Scripps Administration Resists Student Organizations’ Autonomy and Protests


Ellen Hu ’24, Belen Yudess ’25, and Ella Young ’24

Editor-in-Chief, Copy Editor Intern, and Staff Writer


Scripps President Amy Marcus-Newhall forwarded a message on Dec. 11, 2023 from Pomona President, Gabrielle Starr, regarding disciplinary action towards students involved in recent protests in solidarity with Palestine. A message expressing Scripps’ support of these efforts was included alongside it.

“Scripps is cooperating with Pomona’s investigation,” President Marcus-Newhall wrote in the email. “If Scripps students are identified as violating our code of conduct, which includes the consortium policy on demonstrations, they will be subject to a disciplinary process as outlined in the Scripps Code of Conduct.” 

Scripps’ decision to publicly join Pomona in the investigation of student protestors came as a surprise to the Scripps student body. None of the other Claremont Colleges are known to have released a statement in support of Pomona’s investigation. 

“As a student government, [we find Marcus-Newhall’s email] troubling,” Scripps Associated Students (SAS) President Lily Dunkin ’24 said. “What I’m hearing is that Scripps students, faculty, and staff are at risk of punitive action because of their participation in what we believe to be an expression of academic freedom.”

These events follow the arrest of a faculty member at Pomona College at a die-in organized by the 5C chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. The arrest of the faculty member, combined with the public statement in support of the faculty member released by the Chicanx-Latinx studies department about the arrest, marked the first time that administration and faculty were publicly and officially in opposition regarding student-led activism around the Israel-Palestine conflict. 

In the wake of the arrest, SAS sent out a statement of solidarity to the Scripps student body on Dec. 2, 2023. “As student leaders, we value the diversity of perspectives and the free exchange of ideas that contribute to the intellectual richness of our community,” the statement read. “Any action that undermines these principles is a matter of great concern for all students at The Claremont Colleges.”

Following these events, student protests occurred on Dec. 8, eliciting further response from Pomona administration. Starr responded in a statement sent out to the Pomona student body via email on Dec. 9 regarding two separate incidents. 

She first addressed the publication of a video in which the name of a visiting high school admissions counselor was not adequately obscured. This allegedly opened the door to the doxxing of the individual.  

“This action was clearly designed to punish the visitor to our campus for their inquiry, while sending a message to others who would engage in speech that was not in strict conformity with the protestors’ goal,” Starr wrote in the email. “This cyberbullying is reprehensible.” 

Undercurrents, the 5C student publication that released the videos, responded to these events in a statement on Dec. 12, 2023. “We in no way anticipated that reporting the counselor’s name would lead to harassment,” the statement read. “We condemn the use of our reporting to personally doxx or harass any individuals … We have re-uploaded our Dec. 9 video story without the counselor’s name and also with protesters’ faces better obscured.”

In her statement, Starr also explained how student protests later that same day led to the shutdown of Frary Dining Hall. She also claimed that a student who was attempting to walk through the protestors outside of Frary was “blocked and grabbed in an incident documented on video.” 

These events led to Pomona’s decision to formally investigate the actions of Pomona student protestors, whom their administration believed violated the code of conduct. According to President Marcus-Newhall, any Scripps students participating in the protests violated the Scripps code of conduct as well. 

“These concerns that were brought by [Starr] to the Pomona student body seem very Pomona-centric in my view [since no] similar event happened at Scripps,” Dunkin said. “I’m not sure I understand why Scripps decided to be the only other school to outwardly sign onto the investigation when there’s no call for Scripps or any of the other colleges to do so.”

Following the release of President Marcus-Newhall’s statement, SAS received calls from  members of the student body regarding fears of being investigated and the implications of Scripps taking action against students in support of Palestine. Although the onset of student concern worried SAS, they were also troubled by a lack of communication from the Scripps administration regarding the release of this statement. 

“If the student leaders are trusting that we and administrators have the same goal [of ensuring] student safety and wellness, and we all are open and transparent about what we’re doing to those ends, then we need a relationship that includes reciprocity,” said Dunkin. “Especially before [admin] releases a statement on [their] end because it affects [SAS] since we are on the receiving end of students.” 

Although the above-mentioned discourse is a direct result of student activism in solidarity with the liberation of Palestine, SAS takes issue not with the administration’s avoidance of addressing the geopolitical situation, but rather their response to students who have exercised their right to peaceful protest. 

“I want to underline that SAS aims to represent all students of different and diverse beliefs,” said Dunkin. “And that our main concern is not with the substantive argument of the protests, but with the actions of the institution against peaceful protestors and the school calling for the identification of Scripps students.” 

Similar issues have arisen between Scripps’s administration and the Motley. At the end of the Fall 2023 semester, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and faculty advisor of the Motley Adriana di Bartolo-Beckman contacted the Motley team, calling for the removal of several posters in support of Palestine. This sparked internal questions about what the space would look like for the spring 2024 semester. 

“It’s definitely been a balancing act of pushing against admin as much as possible,” a Motley manager who wished to remain anonymous said. “Not only for the current political importance of it, but also just for longevity’s sake – the degradation of the Motley’s political autonomy is not good for the future either. If we let them bowl over us now, it’ll just keep happening in the future.”

Prior to their return to campus, the manager was in communication with di Bartolo-Beckman who presented a series of demands from the administration required to be met before the coffee shop’s semester opening. 

To begin operation, the Motley needed to get all posted flyers approved by the Office of Student Engagement, put together a form where groups could sign up to reserve the space after hours, and release a statement of inclusivity acknowledging that the previously removed posters may have made people uncomfortable. 

“We told her we’re not willing to make an Instagram post and make a mockery of ourselves,” the Motley manager said. “We negotiated it down to putting our mission statement somewhere physically in the Motley with the little addendum at the end talking about inclusivity.”

Following this discourse, the Motley held its semester opening on Feb. 8. The coffeehouse’s mission statement, including a line about their commitment to inclusivity, was displayed at the counter where customers ordered their drinks. 

“All of the managers and a large majority of the baristas believe in the organizing potential of the Motley,” the manager said. “It’s been hard because we can’t release a statement of solidarity with Palestine officially as the Motley because admin will not let us open if that happens.”

Regardless, a statement expressing solidarity with Palestine was posted to the Motley Instagram account (@motleycoffee) on Feb. 13. “To not acknowledge the ongoing genocide in Gaza, the apartheid state of Israel, and the violence towards Palestinians globally and here in our community would be to depart from the Motley’s core values – core values upheld by generations of Scripps students,” the statement read.

The caption of the post acted as a disclaimer, advising students that the statement was in no way legally affiliated with the business or totality of the staff. 

“This statement represents the perspectives of some Motley baristas and managers,” the caption said. “It DOES NOT reflect the perspectives of all present Motley employees nor does it intend to speak on behalf of everyone previously employed at the Motley. Furthermore, this statement does not legally represent the Motley Coffeehouse (as a ‘student-run, college-directed business’), their respective businesses or affiliated businesses.”

The Motley aims to continue their tradition as a place of inclusive political freedom and conversation. Yet, they are unsure whether this reality is feasible to maintain moving forward.         

“As of now it’s still within our hands to decide what events we accept based on applicability to our mission statement or hours that a manager can be there to supervise,” said the manager. “But, Adriana kept reiterating in the meeting that things could change on a dime. So it seems very up in the air whether or not the Motley’s student autonomy will be as strong as it was before.”

The ongoing tensions between the administration and student-run organizations showcase how student leaders and activists cannot take a stance without administrative pushback resulting from a fear of polarizing conversations. 

“We cannot keep shutting down dialogue every time we feel uncomfortable, and that goes for all issues,” a student who wished to remain anonymous said. “It also is true for every opinion surrounding this particular geopolitical moment – if we’re unwilling to engage in dialogue and the university is unwilling to allow us to safely engage in dialogue, what a loss.”

This is not the first time that student-led initiatives have taken a stance on divisive movements and contributed to conversations regarding global events. Many are aware of Scripps’ rich history of bold student activism and want this moment to embody this legacy. 

“Students are inspired by the past – that’s why we have a library with an archive that goes way back,” a student who wished to remain anonymous said. “How will you be remembered for what will be written in the archive of this time in terms of students being able to express how they feel?”


Image Source: Momoka Schmidt ’25

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