March 09, 2009

Message from President Gann re: Response to Pomona College's Banning of Two CMC Students

President Gann,
Thank you for your very astute patriotism and understanding of what makes the American Spirit great.  You diligence in this matter has raised hopes in the hearts of many that America is still the Greatest nation on Earth!
Most Appreciatively,
R. George Dunn
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, March 09, 2009 5:04 PM
Subject: Message from President Gann re: Response to Pomona College's Banning of Two CMC Students

                                                                              March 9, 2009






To:       Members of the Claremont McKenna Community


From    Pamela Gann, President of Claremont McKenna College


Re:       Response to Pomona College's Banning of Two CMC Students


I have received a number of communications from members of the CMC community in response to Pomona College's decision on Thursday, March 5, 2009, to ban two CMC students from its campus.  Pomona's action was based on the allegedly disruptive behavior by these students at a meeting that took place on Pomona's campus last month.


Upon learning of Pomona's action on Friday morning, March 6, 2009, I also had significant concerns that this action raised important issues relative to free speech and due process, and I and other members of the CMC administration worked diligently over the weekend to address the situation.  Along with others, I had to take the time over the weekend to determine as best we could what transpired at the event, and what had taken place at both Pomona and CMC between the time of the talk and the issuance of the ban.  We have had to do this without the benefit of a full, formal investigation or formal hearing.


From what I and others have learned, I completely share the concerns expressed that this action was inconsistent with Claremont McKenna College's understanding and application of the free speech and due process rights that exist for CMC students and that should be respected for all students at The Claremont Colleges.


In my view, the response to this incident should have been framed by The Claremont Colleges' Policy on Demonstrations, which provides that each institution in Claremont "respects the rights of free speech and peaceable assembly and supports their exercise."  The policy further states that participation in a demonstration or other act of free speech "that is materially disruptive and non-peaceful or involves the substantial disorder or invasion of the rights of others on the property of any of The Claremont Colleges or the Claremont University Consortium is prohibited."


Although the scope of the Policy on Demonstrations may need to be clarified, my view is that it should be properly understood to cover all incidents involving the exercise of free speech rights at public meetings or other open events at The Claremont Colleges.  Thus, even if administrators at Pomona and CMC did not consider that this policy applied directly to these circumstances, it should have provided constructive guidance to both administrators at Pomona and CMC with regard to the appropriate resolution of this matter.  This did not happen.


Most significantly, in the absence of some showing of a particularized threat to its campus, it would be inappropriate for any member of The Claremont Colleges to ban a student from a sister institution without first providing appropriate due process, which could include pursuing a disciplinary action against the student at his or her home campus.  This is the procedure outlined in the Policy on Demonstrations, and the failure to follow this framework deprived the CMC students of important due process protections.


I am pleased to report that, after further consultation and review, Dean Miriam Feldblum at Pomona College has agreed to withdraw the ban against the two students.  Although this is an important step, it does not alter the important fact that the ban was inappropriate in the first instance.  I therefore offer my personal apologies to the CMC students involved on behalf of Claremont McKenna College.


As a result of this incident, I have requested that Jeff Huang, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, conduct a thorough and complete review of this matter.  In addition, I plan to address this matter with Pomona College President David Oxtoby and the Council of Presidents of The Claremont Colleges.  Through these steps, I am confident that we will be able to clarify our Consortium-wide policies and procedures in this area to insure that free speech and due process protections are properly addressed with all students at The Claremont Colleges.



cc:  President David Oxtoby, Pomona College

      President Klawe, Harvey Mudd College

      President Trombley, Pitzer College

      President Schuster, Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences

      President Weis, Scripps College

      Interim President Hough, Claremont Graduate University

      Robert Walton, Claremont University Consortium

      Harry McMahon, Chair of the Claremont McKenna College Board of Trustees