Category Archives: Campus News

Pomona Students Can Change Gender Pronouns After Student Portal Update

On Monday morning, an update to the Pomona College online student portal added a new feature called “Help Faculty learn your Pronoun,” allowing students to submit or change their preferred gender pronouns in the student directory and other student records maintained by the Registrar.

Besides the binary gender pronouns (He, Him, His, Himself and She, Her, Hers, Herself), the new feature includes the following gender pronouns in a drop-down list for students to submit to the Registrar: “E/Ey, Em, Eir/Eirs, Eirself/Emse,” “Hu, Hum, Hus, Humself,” “Per, Per, Per/Pers, Perself,” “Ze, Hir, Hir/Hirs, Hirself,” and “Ze, Zir, Zir/Zirs, Zirself.”

After submitting a gender pronoun change, students’ preferred pronouns will appear with their names in the student directory, faculty class lists, and the advisee rosters of faculty advisors. According to the online instructions for the new feature, “a Pronoun, is simply what an individual would like others to use when talking to or about that individual. Submitting your pronoun will help Faculty in learning your pronoun and support the proper use when talking to or about you.”

The new interface for changing gender pronouns on the Pomona College student portal. (Click for larger version)

In a message to the Independent, Pomona College’s Information Technology Services (ITS), which maintains and updates the student portal, stated that it was informed of the decision to implement the update in the fall semester of the school year by “students through ASPC [The Associated Students of Pomona College], Student Affairs and the Queer Resource Center (QRC),” “after a discussion with the office of Student Affairs and ASPC.”

For its part, the ASPC hinted at the changes to the student portal last fall, when student government officials circulated a survey evaluating the need “for modifications to the Portal that would allow students to change their pronouns and/or name.”

Representatives from ASPC—the College’s student government—gave the Independent the following statement concerning the student portal changes:

“ASPC worked closely with the Office of the Registrar, the Dean of Students Office, and the Queer Resource Center (QRC) to develop a more efficient and user-friendly system for students wishing to change their gender pronouns and/or chosen name. ASPC and the relevant administrators independently identified the need for a Portal feature to facilitate these changes, and ASPC was asked to assist in the creation of the new feature to ensure that student voices were present in the conversation. Supporting transgender and non-binary students is of utmost importance to ASPC, and we sought their input throughout this process with the assistance of the QRC. We are allied with all marginalized communities and strive to be cognizant of their needs as we advocate for the student body in collaboration with the administration.”

In particular, “the current Student Information System (SIS) makes it difficult to synchronize name and pronoun changes seamlessly in all relevant locations.” In transitioning to a new SIS, the registrar’s office and ITS, with the full support of the ASPC, has declared that having “a mechanism that allows for global implementation of name and pronoun changes” is “non-negotiable,” as the new SIS must be “more conducive to supporting the transgender and non-binary community.”

In a follow-up email to the Independent, ASPC added that “some faculty, including members of the relevant faculty committee, the Student Affairs Committee, were consulted during the process.”

Scripps students: “Death to AmeriKKKA,” “F*** white people” is “valued speech”

This week, after Scripps College administrators demanded that the phrases “F*** Zionism”, “F*** white people”, “Death to AmeriKKKa” and others be removed from the chalkboard walls of its student-run Motley Coffeehouse, the café’s student management team is outraged that these messages, which it regards as “valued speech,” are being silenced.

The Motley, which previously made headlines for hosting events that excluded white people from the premises, calls itself “an intersectional, political, and feminist business” with a mission “to foster independent thinking and purposeful change.”   

According to a formal note from Scripps College administrators, the offending phrases violated the College’s Principles of Community, as they were not expressed in an appropriate “time, place, and manner.”  The phrases “may not be written on Scripps College property within a business establishment operated on campus,” though the note also stressed that college officials “are not taking the position that students may not intellectually subscribe to these statements or make them in an appropriate setting.”

In response to the administration’s order, “The Motley Manager Team” wrote and posted the following note on the coffeehouse wall at the center of the dispute:

“We are complying with the college, but we will not do so quietly. We call into question the swiftness with which Scripps College responds to speech that challenges systematically privileged identities, and we challenge the community to think critically about what speech makes them feel uncomfortable versus unsafe. We want the students who wrote these statements to know that their perspectives are valued in this space and that we will continue to resist Scripps’s effort to silence these perspectives in public spaces such as The Motley. / We recognize that erasing this board works to reinforce systems of power and oppression, and therefore we will not let this be where we let the story end. We urge the community to challenge each other and ourselves, and to destroy white supremacy, white privilege, colonialism, fascism, and (neo)liberalism on campus.”

This is not the first time that student speech has sparked controversy on campus. Last March, when the message “#Trump2016” was found scrawled on a whiteboard hanging in the hall of a student dormitory at Scripps College, student body president Minjoo Kim derided the “vandalism” as a “racist” act of “intentional violence” in a public address to the community.

Both the Scripps College administration and the management of the Motley Coffeehouse declined to comment upon request.

College Presidents Spread False Anti-Trump Narrative to Student Body

Earlier this week, presidents of the five Claremont Colleges joined over thirty peer institutions of higher education in denouncing President Trump’s recent executive order, which halts refugee immigration from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen for 90 days. Trump stated of the executive order, “America is a proud nation of immigrants and we will continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression, but we will do so while protecting our own citizens and border … The seven countries named in the Executive Order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror.” However, the presidents’ emails to their respective student bodies described Trump’s policy as a ban on Muslim immigration.

Pomona College President David Oxtoby, for example, described Trump’s orders as “deeply troubling” examples of “xenophobia” and “religious discrimination.” President Oxtoby stated that “these actions tear at the fabric of who we are and what we aspire to be.” Pitzer College President Melvin Oliver went so far as to say that “President Trump has altered the American experience, and with it the vision of hope and unity previously shared by most of us.”

President Oliver’s statement continues, “three executive orders … have upended our policies of openness and welcoming,” claiming that the orders have “the practical effect of creating a religious ban against people of Muslim faith.” Though Trump’s orders would likely affect only around 200 million of over 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide, President Oliver told the Independent that he believes “America is more beautiful because of its inclusiveness, not despite it.” Oliver stated that “xenophobia – whether targeted at one … or 1.5 billion – goes against America’s founding values,” but did not specify why he thinks Trump’s orders amount to a Muslim ban or what about them is xenophobic.

While noting that Pitzer College, Claremont McKenna College, and Pomona College currently enroll zero students from the seven countries named in the executive order, each of the school presidents made lengthy efforts to reiterate the availability of emotional assistance for students who “feel vulnerable.” President Lara Tiedens of Scripps College ended her own note by stating “We are fortunate to have such a strong network of active, informed, and compassionate individuals who are invested in preserving Scripps as a haven for inclusive excellence,” referencing a December statement naming Scripps “a sanctuary center of higher education” which would follow in the footsteps of Pomona College and Pitzer College to refuse compliance with federal law regarding immigration status.

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Image: Flickr

CMC Funds Racially Exclusive Program to Fight Racism

On January 25, Vince Greer – the Assistant Dean of Students for Diversity and Inclusion at Claremont McKenna College (CMC) – distributed the following message to the students, faculty and staff of the college:

“Dear CMC community, The Cultural Influences on Mental Health Center at CMC is offering a FREE 8-week compassionate meditation program for ethnic minority students to learn how to heal from racism- and race-related incidents. Students must identify as an ethnic minority, must have experienced race-related stress, and must have attended one of the Claremont Colleges for at least one semester. If you meet these requirements and are in need of such services, you are eligible to sign up!” [emphasis original.]

Dean Greer’s email continues to state that while Professor Wei-Chin Hwang will head the  healing program, it will be “co-led by two students.” Hwang is a tenured, full-time professor of psychology at Claremont McKenna College with expertise in “Cultural Competency” and “Race & Social Problems.” Greer’s email to the community closes by making clear that the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of Claremont McKenna has approved the program.

Many students have expressed concerns about the racial exclusivity of the program. Shawn McFall, (CMC ’18), the President of the Claremont College Republicans, told the Independent, “I find it disturbing that school funding is supporting a cause which excludes the majority of CMC students. Too many school programming centers which claim to represent and foster diversity have become mere tools for exclusion.”

Alex Ohlendorf (CMC ’18) told the Independent, “It is troubling to see that CMC, an institution which just last year saw widespread movements against racism on campus, has approved and funded an event that specifically denies students the opportunity to participate on the basis of ethnicity. By creating such segregated programs, administrators only encourage political polarization and prevent dialogue.”

Following the above-mentioned protests at Claremont McKenna College in late 2015, President Hiram Chodosh wrote publicly that “We must ensure that each of our students shares a deep sense of belonging to the CMC community. Thus, I am committed to developing a thoughtful, productive, and responsible inclusion strategy, where every student is fully engaged and valued… No student or group on our campus should live and learn in isolation.”

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Image: Flickr

President Oxtoby Denies Wrongdoing As IRS Complaint Filed Against Pomona College

The Claremont Independent has learned that a concerned individual has lodged a complaint with the IRS in response to Pomona College’s promotion and funding of an anti-Trump rally.

As the Independent reported this week, Pomona College’s Draper Center for Community Partnerships may have run afoul of federal non-profit regulations by reimbursing transportation costs to and from a rally against Donald Trump in Los Angeles on November 9th. Draper Center staff also promoted the event on Facebook and organized bus transportation for students who wished to attend.

As a 501(c)(3) educational institution, Pomona College is prohibited from engaging in partisan political activity with tax-exempt dollars. If an investigation is launched, it could lead to the revocation of Pomona College’s tax-exempt status, among other possible sanctions.

In a statement to the Independent, the office of Pomona College President David Oxtoby acknowledged the College’s financial commitment to the rallies but stressed that it did not constitute political activity:

“The Draper Center for Community Partnerships is committed to fostering civic engagement among students, and our students engage in various community based courses, programs, projects and events across Southern California. Transportation is typically part of our support for student engagement, as was the case with the recent rallies.  The College does not consider this to be activity in support of a political campaign.”

Maria Tucker, the Director of the Draper Center and an Associate Dean of Students, stopped responding to requests for comment on Monday. As of this morning, she had deleted or made private a November 9th post on her Facebook account discussing the election results:

“I’m always surprised by those who believe in America as a place for pulling oneself up by our bootstraps/hard work wins. They tend to be the folks most reliant on the backs of others to make them win: …racists, misogynists, most especially. Today was a win for both.”

The Draper Center, which Ms. Tucker heads, says its mission “is to foster mutually beneficial exchanges among community members, students, faculty, and staff in order to support educational outreach initiatives, community-based research and learning, and other community engagement activities.

The Claremont Independent will continue to cover this story as it develops.

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Image: Flickr

Pomona College Funds Anti-Trump Rally

On Friday, Pomona College’s Draper Center for Community Partnerships informed the Pomona community that it will provide students with funding to participate in Saturday’s anti-Trump rally in downtown Los Angeles.

“We are sponsoring a group of 70 students to go to the anti-hate rally in LA tomorrow morning! Please share with your communities—as of now, this is open for Pomona students only,” stated the Draper Center in a post on its Facebook page. “Read the information on the form carefully and only sign up if you can commit and be on time.”

The form to sign up states “the Draper Center is responding to student responses/needs to engage with our wider SoCal community to unite against hatred. One way this week we will be supporting students is providing Metrolink passes and a group to go to the United Against Hate March starting at MacArthur Park in LA on the morning of Saturday November 12th.”

Information in the form includes a link to the Facebook event page of the protest, named “March in Los Angeles against Trump!” The march’s event page states that “it is our time as a movement to unite and fight back against Donald Trump and what he wants to do to this country!”

Further information on the form included a number to reach an on-call dean via Campus Safety “in event of arrest or other emergencies,” as well as a link to a guide on protesters’ rights.

A similar protest on Friday in Los Angeles resulted in the arrest of 187 adults and eight juveniles, although the Saturday demonstration was described by national media as more “peaceful.”

The Draper Center is Pomona College’s community outreach organization that “fosters mutually beneficial exchanges between Pomona College and the larger community of which we are a part,” according to the center’s mission statement. “We do this by connecting community members, students, faculty, and staff in support of education outreach, community-based research and learning, and other community engagement activities.”

Pomona College President David Oxtoby has previously stated in an interview with the South China Morning Post that he “don’t [doesn’t] think it’s good for universities to take political positions” and, referring to student demonstrations, “if there was any risk of violence or harm to anyone, the school would have to step in and halt proceedings.”

Some students felt that it was acceptable for the college to fund student protesters. “I personally don’t see an issue with it. The school can do what it sees fit as a private institution. I don’t see it as a political move so much as an attempt to help cover the financial costs of political activism. If it allows more people from disadvantaged backgrounds to protest, it’s fine with me,” Eliot Sands (PO’ 20) told the Independent in a message.

Pomona College is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

After Trump’s Election, Pomona Orchestra Can Opt Out of Playing ‘Don Juan’

On Thursday, the Pomona College Orchestra informed its musicians that they could opt out of performing the song Don Juan in their upcoming concert because the piece—which centers around the libertine Don Juan character—could be insensitive to students who were upset by the election of Donald Trump.

“When I programmed Don Juan, the presidential nominees of the two major parties were known, and the smart money was on a Clinton victory…You have worked immensely hard on this piece, and it is a great musical accomplishment…I would prefer not to cancel our performances of it,” the conductor of the Pomona College Orchestra stated in an e-mail to the orchestra. “But I understand that some of you may have serious reservations, especially in the wake of Tuesday’s results, about appearing to embrace a narrative that presents women as objects to be pursued by wealthy males who can get away with it. And I need you to know that I respect those reservations…I extend to each of you the invitation to opt out of our performances of Don Juan.”

“The character of Don Juan was introduced in 1630 Spanish stage work. It was intended as a satirical morality play, the lesson being that, no matter how hedonistically one might live one’s life, sins must be atoned for at the end,” the email continues. “Don Juan is what we would charitably refer to as a ‘womanizer,’ and that with clearer vision we would identify as a sexual predator,” the e-mail states, adding that “the question of how to engage art that has a troubling backstory is always complicated.”

The e-mail added that the orchestra “will try to find guests to fill in any holes that get created…Assuming we still have enough of an orchestra to present the piece, the show will go on.”

Ultimately, no member of the orchestra chose to drop out of the performance, according to an e-mail update.  “I enjoy the music of Don Juan purely for its musical value rather than its programmatic inspiration,” stated a member of the orchestra in a message to the Independent.

The concert set featuring Don Juan will take place on Friday, November 18th and Sunday, November 20th at Pomona College’s Bridges Hall of Music. The Pomona College Orchestra consists of students and faculty of the Claremont Colleges as well as members of the community.

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Image: Flickr

Pomona Progressives Create Whites-Only Club To Fight Racism

On Monday evening, a number of White Pomona College students formed a new club called “We’ve Got Work To Do: White People for Deconstructing Whiteness.” The club, open to students from all five of the Claremont Colleges, aims to “work on owning our racism, deconstructing our Whiteness, and to engage in movement & action toward dismantling White Supremacy.”

“White people at the 5C’s: we’re all racist. we’re all microaggressive. [W]e are all not only complicit in, but actively perpetuating white supremacy,” states an advertisement for the group. “Pretending that we are not racist and hoping that no one will discover our racism really doesn’t cut it. [W]e need to ACTIVELY be doing work to deconstruct our whiteness (and holding our peers accountable in doing the same).”

“Recognizing that White identity is a self-fashioned, hierarchical fantasy, Whites should attempt to dismantle Whiteness as it currently exists,” explains the group’s Facebook page, quoting Ian Haney López, a leading racial justice scholar. “Whites should renounce their privileged racial character, though not simply out of guilt or any sense of self-deprecation. Rather, they should dismantle the edifice of Whiteness because this mythological construct stands at the vortex of racial inequality in America.”

Though the community is meant to be an open space for the discussion of students’ Whiteness and its negative impacts on people of color, students within the group must be “white people who believe white supremacy exists, whether [they] have owned that [they themselves] are racist or not.” The founder of the group clarified that mixed-race students with a White parent would be able to attend, but only if they had the end goal of deconstructing their learned Whiteness. Additionally, White students who do not believe in White supremacy are not welcome.

“The group is trying to address racism in the white community. We’re not racist and we don’t hate white people,” wrote Kate Dolgenos, a senior at Pomona who joined the organization, in an email to the Independent. “I’m really happy this group has formed and I’m excited to see what we’ll do throughout the semester.”

Not all students are as enthusiastic, however. “While I cannot comment on how the group intends to define and ‘deconstruct’ a white identity, as a cisgendered, politically liberal white male,” Dalton Martin, a junior at Pomona, said, “I feel this group may do less for persons of color rather than more. I feel that trying to codify and effectively martyr an image of white culture detracts from attempts to engage and stand in solidarity with marginalized identities.”

International students, too, found the group to potentially be harmful. “Outside of the United States, being ‘white’ is not a unified and malignant identity,” wrote one international student in an email to the Independent. “I think their brash generalization invalidates the experiences of many people who would be considered White by their standards, which does not harmonize well with embracing one’s own identity and self-love.”

“We’ve Got Work To Do” will soon be meeting to discuss their short- and long-term objectives as a community as to how to approach and handle their Whiteness, as well as how their Whiteness affects communities of color both on- and off-campus.

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Image: Flickr