Claremont’s Social Justice Warriors Face the Music
It’s been a rough year for free speech on campus, but there are glimmers of hope in Southern California. The colleges of the Claremont University Consortium have been laying down the law in response to those who act out to advance their idea of social justice.
Consider the case of Jonathan Higgins. In June, Pomona College announced that Mr. Higgins had been hired as the new director of the Queer Resource Center of the Claremont Colleges, which Pomona administers. Elliot Dordick, a student and writer at Pitzer College, looked at the new administrator’s Twitter feed and reported his findings at TheCollegeFix.com and in the Claremont Independent, a conservative student newspaper where I currently serve as deputy editor. Mr. Higgins, who is black, had responded to a tweet asking, “Who are you automatically wary of/keep at a distance because of your past experiences?” His answer: “White gays and well meaning white women.” In another tweet he asserted: “I finally have nothing to say other than police are meant to service and protect white supremacy.”
A day after the Fix and the Independent ran the article, Pomona announced that Mr. Higgins wouldn’t be taking the position after all. In an email to the Pomona student body, Associate Dean Jan Collins-Eaglin wrote that “we have reopened the national search for the Director of the Queer Resource Center.”
Then, two weeks ago, Claremont McKenna College announced punishments for 10 students who had violated college policy in April during a raucous protest against Manhattan Institute fellow Heather Mac Donald, author of “The War on Cops.” The protesters, who spent the evening chanting “No cops, no KKK, no fascist USA!,” blockaded entrances to the building where Ms. Mac Donald was speaking, so that she ended up addressing an almost empty hall.
“The blockade breached institutional values of freedom of expression and assembly,” the college declared in a statement. “Furthermore, this action violated policies of both the College and The Claremont Colleges that prohibit material disruption of college programs and created unsafe conditions in disregard of state law.” The punishments included suspensions, in contrast with Vermont’s Middlebury College, where students who disrupted a lecture by social scientist Charles Murray —and attacked and injured a professor as she was leaving the venue—received nothing more severe than “probation.”
So instead of defending Dr. Higgins for his high “intersectional” victim status—Pomona had originally touted him as “a motivational speaker dedicated to empowering all LGBTQ students with an emphasis on students of color”—they treated him as a professional whose behavior made him unfit for the job. And Claremont McKenna kept its promise to protect free speech on campus. In his original statement following the protest, the college’s president, Hiram Chodosh, wrote, “The breach of our freedoms to listen to views that challenge us and to engage in dialogue about matters of controversy is a serious, ongoing concern we must address effectively.” Bravo to him for keeping his word.
Even at the University of California, Berkeley, where spring riots shut down speeches by conservative controversialists Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter, administrators now say they’ll allow the College Republicans to bring author Ben Shapiro for an appearance in the fall, a request the dean of students initially denied.
That actions such as these are considered unusual, even courageous, is a sign of just how bad things are on campus today. But colleges and universities across the country should be following the examples being set in California.
Ms. Mann is a Robert L. Bartley Fellow at The Wall Street Journal and a rising senior at Scripps College, part of the Claremont University Consortium.