On March 9, Dunn spoke at a forum about racism at CMC. When she returned to her car after the forum, Dunn reported that someone had broken the windows, slashed the tires and spray-painted the exterior with racist and sexist remarks. At the time of the report, officials believed the vandalism was the most serious in a series of hate crimes committed at CMC in the past months.
According to the Los Angeles Times, officials at all five of the Claremont consortium colleges cancelled classes on their respective campuses the day after Dunn reported the crime. Instead of attending class, over 300 students from the schools attended rallies against racism and hate crimes.
Last Wednesday, two individuals approached the Claremont Police Department. They told the police that they had seen Dunn vandalize her car herself, according to the L.A. Times.
Dunn also made inconsistent statements during two separate interviews with the Claremont police and the FBI.
Dunn denies any involvement with the crime. “This is a very big deal if they think I’m a suspect,” Dunn told the L.A. Times. “This is so overshadowing the bigger problem on campus, which is that the administration has turned its head regularly on hate speech and hate crime.”
Dunn could be charged with filing a false police report (a misdemeanor) or lying to federal investigators (a felony). Her case has been referred to both the Los Angeles County District Attorney and the FBI.
“Hopefully, putting Professor Dunn on paid leave will give the authorities time to find the criminals who vandalized her car,” Dunn’s attorney, Gary Lincenberg, told the L.A. Times. “We don’t object to her being put on paid leave. We think that, given the highly charged atmosphere that has been created, it’s appropriate.”
John Seery ’80, professor of politics at Pomona College, another of the Claremont Colleges consortium, said that the possibility that Dunn fabricated her story has dampened the enthusiasm of students for social-awareness initiatives. “We’re in a wait-and-see mode,” he said. “Any grand visions of reforming the campuses to eradicate racism and hate speech have been placed in abeyance. I think many folk will err on the side of caution in assessing future claims of racism.”
Administrators at CMC insist that they have not yet found professor Dunn guilty. They claim that the leave was negotiated with Dunn and will allow them to conduct their own investigation into the issue.