Category Archives: Editorial

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.