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Claremont Independent | April 24, 2014

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Scripps, CMC Faculty Exchange Blows on Raviv Incident

Scripps, CMC Faculty Exchange Blows on Raviv Incident
Brad Richardson

The Scripps College faculty made a thinly veiled criticism of Claremont McKenna College Associate Professor of Economics Yaron Raviv and the CMC administration in a May 9 statement, prompting a dismissive reply by the CMC faculty obtained by the Claremont Independent.

The Scripps faculty statement referred to the March 4 incident at CMC’s Collins Dining Hall between Professor Raviv and a member of the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), who attends Pitzer College, during an SJP protest in which they simulated an Israeli checkpoint.

“The Scripps College faculty wishes to reach out to the 5 C students, and in particular to Scripps students, and assert that the Scripps faculty takes the incident of March 4 on CMC Campus very seriously, especially in regard to the alleged verbal abuse of a student by a faculty member,” the statement begins.

Although the Scripps faculty statement never mentions Professor Raviv by name, several of the comments are clearly directed at him and seem to implicate his guilt in making a supposedly racial slur, “cockroach,” to the SJP member.

“If such an incident had occurred on the Scripps campus or involved a Scripps professor, Scripps College would undertake an investigation into the incident,” the statement continues, “and if it were determined that verbal abuse, hate speech, and/or racialized epithets had occurred, would take appropriate action.”

“We uphold the rights of all community members to organize, protest and express dissent without being subjected to racism and verbal abuse. We abhor the use of racialized epithets that undermine the principles of community, diversity and inclusivity that we, as a faculty, affirm.”

The CMC faculty released a statement in response to the Scripps faculty statement on June 18.

“We [members] of the CMC faculty write concerning your ‘Statement in response to the March 4 Incident on CMC Campus,’” the statement begins.  “…We are deeply troubled by this statement and what it implies.”

The CMC faculty statement notes that the Scripps faculty failed to cite the CMC investigation into the March 4 incident, only citing the investigation conducted by Pitzer. The separate investigations appear to contradict each other, with the former finding, “When impeding access to the main entrance of Collins Dining Hall, the SJP event was not in compliance with CMC’s Demonstration’s Policy and The Claremont Colleges Demonstrations Policy,” and the latter apparently finding the performance in compliance with the demonstrations policy, although it has not yet been released to the public.

A picture of the event (link below) clearly shows SJP members blocking the entrance to Collins Dining Hall as a part of their performance.

The CMC faculty statement also points out that although the CMC investigation found Professor Raviv’s actions “inappropriate and unprofessional, they were not severe or pervasive as to constitute a violation of the College’s Harassment Policy.”

“Yet these actions were simply ignored by the Scripps faculty,” the statement continues, “as if CMC had done nothing in response to the March incident.”

Professor Raviv, an Israel native, refuted the allegation that he used a racial slur in an April 22 interview with the Claremont Independent, saying, “First of all, Israelis do not use that kind of expression with respect to Palestinians—that’s a total lie. But I don’t need to use this argument because there was no way that me, or any other person, could tell that the person in front of me was Palestinian. How could I know that he was a Palestinian? His English was much better than mine; he grew up here in the states.”

The CMC faculty statement was signed by 46 members of the CMC faculty.

A representative from the Scripps faculty could not be reached for comment before press time.

Transcripts of the respective faculty statements are included below.

 

 

Scripps faculty statement:

Statement in response to the March 4 Incident on CMC Campus

The Scripps College Faculty wishes to reach out to 5 C students, and in particular to Scripps students, and assert that the Scripps faculty takes the incident of March 4 on CMC Campus very seriously, especially in regard to the alleged verbal abuse of a student by a faculty member.

The Pitzer College investigation into the matter has shown that the 4-college students involved in the SJP event of March 4th did not violate any procedures in carrying out their event. It is CMC, however, that has the responsibility for further investigation into the professor’s behavior, and conducting that investigation is not within Scripps College’s purview. If such an incident had occurred on the Scripps campus or involved a Scripps professor, Scripps College would undertake an investigation into the incident, and if it were determined that verbal abuse, hate speech, and/or racialized epithets had occurred, would take appropriate action.

We wish to affirm that academic freedom, exposure to multiple perspectives, and engagement in debate and dialogue are central to the mission of colleges and universities as centers for learning and independent thought. We uphold the rights of all community members to organize, protest, and express dissent without being subjected to racism and verbal abuse. We abhor the use of racialized epithets that undermine principles of community, diversity, and inclusivity that we, as a faculty, affirm.

Because of the controversy surrounding the handling of this event, we ask that the Intercollegiate Faculty Council evaluate the Intercollegiate Demonstrations Policy and make recommendations regarding its revision to the Presidents Council, so that the policy can be fairly and objectively applied in the future.

 

 

CMC faculty statement:

June 18, 2013

Dear Scripps Faculty,

We [members] of the CMC faculty write concerning your “Statement in response to the March 4 Incident on CMC Campus,” which, apparently, passed the Scripps faculty on Thursday, May 9. (We have no information on the actual vote.)

We are deeply troubled by this statement and what it implies. We particularly call your attention to the second paragraph of your statement:

“The Pitzer College investigation into the matter has shown that the 4-college students involved in the SJP event of March 4th did not violate any procedures in carrying out their event. It is CMC, however, that has the responsibility for further investigation into the professor’s behavior, and conducting that investigation is not within Scripps College’s purview. If such an incident had taken place on the Scripps campus or involved a Scripps professor, Scripps College would undertake an investigation into the incident, and if it were determined that verbal abuse, hate speech, and/or racialized epithets had occurred, would take appropriate action.”

What is so odd about this account is that it references the Pitzer College investigation, takes it as authoritative, and makes no reference at all to CMC’s own investigation and the disciplinary actions already taken by CMC. By noting CMC’s “responsibility for further investigation into the professor’s behavior,” the statement implies that CMC had not completed its investigation, or perhaps had not even done one. Yet, as the Scripps faculty knew on May 9, CMC President Pamela Gann had twice communicated the results of CMC’s investigation and administrative action to the Claremont Colleges community (April 19 and May 7), and in the first of those communications attached the actual report of the CMC Dean of Students. It is our understanding that these communications were forwarded to all Scripps faculty when they were originally sent from President Gann’s office and, moreover, that these materials were made available to the Scripps faculty through Sakai prior to the May 9 faculty meeting. Although CMC made its own report available to the Claremont Colleges community, we have seen no corresponding formal report on the march 4 incident from Pitzer College, and thus are in no position to conclude that the Pitzer College investigation “has shown that the 4-college students involved in the SJP event of March 4th did not violate any procedures in carrying out their event.

According to the April 19, 2013, report by the Dean of Students of Claremont McKenna College:

“The [CMC] review included information provided through interviews with 11 witnesses, including the Pitzer student and CMC faculty member involved in the incident. Additional witnesses included two other SJP students, who observed the interaction with the faculty member, the Campus Safety Officer, as well as other students and staff members who were present. I also reviewed relevant documents, including the event registration form, email communications about the event, and the Campus Safety incident report.”

Among the key factual findings of the CMC investigation are the following:

“The SJP [Students for Justice in Palestine] event at Collins Dining Hall involved a “street theatre” performance that simulated Israeli identification checkpoints. The SJP organized itself so that anyone seeking to access the main entrance to Collins Dining Hall had to pass through the simulated checkpoint, including being asked to present identification to the actors. . . .

The event participants complied with requests to adjust their event so as to not restrict access for a period of time, but at a certain point reorganized themselves in a manner that again restricted access.”

We note that to block access to a campus building is a violation of the “Policy on Demonstrations at the Claremont Colleges” of August 28, 2001, which prohibits “disruptive actions or demonstrations . . . that restrict free movement on any of the campuses, or interfere with, or impeded access to, regular activities or facilities of any of the Colleges or CCU.” In the words of the CMC report:

“When impeding access to the main entrance of Collins Dining Hall, the SJP event was not in compliance with CMC’s Demonstrations Policy and the Claremont College’s Demonstration Policy, both of which prohibit disruptive and/or non-peaceful events, including ‘actions in which there is a deliberative disruption or an impedance of access to regular activities of the College or of the College community, including those which restrict free movement on the campus.”

Yet the Scripps faculty concluded that “the SJP event of March 4th did not violate any procedures in carrying out their event.” On what grounds do the Scripps faculty reject the conclusion of the CMC investigation? What evidence did the Scripps faculty consider in reaching its judgment that the CMC report was in error? Recently, a photograph of the incident was published that provides additional evidence that for at least a time the demonstrating students blocked access to Collins Hall. The photograph can be viewed here:

http://www.jewishpress.com/news/cockroach-curses-and-jew-hunting-in-california-colleges/2013/05/10/

The CMC faculty have seen no report that contradicts the facts adduced by the investigation conducted by the CMC Dean of Students. We have seen a statement by President Trombley of Pitzer College that takes issue with the message that President Gann of CMC sent to the Claremont Colleges community. Yet, here is part of President Trombley’s description of the March 4 incident in her memorandum of April 26:

“During the street theater event, the CMC Dean of Students appeared and asked that they move so as to not impede access to the front entrance of the dining hall. The students complied. The students also were asked two other times to move; first by a food services manager and then by a campus safety officer. The students complied.”

If this account is accurate, the students of SJP blocked access to the dining hall at least twice, and perhaps three times: first, when the CMC Dean of Students asked them to move; a second time when the food service manager asked them to move; and (although this is not entirely clear from President Trombley’s account) a third time when the campus safety officer asked them to move. But whether there were two or three separate blockages, President Trombley’s account seems to confirm, not contradict, the conclusion of the CMC investigation.

In her communications to the Claremont Colleges community of March 15, April 19, and May 7, President Gann reported the following facts: (1) in the days immediately following the March 4 incident CMC launched a detailed investigation of the incident conducted by the Dean of Students; (2) CMC facilitated an informal grievance process chaired by the CMC Dean of Faculty after the Pitzer student filed an informal written grievance; (3) the parties to this informal process failed to reach a resolution; (4) CMC then completed its investigation after interviewing 11 witnesses and relevant documents; (5) during and after the informal grievance process the Pitzer student and/or his support person were responsible for breaches of confidentiality; (6) after the informal grievance process failed, the Pitzer student filed a formal grievance; and (7) when the Pitzer student and his support person made clear that they would not abide by CMC’s confidentiality requirements going forward, CMC dismissed the student’s formal grievance complaint against the CMC faculty member.

President Gann also reported that (1) the CMC faculty member was publicly admonished for his inappropriate statements to the student and has been subject to further discipline; (2) that the faculty member has acknowledged that his statements were inappropriate and unprofessional and has apologized for his statements; and (3) that though the faculty member’s statements were inappropriate and unprofessional, they were not so severe or pervasive as to constitute a violation of the College’s Harassment Policy. Yet, these actions by CMC were simply ignored by the Scripps faculty, as if CMC had done nothing in response to the March 4 incident.

It is our hope that deliberation on this or other controversial matters affecting the Claremont Colleges will be fully informed by all the relevant facts.

Sincerely,

[At this point, 46 members of the CMC faculty sign the statement.]

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