Claremont Insider: Free Speech Tuesday

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Free Speech Tuesday

The First Amendment has had a tough time at the Claremont Colleges (and Claremont in general). Just this past year, as the Claremont Conservative points out, several of the colleges have been accused of squashing free speech.

So it was great last night to see people exercising their right to speak inside and outside of Claremont McKenna College's Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum. Former presidential aide Karl Rove spoke at the Athenaeum and sparked a protest by hundreds of people opposed to the Bush Adminstration's policies. The Daily Bulletin's Wes Wood II reported on the goings on at CMC:

CLAREMONT - Karl Rove, the former Deputy Chief of Staff and senior advisor to President George W. Bush, discussed presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama and gave his take on the legacy of the current president.

But hundreds of protesters greeted Rove before, during and after his speech.

When Rove tried to leave the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum, at least two people and possibly a third claimed they were pepper sprayed while campus officials said they were not.

A bomb threat was also determined to be unfounded, campus officials added.

Meanwhile, over at Pomona College, the debate goes on over Pomona's alma mater, "Hail, Pomona, Hail!" Depending on your point of view, the issue is either one of racial insensitivity or hyper-sensitivity. When this controversy first arose, Pomona did what academics do best: They created a committee to study the issue. The point of the committee will be to educate the community and, more importantly, wealthy alumni, to the point where they can accept the committee's recommendations.

Wes Woods II had an article on this a couple days ago:

CLAREMONT - About 250 people watched a performance outlining the history of blackface minstrel shows last week at Pomona College, designed to help students understand the issue of the college's alma mater.

"We're trying to get as much information as we can so the committee can make a decision," said Kim Bruce, co-chairman of the 11-member college songs committee, which includes students and alumni.

The song, which was composed for the finale of a blackface minstrel show nearly 100 years ago, became a controversial topic in February after fliers were posted during a "family weekend."

An anonymous photocopied flier of the back sleeve of a 10-inch record of Pomona College songs included "Hail, Pomona, Hail!"

. . . .

Eric Hurley, an assistant professor of psychology and black studies at Pomona College, said he found the issue "fascinating" because it's "subtle" and not something as overt as trying to change the racial makeup of the student government.

"I could say my generation wouldn't have gone after this," Hurley said.

Hurley said the college has made a "good public face of being sensitive" toward the issue. He said he heard that many of the older alumni have threatened to withhold donations if there is a song change.

"They're in a precarious position," Hurley said of the school.

One problem with the demographics is that the alumni with the most money to throw at the college are the ones most likely to be offended if the college drops the alma mater. That threat of a loss of income has to temper Pomona's moral righteousness. We'll have to wait to see how it plays out.