Kavanaugh Confirmation Protest Promotes Solidarity but Fails to Advocate for Campus Change

Rena Patel ’19 (Editor-in-Chief), Maureen Cowhey ’19 (Editor-in-Chief)

On Oct 6, the U.S. Senate approved Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the position of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States in a vote of 50-48 in approval after a harrowing hearing process and FBI investigation. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and several other women accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault during his high school and college years. Scripps College, like many other universities in the country, held a protest against the confirmation on Oct. 9 that began in front of Malott Commons. Students, mostly women, marched from Malott through Claremont McKenna and Pomona College before returning to Scripps campus.

The protest was organized by Gabby Jacobs ’21 and Madeline McCluskey ’21 in a clear effort to come together as a student body in solidarity to support survivors of sexual assault. Students held signs calling for the eradication of rape culture and misogyny that led to Kavanaugh’s nomination in the first place. They also voiced their outrage at the current senators in office and acknowledged their right to vote in the upcoming midterm elections.  “My main goal is for this protest to be an act of solidarity.” Jacobs said. “This is a time when more than ever, we need to support the survivors in and outside of our community. Additionally, I hope that this protest will encourage our generation to vote and advocate for the causes they believe in.” Students from all over the Claremont Colleges lended their support from making posters to ensuring that there are spaces available for students to decompress. The Motley held an open space for poster making before the protest and a space for decompression after the protest.  In terms of administrative support, Jacobs said, “ We have worked with the EmPower center as well as Scripps Advocates to make sure that everyone feels safe during this event. We have worked with Assistant Dean and Director Campus Life Brenda Ice to ensure the safety of the event.”

While the EmPower Center was quick to spur to action following Kavanaugh’s confirmation by sending out an email on Oct. 4 highlighting resources available on campus, Scripps College Administration has done very little to show their support to sexual assault survivors on their own campus. The only response students received was from Dean Charlotte Johnson on Oct. 8 that reiterated the EmPower Center’s email while adding contact information for resources such as the House of Ruth, Monsour Counseling, the McAlister Chaplains, Scripps Contact Deans, and Title IX and also urged students to not suffer in silence. However, both the protest and administrative response, though timely in relation to national news, did very little to benefit current students attending the 5Cs. While the protest was meant to stand in solidarity with survivors and be an outlet for people to express their anger or frustration with the outcome of the Supreme Court vote, it lacked a call to action on our own campuses. Many protesters expressed that they were marching in a “bubble” or in a liberal space in which everyone respected women. And yet, the march was dominated by women with very few male allies showing up to support them. Based solely off the looks of the male bystanders as the protesters marched by, it seems safe to say that we may not all be on the same page in this “liberal bubble.”  Tolga Kesler PZ ’22 was one of the few male-identifying students to attend the protest. When asked about the lack of male-identifying protestors present, he said, “We need more allies and I should not be praised as a male showing up here. This is about women and women’s rights. All the men that did not show up to this event and are not speaking up for women are just affirming the Kavanaugh nomination. Silence is consent. If you are not taking a stance then what are you doing? And while not speaking against injustice is kin to supporting injustice, protesting against an action that has already been executed and established by powers greater than our own will not help it be undone.

Yes, voting in the midterm elections will be crucial for future decisions made by our elected officials of this country, but in terms of things we as students in Claremont can control and contribute, this protest can easily be categorized as simply a showcase of liberalism. Rather than marching against a Supreme Court decision that we cannot influence, we should be marching to make change on our own college campuses. We should be taking a closer look at Title IX policies, especially policies related to sexual assault on other campuses. We should be marching to stop rape culture on our own campuses between our own peers. Ending rape culture begins at the level of high schools and colleges. Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault as a mere 17 year old. By focusing on the culture and policies that we promote on these college campuses we can make greater change than a post-Supreme court vote march. The march was a great first step, but to truly show solidarity to survivors is to harness that energy to make concrete change in Claremont.