N17 in the News

Articles: Los Angeles Times, Daily Bulletin

Back to main n17 page.


Protest disrupts Keck opening

Formal convocation is hastily moved after groups block entrance to tent erected for celebration. Los Angeles Times - November 18, 2000 By TIPTON BLISH CLAREMONT -- The Keck Graduate Institute's formal debut Friday was marred by a loud, mostly peaceful protest that forced the opening celebration from an airy tent into a dimly lit conference room on the temporary campus southwest of downtown. Students have been in class since late August at the newest addition to the Claremont Colleges, but Friday was the official convocation for the school. However, about 200 students and faculty members with a variety of criticisms of the school descended on the ceremony, carrying signs and wielding noisemakers. Many, some in costume, broke through a rope line and blocked guests from entering the tent. The most pressing issue for many protesters is the Claremont University Consortium's plans to build a new Keck campus on land north of Foothill Boulevard in the Bernard Biological Field Station. That project is nearing final approval, particularly after the announcement this week that an opposition group was dropping a lawsuit challenging the project. But Keck Graduate Institute also is under fire from faculty members at the other schools for not offering its faculty tenure. They believe tenure is needed to guarantee the free exercise of scientific inquiry in a corporate environment. Students and faculty members also have a more general criticism of biosciences, which are at the core of Keck's mission. They railed against genetic engineering in particular with skits, chants and song. Keck's chief academic officer, David Galas, was head of the U.S. Department of Energy's Human Genome Project, which aims to map the genetic code for the human species. Friday's action was the culmination of a week of protest and celebration of the seventh Claremont College, the first since Pitzer College opened in 1963. Students from the inaugural class of 28 found themselves defending their school at a symposium Tuesday night organized by critics of Keck. On Friday they argued briefly with protesters outside the tent. "There's a lot of misinformation out there," said Jason Moon, a 22-year-old graduate of Wittenberg University in Ohio. "They think there's a lot of corporate influence here. We're not in contact with corporations except for their human resources departments." The school is designed to train students to work as managers in the burgeoning biological and medical sciences and prepare them for private industry. Students will earn master's degrees. These protests are nothing new to Keck administrators, who have been planning the school for about five years and trying to get approval for their new home for at least two. At least eight campus security guards were on hand Friday as were 10 Claremont police officers, including Cmdrs. Russ Brown and Daryl McGehee and Chief Roy Brown. Protesters marched from a rally at Pomona College to the temporary Keck campus where 11 students and Pitzer College professor Joe Parker blocked the entrance to the tent while a brass quintet played to empty chairs. A tense standoff ended peacefully after campus security officers were unable to persuade the group to move, and John Maguire, president emeritus of the Claremont Graduate University, elbowed his way into the tent. School officials gave up on holding the ceremony in the tent and moved to a conference room, hastily rearranged with plants and a Keck banner. The ceremony was a celebration of the creation of a major academic institution. Robert Day, president and CEO of the W.M. Keck Foundation, which gave the school its founding $50-million grant, described the opening of a new school of Keck's standing as extraordinary. Protesters continued to rally outside the ceremony, although they were barely audible inside. Mayor Karen Rosenthal told the audience that her city "encourages conversation about politics and goings on." Henry Riggs, president of the Keck Graduate Institute, took most of the protest in stride. He has never spoken with student leaders or faculty members protesting his school, and dismissed arguments that the Keck faculty will be beholden to corporations or anybody else. "We have a comprehensive academic freedom statement," he said in an interview before the convocation. "We are not on a crusade about tenure. We believe it does not fit with this institution ... The curriculum and choice and direction of research is 100% in the hands of our faculty." "When you do something sort of innovative, and we're pushing the edges of science, you're bound to have protest," he said. Copyright 2000 Los Angeles Times
top of page | back to main n17 page | Articles: Los Angeles Times, Daily Bulletin

Protest delays Keck event

Saturday, November 18, 2000 12:00:00 AM By Matt Krupnick Daily Bulletin Staff Writer CLAREMONT -- More than 150 chanting protesters delayed but did not prevent the city's newest college from holding its first convocation Friday. The raucous group of students, professors and residents marched from Pomona College to the fledgling Keck Graduate Institute, holding signs and shouting their opposition to the biotechnology school. No arrests were made, but 10 Claremont police officers and several campus security guards watched as the demonstrators first prevented attendees from entering a large tent set up for the event before following the guests toward an alternate site. Keck officials and organizers shrugged off the protest, saying the demonstrators misunderstood the purpose of the new school. Protesters targeted a variety of issues, including the college's corporate ties, its plans to build a permanent campus on the Bernard Biological Field Station and the lack of tenure for its professors. "When you do something that is innovative, you're bound to have protests," Keck President Henry Riggs said. "The thing these people refuse to understand is that the curriculum and research are 100 percent in the hands of our faculty." The corporate ties and lack of tenure make it difficult for Keck teachers to conduct meaningful research, protesters have argued. The college opened its doors in August with an inaugural class of 28 students. The school, which offers a master's degree in bioscience, was founded simply to earn money and bring prestige to the other six members of the Claremont Colleges, said Rick Worthington, a public policy professor at Pomona College who spoke at a rally before the march. "Keck Graduate Institute is an aggressive move by mostly Southern California elites," Worthington said. "It's not about education, it's about profits." Keck students took the protest in stride, bantering with protesters and shaking their heads at the demonstrators' claims. "They have no clue what we're doing here," student Kevin Hambly said. "They think we're cloning people here. Maybe they're just using us as a scapegoat for the whole industry." Another major problem with the school is its lack of an ethics professor, said Ann Davis, a moral philosophy professor at Pomona College. "I don't think they can do what they're doing without an ethicist on staff," she said. "The claim that they are an academic institute is not true." Student Wenli Wang, who said he enjoyed watching the protesters, said the innovative structure of Keck's curriculum convinced him to come to the school from China. Links with industry are necessary to provide a practical education, he said. "If you want to ensure your future career, you need industrial support," Wang said. "All of us are happy to be here." Matt Krupnick can be reached by e-mail at m_krupnick@dailybulletin.com or by phone at (909) 483-9355.

top of page | back to main n17 page | Articles: Los Angeles Times, Daily Bulletin

The Problem | Action Alert! | The Bernard Field Station | KGI's Corporate Sponsors | Stickers Explained
Growing Opposition at the Claremont Colleges | Famous People Against KGI | Links | Home