What sort of college sanctions a pool party from which white students are banned, and which welcomes members of the murderous Venezuelan dictatorship yet bans the moderate political commentator Andrew Klavan?
The answer is Scripps College, a liberal arts women’s college in Claremont California – one of the five Claremont Colleges, or 5Cs – as they are known. Founded in 1926 by philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps with the intention ‘to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully’, it is – along with the other Claremont Colleges – rapidly earning a national reputation for the opposite: trying to protect them from conservative political views and teaching them to see everything through the lens of identity politics, leaving them fearful of the outside world as a place riven with racism.
In one instance Scripps students were offered ‘support and resources’ in case they were left feeling traumatised by a campus debate on US-Islamic relations. In another, a student newspaper from neighbouring Pitzer College published a piece making the extraordinary claim that: ‘people of colour have been denied access to the outdoors’ – asserting that while black students were technically allowed to go on nature trips to national parks they felt uncomfortable doing so. As for the pool party – advertised for ‘students of colour’ and, after objections, opened up to their (white) ‘allies’, it caused such outrage that it never took place.
The stories emanating from the Claremont Colleges in recent months follow a pattern: left-wing students post a flyer or host an event which can be interpreted as racially separatist, the right-leaning Claremont Independent student paper writes an article on it, a slew of conservative news sites pick up on it. Then, the left-students face comments from trolls, which further enforces their view of the outside world as a place from which they need to be protected.
I wanted to visit the 5Cs to see for myself what was going on there. When I called the Vice President for External Relations for Scripps to set up an interview, she told me not to come to campus.
But I went anyway. It was remarkably quiet when I arrived on a Thursday evening the week before finals. Nearly every student of the 5C’s live on campus, and the colleges organize the overwhelming majority of parties. Thus the five administrations have the power to set the tone of a weekend, and in a week preceding finals, they’ve chosen silence.
But I did find myself invited to a meeting of the Students for Justice in Palestine, marking the two-week long Palestinian Freedom Week. What I heard would make Richard Spencer, president of the white supremacist National Policy Institute, blush. Israel was described as a ‘colonial-settler’ state. The attitudes of West Hollywood were described as ‘homonationalism’ – playing on the city’s historic embrace of the LGBTQ community. One of the SJP leaders claimed that men backing the Israeli cause, seeing themselves as ‘effeminate’, ‘reclaim their masculinity through colonization.’
The leaders of SJP presented a clear dichotomy of good – like Chelsea Manning, who used her white privilege to dismantle American power – and bad – like Caitlyn Jenner, who has the audacity to support the lower taxes of the Trump agenda. They repeatedly asserted their refusal to ‘normalize’ Zionism through engaging with Hillel or recognising peace as a ‘solution’ in Israel. That, they said, would be considered ‘faith-washing’ and an encouragement of ‘neoliberalism’.
I did manage to speak with Megan Joyce, editor-in-chief of Claremont newspaper The Student Life, about the white’s only pool party, which was organized by a student club called Café con Leche. ‘There are a lot of identity-based organizations at the 5Cs,’ she told me, ‘and they hold a lot of identity-based events pretty regularly. Usually those are open to people who match that identity as well as their allies, and that is all very accepted and legal. But recently there was some confusion about whether or not this pool party thrown by Cafe con Leche was a just POC event, or if it was open to POC and their allies. It kind of continued what I see as a trend, where the Claremont Independent writes about things that are happening around campus in a sort of attack on them, and then those attacks go viral with places like Breitbart and other conservative publications. Then these students get harassed and threatened.’
Yet Scripps has helped build its new reputation as a place of campus craziness by sanctioning extreme left-wing speakers while banning moderate conservative ones. In one semester it sanctioned a three-day speaking series from Antonio Cordero and Jesus Chucho Garcia of the murderous, communist, Venezuelan dictatorship. Scripps also effectively stonewalled an independently funded, student-organized speaking engagement for Andrew Klavan, known for his satirical daily podcast on the Daily Wire. The Scripps administration categorically denied to comment on Klavan. But Klavan had choice words for them.
‘It was kind of bizarre,’ said Klavan. ‘I’m fairly mild-mannered, so I was pretty surprised that I was someone they would ban, especially if they’re having murderous dictators. But then on the other hand, I guess if you were having murderous dictators, I would not be the person you would want to have there, since I’m kind of opposed to murderous dictators.’
The leftism of the Consortium would perhaps be more palatable if the most progressive schools, universally recognised as Scripps and Pitzer, were more straightforward about them. But as fellow former Daily Wire commentator and current law school student Elliott Hamilton notes, the schools claim to espouse liberty and liberalism.
The 5C’s orchestrate nearly every student party on campus, both in the name of safety and convenience, which Hamilton notes, ‘the irony’ of which ‘is that one of the values at Pitzer is student autonomy, and I think they have a very restrictive definition of what autonomy means. I think that a part of the problem is that when they try and balance out the interests of safety and freedom, when it comes to college campuses, they tend to over-emphasise the issues of safety, even if it is a hindrance to its values. It’s problematic in the sense that if colleges are intended to prepare these kids for going into the real world and taking on responsibility.” According to Klavan, this is no accident.
Klavan sums up the decision to ban him from the collage succinctly, comparing Scripps to the Truman Show. ‘It’s about a guy whose whole life is a T.V. show and he doesn’t even know it,’ he says. ‘They have to keep him afraid in order to keep him on this false set he thinks is the real world, so they teach him wherever he goes outside of it is very dangerous. He can’t take a trip, it’s too dangerous. He can’t go down the street, he can’t cross a bridge. That’s essentially what they do to these kids. They’re saying to them that the world is not what it is, that they live in a world where America is racist, they live in a world where there are wars on women, they live in a world where socialism works and capitalism is unfair. In order to keep them in that fake world, you have to frighten them from other ideas. They have to frighten them that if they leave that fake world, that something really terrible will happen to them. And so, they demonise people like me. I support one thing: freedom. I support people doing what they want, being who they want to be, and I have no designs for other people’s lives. And I think that if you bring me in and I’m not scary, then suddenly they think, ‘Maybe I can leave this bubble,’ and then, you’ve lost them.’