Rattled by death threat, Claremont McKenna student protesters leave campus

Dean of Students Mary Spellman apologizes to Claremont McKenna students at a campus protest for more diversity. She later resigned. Several student protesters say they have left campus following a death threat.

Dean of Students Mary Spellman apologizes to Claremont McKenna students at a campus protest for more diversity. She later resigned. Several student protesters say they have left campus following a death threat.

(Wesley Edwards / CMC Forum)

Several Claremont McKenna College students who led recent protests over racial tensions said they have left the campus after receiving a death threat and blasted administrators for what they said were inadequate steps to protect them.

The anonymous threat to “shoot each and every one of you” was made Nov. 16 in a profanity-filled message posted on a Google Form created by an alumnus to allow students to write about their experiences of discrimination on campus. The alumnus saw the threat three days later and notified administrators, according to college officials.

No suspect has been identified.

Student protest leaders with the group CMCers of Color criticized administrators for not contacting police until two weeks after they learned of the threat. The protesters said they did not learn of the threat against them until Dec. 5 -- and only after another student found out about it.


“We feel so betrayed by the administration that they didn’t let us know,” said one student, who spoke anonymously out of concern for safety. “We’re feeling incredibly unsafe and a lot of us haven’t slept because we’re so anxious.”

The student said protest leaders were staying off campus and not attending classes.

Their protests last month demanding more funding for multicultural services and greater diversity among faculty led to the resignation of Mary Spellman, then dean of students.

In a letter to the Claremont community this week, General Counsel Matthew Bibbens said that an investigation by campus officials, threat assessment professionals and law enforcement has so far found no evidence that the death threat was credible.

Their efforts included a review of information technology to attempt to identify the source of the threat, following up on leads, cooperation with the Claremont police, increased security for potential student targets and additional support for them and their families, the letter said.

Bibbens said the campus community was not notified sooner “because noncredible threats do not present an immediate, serious, or ongoing threat to the campus.”

“However, it is also clear that the College failed to notify law enforcement promptly upon receipt of the threat irrespective of its underlying credibility,” Bibbens wrote. He added that Claremont would conduct a full review of its process for assessing threats and communicating with potential targets.

NEWSLETTER: Get essential California headlines delivered daily >>

Jeff Huang, acting dean of students, apologized in a Dec. 5 letter to the Claremont community. He said the alumnus who found the threat didn’t believe it was widely circulated, chose not to share it with current students and was concerned about allowing his Google account to be traced by police.

“It makes me angry to think that someone would threaten our students, even if it turns out to be only a threat,” he wrote. “But I’m also disappointed in myself for not talking to students sooner about what happened. Again, I am deeply sorry about that.”

Students said they were especially fearful because of the recent massace at a San Bernardino social services agency. They said they will not feel safe until the person who posted the threat is caught.

They contrasted Claremont’s response to the quick action last week at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where police tracked down and arrested a student three days after he allegedly sent a death threat to a campus activist.

Charles Raymond Bird, 20, was arrested Dec. 4 on suspicion of felony threats and hate crime charges after allegedly targeting Matt Klepfer, president of Queer Student Union, a campus group demanding more tolerance and inclusion.

For more education news, follow me @TeresaWatanabe


Here’s who is being considered to lead the L.A. Unified School District

Attorneys for famed teacher Rafe Esquith criticize release of documents

With the stroke of a pen, Obama marks end of an era for No Child Left Behind Act