Ever been to Claremont? The shady trees, the old historic houses and the narrow streets stand proud, nestled into a little corner below Foothill Boulevard and between the rough and rowdy cities of Montclair and Pomona.
Visiting Claremont, one immediately recognizes that it is a college town, somewhat like La Verne, but bigger (with five colleges instead of one) and much more expensive. But look closer. There is more to it than those token students leisurely riding their bikes down the streets to class, or the monuments and plaques all with motivational and spiritual sayings engraved onto them.
The depth of the matter at hand lies not in the near-perfect makeup of the colleges themselves, but in the fact that administration of the separate colleges will seemingly do anything to keep the sparkling image of the Claremont Colleges perfectly in tune with the sparkling image of the city itself, even when it means denying students — one student in particular, sophomore Brad Kvederis — their First Amendment rights.
Anyone who has been to the Claremont Colleges at night knows that it is no La Verne. School sponsored keg parties go on practically every weekend and the dorms are loud stages for sex, pot smoking, drinking games and even the alleged manufacturing and selling of drugs.
“The alcohol policy is a joke,” said Kvederis, 19, who was a leader on campus at Claremont McKenna College, and president the Dorm Activities Council for his dorm, Wohlford Hall.
The source of the uproar which is taking place at CMC began with a newsletter entitled The Wohlford Free Press created by Kvederis, which he copied and distributed to dorm rooms by shoving copies under doors. The newsletter, which was voted best newsletter by the student government, was written in what Kvederis calls “a loud-mouth, bullshit style,” and dealt with matters such as drinking parties and wild sexcapades within the dorms.
However, what Kvederis said started as nothing more than a joke, quickly got him kicked out of the council, and eventually out of school because of complaints from three women in the dorm.
Concluding a closed judiciary hearing, administrators charged Kvederis of violating CMC’s sexual harassment policy by “creating a hostile environment on campus,” through his newsletter, as well as “Engaging in physical or verbal actions which injure, degrade or disgrace another person, or tend to cause such effects.”
So, basically because administrators say so, one student is out a semester’s worth of tuition, $10,000, and will receive all F’s on his report card for spring because he was suspended before being kicked out of school.
The last time I checked, there were such things as freedom of speech and free press guaranteed in the First Amendment, a, by far, more powerful document than the The Basic Rule of Conduct and Judicial Procedures boy scout guidebook that the judiciary board used.
If CMC did not have anything to hide in the first place, why was the judiciary hearing held in private, comprised of only three retired judges, one CMC professor and a CMC student? Witnesses were called in private before the board and questioned. This itself is unconstitutional. Hearings such as these should be open to the public-the accusers should have been able to grill Kvederis in open court.
Kvederis said there was no way he could have gotten a fair trial anyway, since many people on the now split campus feel the board had made its decision before official questioning even started.
“It was a kangaroo court,” he said. “They didn’t understand my defense, nor did they pay much attention to it.”
But the question remains. Should private institutions really be at liberty to censor written material that describes incidents damaging to the reputation of the school? If CMC wants to shelter the world from the incriminating content of Kvederis’ newsletter, maybe it should not fund the parties at which underage students get drunk. Kvederis is not the problem. The behind the scenes closeup of CMC the letter illustrates exposes the real problem – irresponsible administration.
Raechel Fittante, a junior journalism major, is editor in chief of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.