columnist only stopped to share his thoughts about the Independent after it published a not-so-flattering rebuttal to one of his previous columns, in which he urged the Claremont Colleges to join in the American Studies Association’s boycott of Israeli academic institutions. But, ulterior motives aside, the author’s criticisms of the magazine hold both little weight and scant coherence. From the top:

First, the author notes his disappointment that “the magazine was not at all the source of libertarian or even classically conservative journalism that it claimed to be,” which assumes that we claim to be anything at all. If the author had taken the time to read our mission statement, talk to any of our magazine’s leadership or staff, or even read closely the name of the magazine (ClaremontIndependent”), this initial disappointment could have easily been avoided.

Second, the author censures the Independent as “…just another digest of popular Republican Party talking points,” no doubt referring to our piece about Republicans’ increasing odds of taking back the Senate in the upcoming midterm elections; however, this criticism does not have a leg on which to stand. Analyzing trends, polling data, and candidates to form an election forecast is hardly the same thing as espousing “Republican Party talking points.” In fact, since publishing our article, The Economist, The Atlantic, and Nate Silver’s “Big Data” website, 538, have published articles concurring in our view. We look forward to an upcoming TSL column deriding these media outlets as nothing more than purveyors of “Republican Party talking points.”

Third, and perhaps most bizarre, the author claims that he – by taking the stance that the Claremont Colleges should boycott Israeli universities – is the true standard-bearer of the classically conservative spirit, and the Independent does “a disservice to the real principles of conservatism and libertarianism when they champion the intellectually bankrupt Republican platform.” Furthermore, the author blames this perversion of “true” conservatism, to which perversion the Independent has purportedly succumbed, on none other than Ronald Reagan (for reasons unknown).

Rather than squarely address the rebuttal that the Independent wrote of his column, the author shifts the battle to one over undefined terminology. This shift to the undefined and infinitely flexible has a rhetorical purpose: it helps the author avoid a fact-based discussion and replace the real debate with a series of random and incoherent bursts of unsubstantiated assertion that simply tend to shut-down understanding, if only because the reader can’t imagine where to try to begin. But try we must.

The only hint that the author gives about what he might mean by “conservative” is that he appears to see liberty as its end goal: “…the Claremont Colleges should embrace the ASA boycott because in doing so, they will be contributing to the preservation of what the liberal arts are truly about: liberty.” But if the supposedly “conservative” principle of boycotting Israeli universities is simply a means toward the end goal of “liberty” (a dubious proposition through and through, but we’ll play along with it), then that would not make the principle conservative in the classical sense at all. Rather, it would almost by definition be liberal in the classical sense (or based on ideas rooted in liberty).

Furthermore, perhaps it is worth asking from whence the author gets the bold idea that pre-Reagan conservatives often took anti-Israel stances. Even if one were to take his claim that perversion of the Republican Party began with Reagan at face value, then would the author have us believe that, say, Richard Nixon was a relentless antagonist of Israel? That’s a somewhat curious suggestion. It is now well known that President Nixon – a die-hard, pre-Reagan Republican – threatened thermo-nuclear war (by raising the alert status of U.S. nuclear forces worldwide) to protect Israel and to deter Soviet intervention on the side of an attacking Egyptian army during the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Is that the move of a conservative who would want to boycott Israeli academics? Did the writings of the influential and legendary conservative scholar Irving Kristol, who is also Jewish, indicate some sort of pre-Reagan maliciousness toward Israel? Or maybe the author believes that the father of modern American conservatism and National Review founder William F. Buckley, who was so deeply fond of Israel that he proposed in 1972 that it become the 51st state, secretly held very anti-Israeli sentiments.

Both in the perfectly malleable and therefore incoherent definition of conservatism he advances and in the entire history he completely overlooks, the author leads his helpless readers on a disorienting tour through the unexplored recesses of his own intellectual idiosyncrasies. But perhaps more important, this debate illustrates exactly why academic freedom should not be treated like just another piece on a political chessboard. By engaging with the author and pointing out the blatant flaws in his reasoning, we actually do more to alleviate fallacious speech than by allowing it to fester beneath the surface unchecked (as Clay Spence expands upon in this issue’s cover article). If the purpose of the liberal arts is to liberate the masses, then its instrument in doing so is truth. And we can only arrive at truth when the free exchange of ideas goes unfettered and academic freedom reigns supreme.

[This article has been edited to correct a misquote in the article referenced. The Claremont Independent regrets this error.]

Learning to Embrace Vulnerability

Watching a loved one struggle with a deteriorating mental health is a unique sort of pain. In my experience, it is akin to watching someone slowly tear themselves apart and being helpless to do anything to stop it.

This pain came to me in the form of an older sister with Bipolar Disorder.

The transition from the carefree halls of grade school to the cruel world of high school lived up to its reputation. Seemingly overnight, my sister’s eccentric and quirky personality became mania. Her occasional mood swings morphed into an emotional state that lived solely on the extremities, and her rebellious streak turned into a revolution.

Twelve-year-old me didn’t know what to do, and I’m not sure that the 21-year-old version would be much better equipped. That feeling of helplessness eventually led to anxiety and paranoia. Any time I heard muffled conversations and rushed footsteps outside my door at night, I assumed the worst. Years of suspense took their mental toll, and it became easier to stop caring after a while.

Thankfully, my sister recovered. As any loving parents would, my mom and dad bent over backward to get her the treatment she needed. The transition from high school to college was far less dramatic, and, last summer, my sister graduated from college with distinction. The quirky girl with the rebellious streak has been found again, and I couldn’t be more proud of her.

However, after the worst was over, I still had difficulty coping with what I had witnessed. At first, I bottled it all up. Things were getting better, and the sooner I could move on, forget about it, and pretended that it never happened, the better. But the memories lingered vividly, and I had the constant urge to share my experience.

I thought that announcing everything to the world would get this weight off my chest, so I began to tell anyone who would listen: schoolmates, teachers, and random people over the Internet. But that only made the weight heavier. Suddenly, I felt defined by the very thing from which I was trying to escape. At least in my mind, I became that guy with the crazy sister to everyone outside of my family and immediate friend group, and the memories followed me around and suffocated me more than ever. I felt like I had “prostituted” myself á la Holden Caulfield, who warned: “Don’t ever tell anybody anything.”

I struggled with the idea of talking about this period of my life for a long time after that. Could anyone really relate with what I had seen? Did I only want to share my experience for the sake of garnering sympathy and in order to sound tortured? Would I regret making myself vulnerable after the fact?

Recently, I’ve been surrounded by a group of friends who embrace vulnerability. Our M.O. has been to sit back, watch bad movies, and vent with one another about whatever we happen to be going through. Nothing is taboo or off-limits.

By sharing with me some of the most intimate details of their lives and personal struggles, they’ve slowly peeled away at mine. By creating a safe and trusting environment for me to spill my thoughts – and then asking penetrating questions about those thoughts – they’ve teased out details about who I am that were previously foreign to me. They’ve caused me to examine critically the assumptions that I held about myself.

Before I allowed myself to become vulnerable within a constructive and safe environment, I feel as though, in the words of Elizabeth Bennet, “I never knew myself.”

Just as important, I’ve learned through these discussions that mental health is an issue with which a lot of people can relate. My story is just one of many that go largely unnoticed, and it is not abnormal. Nearly everyone has a story about mental health to tell – whether it is their personal struggle, or how they’ve coped with their best friend’s or their older sister’s. But in order to talk about it and, in my experience, in order to learn and to heal, first you need to be OK with being vulnerable.

Update: Open letter to President Gann

On Mar. 1, Editors-in-Chief of the Forum, the Claremont Port Side, The Student Life, and the Claremont Independent published and delivered an open letter to President Pamela Gann regarding the new student media policy that has gone into effect this school year. The response we received was, quite frankly, lukewarm. Though she acknowledged our concerns, President Gann did not indicate any plans to change the media policy’s status quo and instructed us to continue working with the Office of Public Affairs.

Overshadowed by the buzz over “The Pai Memo” and onslaught of articles praising and criticizing CMC’s social scene, President Gann’s disappointing response to our open letter has been largely overlooked. But this is an issue ultimately more important than any school’s party scene. Though it is a Claremont McKenna policy, it impedes student publications from any of the 5Cs from gaining access to and interviews from CMC administrators without jumping hoops through the Office of Public Affairs. Given the interconnectedness of our consortium, one school’s restrictive media policy affects students from all schools’ ability to be informed about fundamental policies and structures that impact student life.

We should not be content with President Gann’s response. Our letter outlined our publications’ and the Office of Pubic Affairs’ pre-existing efforts to work with each other and why even those efforts, under such a restrictive policy, prevented timely, reliable exchanges of information. What’s more, Gann’s response does not address the fundamental problem of having a public relations office be the mediator between all administrative offices and staff and student media. Publications will come and go, but students will always deserve information relevant to their academic successes, job prospects, and personal lives from punctual, fair sources.The new student media policy prevents student publications from fulfilling this requirement.

Changing the policy will be a continuing imperative for the Independent in the next year. Although our publication’s leadership will change, its commitment to upholding integrity and transparency on all 5Cs will continue. It is my hope that we will see this policy changed by the time I graduate next year, even if we are not able to change it under my term as Editor-in-Chief.

Secret Societies, “Private Organizations,” and Why We Should Care

The following opinion piece is written as a guest contribution to the Claremont Independent.

Last month marked two years since my admittance to Claremont McKenna College. I remember the overwhelming sense of accomplishment and anticipation I felt as I signed and returned my acceptance letter. I had joined the ranks of an elite group of extremely talented students and gained access to an incredible alumni network. I had every opportunity in front of me, all thanks to CMC.

Part of my excitement was that all of my future class would begin with a clean slate. The barriers and cliques of high school had been leveled. It didn’t matter whether we were from a private school or public school, AP or IB program, American or international students. We were all CMCers now; individual work ethic and character would define us from that day on.

Of course, I soon found that these feelings, though well-founded in principle, were naïve and incomplete. There are other factors beyond merit that affect achievement. At such a small campus, it soon became clear that “who you know” and reputation is a large advantage when competing within the CMC bubble. I soon learned that a minor degree of cronyism is a fact of life and social outreach is a means to success. While it is not true meritocracy, I like to believe that these opportunities are available to all and correlate with effort.

But my concern is not networking; my concern is its exploitation. Before Spring Break, the ASCMC Elections Committee was forced to ask former ASCMC President and Vice President to remove themselves from deliberation on the new Executive Board appointments and restart the appointment process. While we do not have all the facts, it has come to light that membership in a “private organization” significantly skewed the former officers’ decision-making. Since then, we have had underwhelming journalistic coverage (aside from satire) on the issue. In order for us to avoid a more calamitous ethical issue, I find it necessary to put forth a number of issues raised by this recently uncovered secret society.

My objective in this article is to first reaffirm the foundation of CMC culture and then argue that secret organizations are antithetical to it. Yes, secret societies are self-important and laughable, but they are equally threatening to CMC’s culture and should not be dismissed.

The “Princes” pose a serious problem for the delicate balance of our inclusive philosophy and selective on-campus organizations. It rails against our inclusive culture and delegitimizes campus leadership positions. If students suspect, or have substantial proof that, a group has underhandedly manipulated distributions of power on campus, student media has a responsibility to fully investigate and report on these unacceptable actions. In response, I believe the student body must perpetuate a culture that actively discourages further creation or reconvening of any such secret groups.

While we can reasonably anticipate a certain degree of cronyism in on-campus selection processes, secretive and calculated motives are much different from the advantages of equal opportunity networking. Networking is fair because it is open to everyone—secret societies are neither.

Students apply for the Executive Board because they believe they will be judged on the merits of their applications, their ability to work with fellow students, and possibly by who they know. But, in this case, they cannot reasonably suspect that those reading their applications will have blind allegiances to their competitors based upon subjective membership in a “private organization.” When the Elections Committee calls potential candidates, including myself and other current “members of the corporation”, to tell them what they should and should not run for in order to better maintain footholds for a sputtering old boys’ club, they violate the premises of CMC. When they manufacture an Executive Board based not on merit, or even connectedness, but in accordance with secret frat membership, they pose a greater threat to our social scene than any Friday class or TNC fence.  Moreover, they remove the collaborative attitude of CMC’s culture, breaking down relationships between students and replacing them with undue barriers like those found at other colleges to which I refused to apply. And the threat is not limited to the social scene: the Princes systematically threaten the career opportunities of non-members, putting themselves before others in a predetermined selection process.

Two great ironies of the past few weeks have been that (1) these actions happened at the hands of the ASCMC administration that promised transparency and reform and (2) just days after writing an open letter intended to resurrect the social scene through inclusiveness, the same individuals attempted to preserve the influence of a “private organization” through pervasive measures that are just as much of a threat to CMC culture. We need a critical eye to look past the messaging and into the inconsistencies of CMC politics.

At best, we know that a more extreme form of cronyism took place in the original Executive Board appointment process —a form that violates CMC’s networking-as-usual. At worst, we have found a group that challenges the fabric of CMC, a systematic virus that extends to other prominent groups on campus. In either case, these actions are intolerable. We need publications to start a discussion regarding campus culture and how to reconcile ambition and ethics. The virus must be further investigated by the student press and strongly discouraged by future CMCers.

To begin this discussion, the student body needs the complete story. Through investigation, we must find the extent of the damage and set a standard so that future campus leaders act in accordance with the opportunities guaranteed by our acceptance letters. While we move on from the transgressions of the past, we must not forget CMC’s inclusive foundation and protect against the actions and groups that threaten it.