All posts by Matthew Reade

Rebuffed After Seeking Professor’s Firing, Students Try Boycott, New Demands

After Pomona College’s sociology department rejected students’ demands for the rescission of a hiring offer to Alice Goffman on account of her allegedly “racist” and “unethical” research, students now have commanded the department to preclude Goffman from “teaching required sociology courses” and to fund a speaker series criticizing her work. The students have also announced a boycott of sociology courses at the college. Continue reading

Pomona Professor to Admit Students to Geology Class On Basis of Race

In a flyer introducing her course on “Southern California Earthquakes and Water,” a geology professor at Pomona College sells her class as an intriguing hands-on look at the unique “tectonic and hydrologic challenges” faced in the Golden State. She then explains how she will exercise racial preference in choosing which students may enroll in the course. Continue reading

Students Who Said Truth Is ‘A Myth’ Demand Compensation

The authors of the open letter that called objective truth a “myth and white supremacy” and sought disciplinary action against conservative journalists on campus are now demanding compensation for their “labor” from “non-Black allies.”

According to a screenshot sent to the Claremont Independent, one of the authors took to a Facebook group to reiterate his critiques of the email from Pomona College President David Oxtoby that originally prompted the letter and to seek financial support from “non-Black” students and allies beyond the Claremont Colleges.

In that original email, Oxtoby defended the value of free speech on campus and emphasized Pomona’s commitment to “the exercise of free speech and academic freedom” in the aftermath of protests that shut down a scheduled talk by Heather Mac Donald, a noted scholar and critic of Black Lives Matter, at the adjacent campus of Claremont McKenna College.

In his Facebook post, the author blasted Oxtoby’s statement and assailed the “normalization of antiblackness at the Claremont Colleges, particularly Pomona.”

“The response from the president of the College condones hate speech towards Black bodies as a form of free speech, while simultaneously berating those students of marginalized identities who protest for their right to safely exist that [sic] these institutions,” the author wrote. “This college would rather protect the right to verbally degrade Black people than to protect Black lives, especially those of the students at their campus; hinting at the inevitable vulgarity of whiteness and white supremacy.”

“We ask that other Black students and non-black allies from the [Claremont Colleges’] community and beyond to support us with this endeavor to hold our administration accountable,” he continued.

The author went on to admonish his “non-black allies” to pay him and the other two individuals responsible for the original open letter for their “labor.”

“Also ‘allies’ and other folks, if you receive social capital from sharing this letter, you should provide the organizers of this movement with tangible capital and compensate us for our labor,” he urged, appending the usernames for the Venmo accounts of himself and the other authors of the open letter to the end of his post.

Venmo is a payment service app that is used to send money directly to friends and make purchases.

Scripps Alumnae Demand That College Submits to Student Demands

Alumnae of Scripps College are circulating a petition demanding that the college submit to the demands of resident advisors on campus, who announced a strike last week to force the firing of the current Dean of Students and radical changes to campus policies with respect to financial aid, mental health, and residential life.

“We, on behalf of graduates/alumnae(i) of Scripps College, are shocked and outraged at recent events that have unfolded at Scripps,” the petition begins. “We firmly stand in solidarity with the current Scripps RAs’ strike in response to the administration’s lack of response to these events as well as to several of Scripps’ chronic and long-standing policies and practices.”

Last week, Lara Tiedens, the president of Scripps College, refused to capitulate to student demands and took immediate action to replace the resident advisors (RAs), who take the lead in ensuring student safety within the residence halls and handling unexpected emergencies, with regular security patrols.

“This afternoon, a group of Resident Advisors (RAs) informed me of their intent to go on strike effective immediately, and to abstain from all duties including crisis and emergency response, residential life programming, and other assigned duties,” Tiedens wrote in an April 14 email to current Scripps students and parents. “[M]aintaining a supportive, safe, and high-quality living and learning environment for all students is our highest priority, and the College’s immediate focus is on ensuring we have appropriate coverage for the residence halls. To that end, the Dean of Students has developed a plan to ensure that RAs’ critical duties related to safety and student welfare are covered for the duration of the strike.”

Tiedens’ refusal to capitulate to the RAs’ demands does not sit well with the authors of the alumnae petition.

“We are deeply concerned about your callous response to the RA strike, which did not address any of the causes of students’ exhaustion and exploitation, but instead defended an administrator who multiple students have testified is abusive and criticized the strike when many other methods of engaging with administration have been tried by students, but did not prove effective,” they write. “This is a prime example of how Scripps appears to not be genuinely listening or acknowledging the community’s serious and deep state of grief.”

The alumnae petition also complains that the college’s decision to hire additional staff to stand in for the striking RAs could evoke fears of “police brutality” among the student body.

“Scripps’ only real action in response to the strike has been to hire an outside security firm to police the campus, which only serves to instill fear in students, especially students of color who have personally been or have witnessed their family and friends of color being targets of police brutality and criminalization,” it explains.

Attached to the alumnae letter is a “timeline” that demonstrates the “long history of student activism on campus.” The listed events include a “United Against Hate protest across the [Claremont] campuses following the election of another fascist white supremacist,” presumably referring to current U.S. president Donald J. Trump, as well as the student-led protests that shut down a scheduled event with Heather Mac Donald, an expert on urban crime and policing, at Claremont McKenna College’s Athenaeum. The timeline helpfully notes that Mac Donald “believes the Black Lives Matter narrative is not only false but dangerous.”

Over 200 alumnae have signed the petition, which closes by admonishing the college once more to capitulate to student demands:

“As past students of Scripps College, we demand that there be systemic change at Scripps, pursuant to the thoughtful, well-articulated demands of the current RAs. We stand in strong support of their cause, and would vehemently urge the Scripps administration to listen carefully to the RAs’ voices, and to make a genuine, concerted, and good faith effort to comply with their demands.”

Students Demand Administrators ‘Take Action’ Against Conservative Journalists

In an open letter to outgoing Pomona College President David Oxtoby, a group of students from the Claremont Colleges assail the president for affirming Pomona’s commitment to free speech and demand that all five colleges “take action” against the conservative journalists on the staff of the Claremont Independent.

The letter, written by three self-identified Black students at Pomona College, is a response to an April 7 email from President Oxtoby in which he reiterated the college’s commitment to “the exercise of free speech and academic freedom” in the aftermath of protests that shut down a scheduled appearance by an invited speaker, scholar and Black Lives Matter critic Heather Mac Donald, on April 6.

“Protest has a legitimate and celebrated place on college campuses,” Oxtoby wrote. “What we cannot support is the act of preventing others from engaging with an invited speaker. Our mission is founded upon the discovery of truth, the collaborative development of knowledge and the betterment of society.”

In their open letter, the students sharply disagree.

“Free speech, a right many freedom movements have fought for, has recently become a tool appropriated by hegemonic institutions. It has not just empowered students from marginalized backgrounds to voice their qualms and criticize aspects of the institution, but it has given those who seek to perpetuate systems of domination a platform to project their bigotry,” they write.

“Thus, if ‘our mission is founded upon the discovery of truth,’” the students continue, citing Oxtoby’s letter, “how does free speech uphold that value?”

The students also characterize truth as a “myth” and a white supremacist concept.

“Historically, white supremacy has venerated the idea of objectivity, and wielded a dichotomy of ‘subjectivity vs. objectivity’ as a means of silencing oppressed peoples,” they explain. “The idea that there is a single truth–‘the Truth’–is a construct of the Euro-West that is deeply rooted in the Enlightenment, which was a movement that also described Black and Brown people as both subhuman and impervious to pain. This construction is a myth and white supremacy, imperialism, colonization, capitalism, and the United States of America are all of its progeny. The idea that the truth is an entity for which we must search, in matters that endanger our abilities to exist in open spaces, is an attempt to silence oppressed peoples.”

In reference to the protests of Mac Donald, the open letter explains that engaging with Mac Donald’s speech would have amounted to a debate not “on mere difference of opinion, but [on] the right of Black people to exist.”

“Heather Mac Donald is a fascist, a white supremacist, a warhawk, a transphobe, a queerphobe, a classist, and ignorant of interlocking systems of domination that produce the lethal conditions under which oppressed peoples are forced to live,” the letter claims. “Why are you [President Oxtoby], and other persons in positions of power at these institutions, protecting a fascist and her hate speech and not students that are directly affected by her presence?”

The open letter concludes by insisting that Oxtoby apologize for his April 7 email and issue a new message that the college “does not tolerate hate speech and speech that projects violence onto the bodies of its marginalized students and oppressed peoples.”

The students also demand that the Claremont Colleges “take action” against the staff of the Claremont Independent for their “continual perpetuation of hate speech, anti-Blackness, and intimidation toward students of marginalized backgrounds.” Taking a step further, they call for “disciplinary action” against conservative journalists from the Claremont Colleges.

“We also demand that Pomona College and the Claremont University Consortium entities take action against the Claremont Independent editorial staff for its continual perpetuation of hate speech, anti-Blackness, and intimidation toward students of marginalized backgrounds,” they write. “Provided that the Claremont Independent releases the identity of students involved with this letter and such students begin to receive threats and hate mail, we demand that this institution and its constituents take legal action against members of the Claremont Independent involved with the editing and publication process as well as disciplinary action, such as expulsion on the grounds of endangering the wellbeing of others.”

The letter’s signatories, of whom there are more than 20 at the time of publication, request a response by the afternoon of April 18.

The authors of the letter did not immediately respond to the Independent’s requests for comment.


Update: A link to President Oxtoby’s original email has been added to this article.