Back in October of last year, I wrote an article on social responsibility and how the CMC administration’s policies that were strangling the social scene would only result in a self-fulfilling prophecy of more abusive partying.
For a while, it seemed as if things were getting better at CMC. As far as I recall, there were no major cases of unwarranted or excessive intervention during the rest of the fall semester. Maybe it was because the administration had a more laissez faire attitude towards the social scene, or maybe because students were behaving properly while hanging out with their friends – or a combination of the two.
Just two weekends into this spring semester, though, students at CMC witnessed an escalation against the social scene of the kind not seen before (at least in the memory of this senior). Both The Student Life and The Forum have covered the event in recent news articles, but I still feel that some sort of analysis on that night needs to be published. This is because the emails from Dean of Students Mary Spellman and Vice President for Student Affairs, Admission & Financial Aid Jeff Huang after the event underline my belief that there is a lot of misunderstanding between the students and administration on the events of that night.
The main problem I find with the Feb. 3 email sent by Huang was the claim that RAs and Campus Security officers experienced “defiance” from students who ignored multiple requests to disperse. I was in the fringes of that gathering, completely sober and, even though multiple RAs and Camp Sec officers passed within a couple feet of us, we were never told to leave the area. We saw the RAs and Camp. Sec. officers go up to the party in Green Lounge and assumed the party was being shut down, but, still, we were never asked to leave. We looked around the gathering, expecting to be told to leave, but we never saw any of the RAs or Camp. Sec. officers speak to a single individual outside or within the immediate vicinity of Green Lounge.
I would assume that some part of the RAs’ (not to mention, Camp. Sec.’s) training is supposed to deal with dispersing a crowd, but both groups unequivocally failed to move anyone from the area. While I admittedly do not have this sort of training, it seems illogical to try to disperse a peaceful crowd by only going to a minority of belligerent individuals and telling them to leave. If one of the RAs or officers had taken the initiative to talk to any of the people outside Green Lounge, I am sure that they would have found people who would have agreed to leave (myself included). Once group after group of people left, the minority would have had to decide between fighting with the administration for the right to party by themselves or leave to follow every other partygoer.
However, as we know, both the RAs and Camp. Sec. then made the regrettable decision to call the Claremont Police Department to disperse the crowd. This action signified the RAs’ and Camp. Sec.’s failure to do the basic duties of their jobs, not to mention that it was a gross overreaction to a party whose alleged failings were, according to Huang’s email, a drunk “pushing” himself past a “female RA” and an alumnus misusing speakers to say a few profanities (a true first world anarchist if there ever was one).
When the police arrived, they set themselves up in their SUVs and squad cars at the north edge of North Quad with their lights on with the intent of dispersing students through their passive presence. Obviously, the crowd became larger in number as students’ curiosity grew with regards to why the cops were on the edge of campus. I myself waited with my friends to see what was going to happen, as we were not sure what the police would do.
As we all know, after 10-15 minutes, just as students started to get tired of waiting for something to happen, the police SUVs turned on their brights and drove onto campus telling the crowd to disperse. As students pulled out their smartphones to record this ridiculous event, a beer can was thrown in the “direction” of the “highest ranking” police officer on the scene. I don’t know who threw the can, but their act signified the general sense of frustration of the student body towards the overreactions of the administration. As I discussed above, the police did not need to be called in to a party that was, by any measure, very tame (there was not even music for a noteworthy portion of the gathering). There might have been a few individuals who were acting raucously, but that does not mean that the vast, nay overwhelming, majority of students there were posing any sort of real, violent danger towards the CMC community.
By calling the police, the RAs, Camp. Sec., and the administration lost any sort of respect that they might have once had with the student body. The majority of CMC students who went out on that Saturday had no intention of going on a destructive, anarchic spree, but they were all treated as if they were a group of vagrants. It’s honestly sad to see the small amount of trust that the student body and administration had built over the last few months be thrown away so quickly. This sort of action just ties into my previous prediction of a self-fulfilling prophecy, as students will now react increasingly rebelliously towards actions of RAs, Camp. Sec., and the administration when they try to do their jobs, no matter how good their intentions are.
Moving forward, I believe that the administration made a good first step by offering to communicate with students at the Feb. 9 Senate meeting (unfortunately, I was not able to attend that meeting, so I cannot speak to the specifics of what happened there). However, more will have to be done for the students to trust them again. I would recommend communicating that the administration does not condemn all students who decide to hang out with friends on a party night, just those who partake in violent acts toward other students or other members of the Claremont community. For example, I believe most students would agree that the actions of Camp. Sec. were completely justified when they shut down Rage in the Cage last semester after a student punched one of their officers. Additionally, the administration should take immediate steps to make sure that RAs and Camp. Sec. are properly trained to assess how best to disperse a crowd when they need to. From there, the administration will have to keep building the trust of students by acting reasonably during parties and only calling the police when things get truly out of hand (rioting or other types of violence that Camp. Sec. cannot control).
On a side note, I would like to ask alumni to recognize the current delicate social situation at CMC. When you come back on campus, understand that your actions will have an impact on CMC students who are currently attending this college. Please don’t ruin the work that has been done to improve the social climate just because you want to have a fun night reliving your college days.
The road will be long, but, with the right leadership, I still have hope that the CMC social culture will not be ruined for future classes.