Seven students punished for 'blockade' of conservative speaker

Claremont McKenna College has suspended five students and placed two others on “conduct probation” for their roles in physically blockading a conservative speaker this spring.

In April, a group of roughly 170 students of Claremont McKenna, as well as outside participants, led a successful blockade of the Athenaeum and the Kravis Center, preventing audience members from listening to a speech by conservative commentator Heather Mac Donald.

The school announced Monday that it had imposed sanctions on seven of those students following the completion of a conduct investigation that had previously been delayed to avoid interfering with Commencement, noting that it had charged 10 students disciplinary code violations, but that three were cleared of wrongdoing.

Three of the students received one-year suspensions for their actions, two are suspended for one semester, and two others have been placed on “conduct probation.” In addition, CMC says it has provided administrators at other Claremont Colleges with evidence implicating other students, and is asking them to initiate their own internal investigations.

[RELATED: CMC faculty permits student code violators to graduate]

The anonymous group of students claiming responsibility for the disruptive protests released a statement on the day of Mac Donald’s speech outlining its objections, accusing Mac Donald of promoting “anti-blackness,” “Islamophobia,” and “anti-immigrant” sentiments.

“Mac Donald is representative of the growing normalization of white supremacist fascist ideologies,” the statement asserted, later complaining that “the ruling class in this country is calling for ‘law & order’ in an attempt to deny us a right to rebellion and self-defense against all fascists.”

CMC addressed that argument in its statement, pointing out that it has repeatedly reaffirmed its commitment to free expression over the past year, even endorsing the University of Chicago’s Principles of Free Expression, which has been touted as a national model.

“[T]o benefit fully from the free exchange of challenging ideas, we must ensure that all people with different viewpoints, experiences, and analyses are included in our conversations…We reject exclusion and ad hominem attacks as barriers to learning,” administrators wrote when announcing the adoption of the Chicago Statement. “All of us—students, faculty and staff—must commit to high standards of civility, respect, and appreciation for differences.”

[RELATED: Students demand ‘action’ against conservative journalists]

The school’s decision to impose punishments on the student protesters represents a tacit rejection of a petition that has been circulated in support of the students, which complains that the investigation “has caused an immense emotional and mental burden on all of us” and calls on the administration to instead “engage in a productive, inclusive dialogue with us.”

The school’s statement contained a ready retort, though, declaring that “our students must master the skills of respectful dialogue across all barriers,” and that “our community must protect the right to learn from others, especially those with whom we strongly disagree.”

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