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December 12, 2023

Undercurrents statement regarding Dec. 8 protest coverage

Since Oct. 12, we have set the standard for responsible visual reporting of protests. On Dec. 8, we fell short of our standard.

Undercurrents staff
Photo by Samson Zhang

To the Claremont Colleges community:

Since covering the first SJP/JVP teach-in on Oct. 12, Undercurrents has set the standard for responsible visual journalism documenting Palestine solidarity organizing that has happened since Oct. 7. We have consistently concealed the identity of vulnerable individuals in photos, videos, screenshots and other reporting. We have only made exceptions when granted consent and for campus leaders or officials in clear positions of power, such as Pomona administrators and Campus Safety and Claremont Police Department officers. When students have reached out with credible concerns about their safety due to our reporting, we have always promptly responded and removed unintentionally identifying content.

As a result, thousands of Claremont community members have trusted us to be a source of truth for learning about organizing on campus. We have been able to play a unique role in producing timely and thorough coverage of pro-Palestine organizing. At many events and actions, our reporters have produced the only photo, video or audio documentation, because both organizers and the wider community have trusted us to handle the material safely, fairly and accurately.

In our video story reporting on an action on Dec. 8, we fell short of our standard, unnecessarily endangering both student organizers and a visiting college counselor.

On Dec. 8, Undercurrents published a video story about a pro-Palestine protest in which students interrupted a Pomona College admissions event attended by dozens of visiting high school college counselors. During the protest, one college counselor asked loudly of students at the front of the room, “why are you wearing masks?” The counselor then followed protesters out of the building as they exited, repeating the question multiple times. On multiple occasions the counselor came into close physical proximity with students, including two who were visibly recording on their phones.

The counselor was wearing a name tag showing their name and job title, which was visible in multiple videos obtained by Undercurrents. As a result, Undercurrents learned the counselor’s name and attributed the counselor’s statement to it. The name was included in a video caption for their question.

On 5:23 p.m. at Dec. 9, Pomona President Gabi Starr sent an email to the student body noting that “a social media account … published online the name of one of the visiting counselors,” and that the counselor was then “repeatedly subjected to abusive and harassing online behavior aimed at their professional reputation, including registering the individual’s work email on pornographic and other extremely disturbing websites.” The email said that “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 … These serious incidents of doxxing are being investigated under our established judicial process.”

After consulting with an attorney from the Student Press Law Center on Dec. 11, we understand that reporting the counselor’s name in this context does not constitute doxxing. We in no way anticipated that reporting the counselor’s name would lead to harassment. We condemn the use of our reporting to personally doxx or harass any individuals.

Nevertheless, we acknowledge that we named the individual without a thorough assessment of whether they were in a position of power that made it appropriate to personally identify them. Upon further review of the video, we also found that at least one student protester was insufficiently blurred to prevent identification. This matter was brought to our attention by multiple students.

We want to clarify that we have received no requests from any party, at any time, to take down our story due to its identification of the counselor.

To Undercurrents’ knowledge, no other media source or independent body has verified Starr’s claims that the counselor has been doxxed. Undercurrents has not yet obtained any information about who performed the alleged doxxing, or if a Claremont community member had any role in the alleged doxxing.

In the context of the suppression of pro-Palestinian speech at college campuses across the nation, and the urgency of pro-Palestine organizing in the face of an ongoing genocide, it’s more important than ever that student media is able to accurately report what happens at the Claremont Colleges.

We at Undercurrents remain committed to working continuously to earn our community’s trust and fulfill this urgent need to whatever extent we can. We have re-uploaded our Dec. 9 video story without the counselor’s name and also with protesters’ faces better obscured. We will learn from this experience to be better.

In solidarity,

Claremont Undercurrents leadership

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Thanks for reading Undercurrents

Undercurrents reports on labor, Palestine liberation, prison abolition and other community organizing at and around the Claremont Colleges.

Issue 1 / Spring 2023

Setting the Standard

How Pomona workers won a historic $25 minimum wage; a new union in Claremont; Tony Hoang on organizing

Read issue 1