Category Archives: Campus News

College: Student Mentors With Drug Problems, Mental Illness Can Keep Their Jobs

In a meeting with administrators at Pomona College in April, student “sponsors” called upon the college to end its alleged practice of removing sponsors — second-year students who mentor and support incoming freshmen — from their posts on the basis of mental health problems or substance abuse. Asked for comment, the college’s residential life administrators explained that they do not fire sponsors on this basis.

The sponsor program is intended to help first-year students adjust to their first year of college, providing a “safe, welcoming” social group that also enables them to connect with students beyond their class year. On its website, the college describes the sponsor program as “a residential program through which all first-year [freshman] students are housed with approximately 15 other first-years led by two students called sponsors. More recently, sponsors have been sophomores … The main objective of the program is to assist in the transition to college by creating a safe, welcoming and sustainable living environment for all first-years as well as increasing interactions with older students.”

During the forum with administrators, current sponsors claimed that the residential life office had terminated sponsors for abusing drugs or having a mental illness. Doing so, they said, demonstrates a lack of inclusion for students with mental health and substance abuse problems, whose experiences are valuable for incoming freshmen:

“Don’t cut sponsor for substance or mental health reasons – just, seriously, stop … We should value these individuals for their experiences,” they said, according to the transcript.

When the Independent inquired about this policy with college administrators, the Office of Housing and Residence Life responded to “confirm that we do not remove Sponsors based on mental health and/or substance abuse issues.” The office did not say whether this policy marks a change from previous practice or has been the college’s approach in the past.

However, some parents are concerned about the college’s practice. In an email, a parent of a Pomona freshman told the Independent that sponsors should not have a history of mental illness or addiction:

“Given that the primary task of a sponsor is to oversee and care for freshman, full competence should be prioritized,” the parent said. “While Pomona should uphold the value of inclusion, it is not fair or right to burden freshman with a mentally challenged or ex/current drug using individual. All sponsors should be focused on the responsibility of helping freshman. They should be role models which is difficult when mental illness or addiction is involved.”

At the same forum, current sponsors urged administrators to phase out the standard cover letter/resume application to be a sponsor in favor of a student-run selection process, marginalizing the role of college officials in choosing the next year’s crop of student mentors.

They also demanded that the college release the whereabouts of “at-risk” students in each sponsor group to sponsors via an “automated email system,” as well as to “provide some form of compensation, not necessarily monetary, to Sponsor[s] for their work.”

At present, the sponsor role is an unpaid position that is by application only. At the forum, students and administrators alike noted that high student interest in the position is typical.

CMC Refuses to Back Down, Will “Hold Students Accountable”

In an official statement to the Independent, Claremont McKenna College resolved once more to “hold students accountable” for policy violations committed during the protest of scholar Heather Mac Donald in early April, rejecting demands by a student group for the college to end its investigation and abstain from punishing rule breakers.

The statement, issued only hours after the students’ demands for exoneration, expresses the college’s full commitment to an April 7 promise from CMC President Hiram Chodosh to crack down on those protesters who defied regulations by blockading the entrances and exits to the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum to prevent anyone from entering the building to hear Mac Donald’s talk.

The full statement is below:

“The College is following through on President Chodosh’s commitment to hold students accountable. As is the case with any and all alleged violations of the Student Code of Conduct and College policies, CMC is following our established Student Conduct Process which can be found in the Guide to Student Life.

We have begun the conduct review process with individual CMC students, who will be afforded a full, fair, and impartial process before the determination of findings, sanctions, and appeals. Over the course of the next few weeks, students who are found responsible for violations of College policy will face sanctions appropriate to the severity of the violation.

We acknowledge the community’s desire for information and details; however, to ensure a fair process that protects the interests of our students, while complying with our policies and FERPA, we cannot disclose any additional information about an ongoing process.”

After Breaking Rules During Protest, Students Demand Exoneration

In an open letter to top officials and the Board of Trustees at Claremont McKenna College, a group of students identified as the “CMCers of Color” criticizes the college’s effort to punish students who violated college policy while protesting conservative scholar Heather Mac Donald as the “further criminalization of already marginalized students” and calls upon the college to end its “investigation.”

The letter comes as Hiram Chodosh, the president of CMC, fulfills his vow to punish students who defied college regulations in the course of the protests.

“Blocking access to buildings violates College policy,” he wrote in an April 7 email, one day after protesters shut down Heather Mac Donald’s talk by blockading the entrances to the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum, where the Manhattan Institute scholar was scheduled to appear. “CMC students who are found to have violated policies will be held accountable. We will also give a full report to the other Claremont Colleges, who have responsibility for their own students.”

Multiple sources report that the college analyzed photo and video evidence supplied by onlookers and student journalists to identify the individuals who violated campus rules at the protest and target them for sanctions.

The CMCers of Color, however, complain that these efforts to uphold college policy are “distressing” and amount to “acts of violence” by the administration against students of color, whom they allege are the principal targets of the investigation:

“CMC has threatened to prevent students from walking at graduation and holds the power to withhold transcripts, barring students entrance into a competitive job market. CMC has also threatened suspension and expulsion. For low-income and first generation students, graduation is a culminatory moment that should not be revoked. On campuses where students of color already feel unsafe, it is distressing that these institutions resort to punitive measures to resolve issues resulting from their own negligence. These are acts of violence, and if advanced, would severely harm the survival of these students, particularly those of whom are graduating this coming week.”

The CMCers of Color also criticize the college for inviting speakers like Mac Donald, speakers who, according to the group, endanger students of color:

“While inflammatory speakers are framed as generating open dialogue on campus, they merely create dangerous campus environments for students of color. The institution’s financial backing of speakers who examine Black livelihood, suggesting its debatability, shows that fraudulent calls for open dialogue take precedence over students of color. CMC is effectively complicit in threats to the safety of students of color by legitimating the very politics that denies their humanity.”

The letter further claims that “[t]here has been no talk of investigation for violent counter protesters — only talk of further criminalization of already marginalized students.” But Chodosh’s original statement announcing the investigation stated that policy violators would be punished, and violence is against the student code.

Moreover, several eyewitnesses consulted by the Independent recall seeing no violent counter protest at the event, and multiple videos taken at the scene corroborate this account. The witnesses also confirm that the protesters engaged in various forms of physical intimidation, including “shoving, blocking,” and “forming human walls” to ensure that no one could enter the Athenaeum to view Mac Donald’s talk. Additionally, student journalists and onlookers, including but not limited to writers for the Independent, reported receiving threats of violence from students protesting Mac Donald. CMC’s student code prohibits “actions which cause, or could cause, personal injury or death,” actions which include “threatening to assault” or “intimidating another person.”

Concluding their letter, the CMCers of Color call for an end to CMC’s investigation. “We stand in solidarity with the actions taken against Mac Donald,” they write, “and we demand that the investigation and criminalization of CMC students stop immediately.”

The signatories to the letter of the CMCers of Color are private; as such, it is unclear how many have signed it.

Requests for comment from President Chodosh and other CMC officials were unanswered at the time of publication.

College Backs Prof. Advertising Race-Based Admission to Course

In an official statement, Pomona College has backed a geology professor who, in a flier advertising her permission-only course on earthquakes and hydrology, explained her plan to exercise preference for “students of color” and other marginalized individuals seeking to enroll in the course.

The statement of support comes after an alumnus of the Claremont Colleges filed a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, accusing Linda Reinen, the geology professor, of discrimination on the basis of race, class, and citizenship.

“Professor Reinen is asking students who wish to enroll in a college class to describe their racial and ethnic background, their socioeconomic background, their national origin and citizenship status (by asking for “international” students to identify as such), and potentially their age (with the information requested on where students are “in their college career),” the complaint stated. “College students should never be asked, required, or expected to reveal such information as their racial and ethnic identity to a professor so [that] she may decide whether or not to allow them to enroll in her class.” (emphasis original)

The Independent has also confirmed at least one report of a student who attempted to enroll in Reinen’s course only to be urged by the professor to submit a new enrollment request, this time including information about the student’s race, income, citizenship, and year in school.

“Please take a look at the flyer I have attached and either modify your existing PERM [permission-to-enroll request] (if possible) or send a new PERM request with your response to the flyer,” Reinen said in an email to the student, going on to quote the portion of her flyer indicating her preference for marginalized students. “In resolving PERMs I will strive to identify students for whom the small-section setting has the potential to be of particular benefit. I am especially interested in seeing PERM requests from students of color, first generation or low-income students, international, and students early in their college career (first two years).” (emphasis original)

But in an official statement to the Independent, Pomona College affirmed the flier as a “positive outreach” and stated that the professor’s approach is both lawful and ethical:

“Pomona College encourages all students to take courses across our broad curriculum as part of a full and vital liberal arts education. We strive to foster classroom environments where students from different backgrounds and experiences can learn and contribute in an atmosphere of open inquiry and intellectual engagement. The flier is a positive outreach designed to encourage a wide range of students to consider the class. The College fully supports this objective. This approach is fully within the law and meets strict ethical standards.”

According to recent policy guidance from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, educational institutions are obligated to ensure that “students have equal access to educational resources without regard to race, color, or national origin.”

Pomona Student Senate Backs Student Activists on Campus

Update: The ASPC clarified its earlier statement, disclaiming support for the firing of incoming Pomona professor Alice Goffman, the removal of Scripps College dean Charlotte Johnson, and for demands for disciplinary action against conservative students on campus.

In the interests of representing ASPC’s clarification, the title of this article has been updated.

In an email statement released on Friday, the Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC), Pomona College’s student senate, affirmed its support of student activists across the Claremont Colleges, who are variously seeking to shut down free speech, punish conservative journalists on campus, and terminate a Pomona College professor and a Scripps College administrator.

ASPC expressed its “solidarity” with the protests that shut down Black Lives Matter critic Heather Mac Donald’s speech at Claremont McKenna College early this month, a demand for Pomona College president David Oxtoby to denounce free speech and to punish conservative journalists of this publication, the strike of Scripps College resident advisors, and student demands for Pomona to rescind its hiring offer of White sociology professor Dr. Alice Goffman.

“We are writing with regards to recent campus events, including the student-led protests at Claremont McKenna … ongoing conversations around the role of RAs through the demands of the Scripps and Pomona RHS [and] the recent decision of the Pomona College Sociology Department to hire Alice Goffman,” ASPC explained in the email. “These events have disproportionately affected individuals from the most marginalized backgrounds in our community: people of color, working class individuals, and immigrants. We call on the Claremont Colleges to do better in the pursuit of equity. We are in solidarity with students and Claremont Colleges community members fighting for institutional accountability, nuanced discussions, and increased support for students.”

After the protest against Heather Mac Donald early this month, Pomona College president David Oxtoby reaffirmed the college’s commitment to free speech and expressed his disappointment in the protesters. Pomona’s student senate, however, took a different stance in its email, backing the demands of students who called for Oxtoby to apologize for his statement in support of free speech and to punish conservative student journalists for their coverage in the aftermath of Mac Donald’s appearance:

“Following the protests [against Mac Donald], President Oxtoby released a letter to the Pomona community, in which he discussed academic freedom and free speech, and took a disappointed stance in addressing the events that had taken place on CMC’s [Claremont McKenna College] campus. In response to President Oxtoby’s statement, Black students at Pomona and across the [Claremont University] Consortium wrote a letter to President Oxtoby demanding he apologize for his previous patronizing statement, and affirm that Pomona College does not tolerate speech that projects violence onto its marginalized and oppressed communities, especially Black students. ASPC is in solidarity with Black students at Pomona and at the 5Cs [Claremont Colleges] in their continuous fight for better conditions on this campus.”

Asked by the Independent whether their solidarity extends to calls for administrative sanction against conservative journalists on campus, the ASPC Senates 2016-17 and 2017-18 issued the following joint statement:

“ASPC supports freedom of speech and the rights of student journalists. We also support holding students accountable according to the student code, and the right of the College and students to initiate judicial proceedings against other students who have caused community harm. We support holding all campus journalistic publications to a high standard of journalistic ethics.”

In its email, ASPC also explained that it backs the strike of resident advisors at Scripps College, stating that “Scripps RAs went on strike over the lack of support from the administration …The[ir] letter demands the resignation of Charlotte Johnson as the Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Affairs, improvements to financial aid policies, changes to the Residential Advisor role, and increased mental health support, among other policy changes … We are in solidarity with the RAs’ asks surrounding policy changes.”

Following the hiring of Dr. Alice Goffman as a visiting professor of sociology over two Black candidates, an anonymous open letter demanded that the College rescind its hiring offer to Goffman. Although the College ultimately decided to follow through with hiring Goffman, ASPC is fully behind the students calling for the rescission of Goffman’s offer and backs demands for student control over the hiring of faculty in the future:

“Sociology students are currently protesting the hire of Alice Goffman as a visiting professor in the sociology department. The protests are situated in complaints that department does not support students of color and that Alice Goffman’s scholarship is anti-black and lacks positionality … We urge the formalization of student voices in all hiring processes, including for visiting professors. We call upon the faculty and administration to listen to take the demands of sociology students seriously, and to consider that such escalation to direct actions is the culmination of previous frustrations with the department.”

Despite expressing its full support for these initiatives, one of which sought administrative sanctions against conservative students on campus, ASPC claims to “recognize that Pomona students, much like members of ASPC Senate, may not all agree on how to respond to the aforementioned events. We affirm the value of open community dialogue and the responsibility of student government to listen and seriously consider students’ voices.”  

The ASPC’s budget is provided by a mandatory fee paid by all students. For the 2017-2018 school year, according to a letter sent to all students and parents, ASPC “has fixed its student fee at $355” per student.

Update: Following publication, the ASPC contacted the Independent to clarify its position:

“We do not support firing Professor Goffman, as the College and Professor Goffman have already signed a contract. We support formalizing more inclusion of student voices in future hiring practices for all levels of professors, including visiting professors …

… We are in solidarity with the RAs’ asks surrounding policy changes. We do not support the firing of Dean Charlotte Johnson …

… we absolutely do not support punishing students for being conservative journalists. Rather, we welcome political dialogue on campus. However, if students feel that other students have caused tangible and foreseeable community harm, they are welcome to initiate judicial proceedings, as is their right under the Student Code. We support the right of all students … to initiate judicial proceedings whenever they feel the Student Code has been violated …

… Taking the quote ‘students to initiate judicial proceedings against other students who have caused community harm’ in isolation removes context that clarifies our stance: conservative views do not automatically entail community harm. Conservative views are not a basis for administrative sanction.”

Matthew Reade contributed reporting.

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.

The students reiterated their earlier demands for control over hiring decisions and for a formal letter from the department, which now must contain a list of “concrete steps the Department will take moving forward to ensure such undemocratic, covert hiring processes are never repeated.”

According to the latest set of demands, Goffman should be “prevented from teaching required sociology courses, including … Introduction to Sociology,” though the students stipulate that “[s]he can be allowed … to teach non-required sociology electives.” The students also request that Pomona College sociology students be granted the ability to take their required sociology courses at other colleges—or simply not take them at all, enrolling in alternative courses “in different academic departments (Anthropology, ethnic studies, etc.)” to fulfill the requirements of the sociology department.

In their first set of demands, students lambasted the department for hiring Goffman, a White woman, over two Black candidates. To mitigate the possibility of this oversight occurring in the future, they now are seeking “the creation of an additional tenure line that prioritizes representation from a diverse pool of applicants.” The students also reiterate their demand for “the creation of peer-appointed, influential student positions on the hiring committee” to “be at the forefront of all current and future hiring decisions in the Sociology Department. The current lack of transparency and student input on hiring decisions is not an issue unique to the Sociology Department, but is a recurring pattern throughout the College.”

“An adequately-funded speaker and workshop series to occur monthly for the duration of Alice Goffman’s professorship” is the next demand from the students. Though the series would only feature Goffman’s critics, the students explain that “this series will ensure an open democratic debate about the merits of Goffman’s work by bringing her most serious critics to the Claremont Colleges to speak. We hope to feature diverse academics who exemplify ethical, reciprocal, mutually beneficial, and community-grounded research.”

The students want the department to “hire a staff member to coordinate this series in collaboration with Sociology students.” “If this is not possible,” they helpfully add, “we are open to having Sociology students/student organizers receive financial compensation to coordinate the series.”

The final demand is for an explanation of Goffman’s hiring from the department’s hiring committee. This letter must detail “further rationale and transparency that led to Goffman’s hiring decision,” including “a discussion of Goffman’s credentials in relation to the posted job description.” The students further demand that the department explain “the lack of representative student involvement in the hiring process” and detail the “concrete steps [it] will take moving forward to ensure such undemocratic, covert hiring processes are never repeated.”

On Friday, in the hopes of putting pressure on the department, the students behind the demands began sharing a Facebook post urging other students at the colleges, “as part of being in solidarity,” to “unregister from Pomona College Sociology courses for the Fall 2017 semester.”

The Department of Sociology has not yet responded to the Independent’s request for comment. This story will be updated upon receipt of a response.

Will Gu contributed reporting.

Pomona Sociology Dept. Backs White Professor Despite Student Demands

In a letter sent Friday, Pomona College’s Sociology Department rejected student demands for the rescission of a hiring offer to Dr. Alice Goffman, defending their decision to choose the “legendary” and well-qualified teacher to fill an open professorship in the department.

After receiving the demand letter from “a pseudonymous email account,” the Sociology Department, in its response letter, refuted the claims of the students and, in line with the response from College administration, reaffirmed its decision to hire Goffman.

The students believe that Goffman—who was hired over two Black candidates—should not be hired because “the national controversy around Alice Goffman’s academic integrity, dubious integrity, her hyper-criminalization of Black men, and hyper-sexualization of Black women does not embrace and align with our shared community values.”

The Sociology Department does not share the students’ sentiments about Goffman:

“We reject the premise that Alice Goffman’s work hyper-criminalizes and hyper-sexualizes African-Americans. In fact, her book is widely regarded as a sympathetic and humanizing portrait of an over-policed community, and has been part of the national conversation about racial disparities in crime and incarceration. There have been, as there always are, scholarly critiques of the book’s methods and findings. Such debate is to be expected and encouraged in the academic community.”

Responding to concerns that Goffman’s hire does not align with the students’ definition of sociology—“[critiquing] elitism and interlocking systems of domination and power”—the Department asserts that the students have a faulty definition of sociology:

“We reject the characterization of sociology as a field that critiques elitism and power. Rather, sociology is a discipline that seeks to uncover the social processes that underlie seemingly individual experiences, which may or may not involve critique.”

The Department also refutes student concerns that Goffman’s critically-acclaimed book, On the Run, and the research behind it, are “racist, sensationalist and unethical,” and that Goffman employs “harmful research methods”:

“The methods of On the Run, while controversial, have not been found to be unethical. The University of Wisconsin conducted an internal review in response to the inappropriately anonymous critique mentioned in your letter and uncovered no wrongdoing. Further, it is publicly known that Goffman shares the royalties from her work with her research subjects and continues to have warm, personal relationships with them to this day.”

While the Department does support “the creation of peer-appointed, influential student positions on the hiring committee” and faculty that better reflects the department’s students, as demanded by the students, it states that such changes in policy are out of the Department’s control:

“We agree that the Sociology Department should better reflect the diversity of its majors. In fact, for years, the Department has sought an additional tenure line for this purpose, but has not been given that support by the administration…we are supportive of the possibility of elected, voting student members of a search committee. [But] [t]his would require a change in College-wide policy.”

However, the Department also believes Goffman sufficiently fulfills the diversity requirement, stating that “Goffman is also known as a legendary teacher, even at this early stage in her career, who works closely with all students, especially students from diverse backgrounds.”

The two other candidates for the position—Dr. Marla Kohlman of Kenyon College and Dr. Katrina Bell McDonald of Johns Hopkins University—have not received controversy for their work, but they have also not been under the national spotlight as Goffman has.

Kohlman received her degrees from Haverford College, American University, and the University of Maryland, College Park. Her work focuses on “institutional frameworks of inequality (gender, race, class, sexuality, etc.).”

McDonald received her degrees from Mills College, Stanford University, and the University of California, Davis. Her work centers around “how life is lived at the margins of society for disadvantaged social groups, such as racial, gender, and class minorities.” She has written a book titled Embracing Sisterhood: Class, Identity, and Contemporary Black Women.

Goffman, meanwhile, wrote the critically acclaimed On the Run, which made the New York Times’ “100 notable books of 2014” list. She received her degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University, and has received the “2011 Dissertation Award” by the American Sociological Association for “the best Ph.D. dissertation for a calendar year.”

Pomona Refuses to Rescind Job Offer to White Professor

Pomona College has decided to follow through with its hiring of Dr. Alice Goffman into the College as a visiting professor of sociology, after students, alumni, and “allies” of the Sociology Department demanded that the College rescind its offer to Goffman in an open letter issued last Friday.

Goffman—who was chosen over two Black candidates—has accepted the offer from Pomona, but the authors of the demand letter called for “the termination of her [Goffman’s] contract…[i]n the case that she has accepted the offer.”

However, according to an email statement sent to the Independent, a spokesman of Pomona College revealed that the College does not intend to terminate Goffman’s contract, and looks forward to welcoming Goffman in the coming academic year:

“We are pleased that this [hiring] process resulted in an offer and an acceptance, and we look forward to her joining our vibrant academic community in the fall as a visiting professor.”

The letter’s authors criticized “the flawed process of hiring Goffman,” and called for a student committee that would be “at the forefront of all current and future hiring decisions.” However, in the same email statement to the Independent, the College’s spokesman expressed confidence in the College’s current hiring process:

“We follow a rigorous process when hiring faculty. We are pleased that this process resulted in an offer and an acceptance.”

Although the letter complains that Goffman is “racist, sensationalist, and unethical,” and criticizes the College for hiring Goffman—a White female—over “the two other candidates for this position [who] were highly qualified Black women,” Pomona’s Dean of Academic Affairs, Audrey Bilger, defended the College’s hiring process as rigorous and diversity-minded, as the process “includes a range of activities, from a public presentation to faculty and students to meeting with our faculty diversity officer.”

Goffman is a well-known sociologist who attended the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University for her undergraduate studies and doctorate program respectively, and her book On the Run has received positive critical acclaim from leading sociologists such as William Julius Wilson. On the Run is also well-known in non-academic circles, making the New York Times’ “100 notable books of 2014” list.

Goffman also received the “2011 Dissertation Award” by the American Sociological Association for “the best Ph.D dissertation for a calendar year.”