That is the message my fellow Claremont Independent editors and I sent as student protests swept through Claremont McKenna College in November.
As the independent student newspaper for the five Claremont Colleges, our ISI Collegiate Network publication has become the primary outlet for students fed up with the increasingly radical protest movement. The campus left has made it nearly impossible to say or do anything without offending someone. In fact, these protesters cost Claremont McKenna’s dean of students her job.
In mid-November, Claremont demonstrators issued a long list of demands that included a call for Dean Mary Spellman’s resignation. Dean Spellman had reached out to a student of color after the student wrote an op-ed complaining about Claremont McKenna’s “western, white, cisheteronormative upper to upper-middle class values.” The dean e-mailed: “Would you be willing to talk to me sometime about these issues? They are important to me and the DOS [Dean of Students] staff and we are working on how we can better serve students, especially those that don’t fit our CMC mold.”
That last poorly worded phrase—“our CMC mold”—in a well-intentioned e-mail was enough to spark the demonstrations that forced out Dean Spellman. Claremont McKenna quickly caved to other demands, too, agreeing to add new administrators focused on “inclusion” and granting the protesters offices to use as a “safe space.”
The Claremont Independent responded with a public letter expressing our disappointment in the parties involved. To Dean Spellman we wrote: “We are disappointed that you allowed a group of angry students to bully you into resignation. We are disappointed that you taught Claremont students that reacting with emotion and anger will force the administration to act.”
We also called out Claremont McKenna president Hiram Chodosh for “idly stand[ing] by and watch[ing] students berate, curse at, and attack Dean Spellman for being a ‘racist’” and for so quickly acceding to the protesters’ demands.
But we expressed the most disappointment in our fellow students. The protesters cost a person her livelihood over a poorly worded e-mail and used phrases like “silence is violence” to try to shut down any questions about their tactics or demands.
Most harmful was their rhetoric about “safe spaces.” College is the last place that should be a safe space. We go to college to learn about views that differ from our own, and if we aren’t made to feel uncomfortable by these ideas, then perhaps we aren’t venturing far enough outside our comfort zone.
The Claremont Independent’s public letter went viral. It was republished or cited everywhere from the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and USA Today to the Weekly Standard, The Blaze, and Instapundit. I was invited on Fox News to discuss the campus left’s growing intolerance.
This overwhelming reaction should give hope to those who resist militant progressivism and victimhood culture. The radical campus protesters may have grown more extreme in their demands, but we need not be scared into silence. We must be voices of dissent.
The counter-protest movement has begun.
Steven Glick, a junior at Pomona College, is editor in chief of the ISI Collegiate Network publication the Claremont Independent, where he has also served as publisher.