Category Archives: Campus News

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

Pomona College Resource Center Teaches Students Social Justice Buzzwords

On Thursday night, the REACH (Revolutionizing Education, Advancing Collaborative Hxstories [sic]) committee of the Asian American Resource Center (AARC) organized an event called “How //Not// to Talk Like an Activist” held at The Hive to teach students the definitions and usage of language used by social justice activists.

The event description states, “sometimes it’s impossible to figure out what students at the Claremont Colleges are talking about, even when we’re talking about things that everyone needs to understand. Join the AARC’s REACH committee to discuss how we can break down activist language.” The organizers added that the event will “explore key terms in describing social change and figure out how to make those terms accessible for ourselves and our communities,” and affirmed that “this event is open to students at the 7Cs and centers students of color and allies.” The event description also gave examples of what terms would be discussed: “Intersectionality. Cisheteropatriarchy. Toxic masculinity.”

According to its description, the AARC “works in collaboration with other ethnic groups, academic department and campus offices to sponsor a wide range of educational endeavors.”

The organizers started the event by stating that students sometimes “hear words tossed around and repeat them and sometimes we don’t stop to think what they mean or about how we’re using them to make our change-making ineffective or effective,” adding that the “goal of this event is to break these terms down,” referring to “commonly used buzzwords.” The organizers emphasized that “they are not buzzwords to elevate ourselves above others, but…ways to understand actual problems society has,” and further stated that “it’s not bad that these are being more popularized…but we want to use this event as a way to understand the historical roots of these terms.”

Attendees of the event then broke down into smaller groups to discuss definitions for the following words and phrases: intersectionality, identity politics, structural oppression, safe spaces, cisheteropatriarchy, toxic masculinity, white supremacy, and privilege. Participants tried defining those words in small groups before the actual definitions—drawn from Harvey Mudd College, Columbia University, the Catalyst Project, and the blog Decolonize All the Things (D.A.T.T.)— were revealed.

According to its website, the Catalyst Project believes “that racism is one of the fundamental forces keeping systemic injustice in place, and as white people we believe we have a strategic role to play in ending it.” The author of D.A.T.T., in a description of his ideology, states that he is “interested in the complete liberation of all peoples from white patriarchy, capitalism, oligarchy, colonialism, settlement, as well as orientalism.”

Examples of definitions included “a system of power based on the supremacy & dominance of cisheterosexual men through the exploitation & oppression of women and the LGBTQIA”—drawn from D.A.T.T—for “cisheteropatriarchy.” “Privilege” was defined as operating “on personal, interpersonal, cultural, and institutional levels and gives advantages, favors, and benefits to members of dominant groups at the expense of members of target groups”—based off a document from Harvey Mudd College’s Office of Institutional Diversity.

Samuel Breslow (PO ’18) told the Independent that he thought “the event did a really good job of helping us be more cognizant about carefully articulating what we mean with the terminology we use,” adding that “it can be hard for us, as progressives, to have constructive discourse with conservatives when the social justice concepts that we refer to have been distorted and caricatured by Fox News to the point where they mean something totally different. Using words that have widely agreed-upon definitions can help us communicate more clearly with each other and can help avoid misunderstandings.”

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Image: Flickr

 

 

Trouble for Trump

With 15 days to go, Hillary Clinton has cemented her position as the overwhelming favorite to win the election on November 8th.

Nationally, Mrs. Clinton has amassed a 6-point lead, according to this morning’s RealClearPolitics average. In live voter surveys, which have been more accurate in past elections than online polls, the Democratic nominee leads Donald J. Trump by an average of about 10 points. Online and IVR1 polls show a tighter race, with Mrs. Clinton maintaining a 3-point advantage among those surveys.

After the first presidential debate, Donald Trump lost traction in the most competitive states and has failed to recover. He now is underperforming 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in nearly every battleground state, and his path through the Rust Belt—long thought to be his best shot at victory—has closed.

Mr. Trump is doing well in Ohio and Iowa, states where he holds a decisive demographic advantage. But in all-important Florida, where President Obama defeated Republican Mitt Romney by only 0.9 percent in 2012, Mr. Trump lags by four points. He also is behind in North Carolina, where Republicans won in 2012.

2016 Polls vs. 2012 Final
State 2012 Final Vote 2016 RCP Average % Change from 2012
Florida +0.9 Obama +3.8 Clinton +2.9 D
North Carolina +2.0 Romney +2.5 Clinton +4.5 D
Nevada +6.7 Obama +4.2 Clinton +2.5 R
Colorado +5.4 Obama +7.2 Clinton +1.8 D
Virginia +3.9 Obama +8.0 Clinton +4.1 D
Arizona +9.1 Romney +1.3 Clinton +10.4 D
Pennsylvania +5.4 Obama +6.2 Clinton +0.8 D
Michigan +9.5 Obama +10.0 Clinton +0.5 D
Ohio +3.0 Obama +0.6 Trump +3.6 R
Iowa +5.8 Obama +3.7 Trump +9.5 R
New Hampshire +5.6 Obama +8.0 Clinton +2.4 D
Wisconsin +6.9 Obama +7.0 Clinton +0.1 D

There are other warning signs for Mr. Trump. Though his path to the White House is through the Rust Belt, he is losing badly there. He has not led or tied a single poll taken in Wisconsin since mid-September, and in Michigan, he is down by about nine points. Even in these states, favorable demographics have not helped the G.O.P.’s chances, with Mrs. Clinton showing gains across the northeast relative to President Obama’s finish there in 2012.

Mr. Trump also is fending off challenges in unlikely places. In Arizona, a state which Mitt Romney won by nine points, he and Mrs. Clinton are effectively tied. But even if Mr. Trump manages to avert disaster there, he might lose deep-red Utah to anti-Trump hometown hero Evan McMullin, who rocketed to a four-point lead in a four-way poll conducted last week. FiveThirtyEight’s now-cast, a statistical model that predicts who would win if the election were held today, gives Mr. McMullin a shocking one-in-four shot of taking Utah—and becoming the first third-party candidate to win an electoral vote since 1968.

No candidate has ever emerged from such a weak polling position in so little time. With no more debates on the calendar, Mr. Trump is out of opportunities to change the media narrative to his advantage, and few undecided voters remain to be convinced by either candidate. Barring a polling error of unprecedented proportions, Hillary Clinton will become our nation’s next president.

In this election cycle, however, stranger things have happened. It is possible that pollsters have underestimated the turnout Mr. Trump will generate among his base of blue-collar whites, thereby unintentionally skewing the results of their surveys in Mrs. Clinton’s favor. Voters also dislike both candidates more than they have any other presidential contenders in the history of modern polling, making it hard to predict exactly which groups of voters will turn out on November 8th and which will stay home out of frustration. Others, including the Trump campaign itself, have cited “shy Trump voters”—individuals who are unwilling to disclose to pollsters that they support his candidacy when in fact they do—as a possible justification for the Republican nominee’s poor polling position.

But even accounting for these possibilities, Mr. Trump is still the underdog in this race, and a victory—if possible at all—would be extremely narrow. The electoral map is unfriendly, the polls are even worse, and the Trump campaign lacks a substantial get-out-the-vote effort in nearly every contestable state.

Donald Trump is in deep trouble.


Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

Featured Image: Gage Skidmore (flickr)


Footnotes
  1. Interactive Voice Response polls, otherwise known as robocalls.

Claremont Students Say Masculinity is Hazardous to Mental Health

On Monday night, 5Cs Thrive hosted an event called “Masculinity + Mental Health.” According to the event’s description, the workshop focused on the mental health problems caused by masculinity.

“Masculinity can be extremely toxic to our mental health, both to the people who are pressured to perform it and the people who are inevitably influenced by it,” state the event’s organizers. “We would like to encourage discussion on how to openly talk about our emotions and our wellbeing, and how to engage in masculine identities in a healthy way. Relevant to this discussion is how masculinity can harm our relationships with people and one’s ability to cope when relationships are difficult or end. We want to create a safe and open space where we can talk about masculinity and its various intersections with our identities and experiences.”

5Cs Thrive describes itself as “A safe space for students at the 5c’s to talk about mental health,” and the “Masculinity + Mental Health” event took place at the Rick and Susan Sontag Center for Collaborative Creativity (The Hive). The Hive’s stated mission is “to accelerate the creative development of students across the 5Cs. We do that through Exploration – by creating a safe space to experiment and play, Collaboration – by bringing people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives together to be in the ‘intellectual muck’ together, and through Experiential Learning – thinking by doing.”

The event received some positive feedback on Facebook. One woman, Lizbeth Ramirez, posted, “THANK YOU from the fullness of my heart for having this available for my fellow brothers.”

Miles Robinson (PO ’18), who attended the event, told the Independent  that there was “a common consensus that masculinity is harmful both to those who express it and those affected by it” among attendees. “It was all talk through personal experiences,” stated Robinson. Robinson added that all of the organizers of Thrive—as well most of the attendees of Thrive’s weekly functions—are female, and the group hosted this event in the hopes of getting more men to come.

It seems Thrive’s efforts were not entirely successful, as some students avoided the event out of concern that it would alienate men. “If masculinity is described as something negative—a mental illness—then this is sexism against men,” stated Will Gu (PO ’20) in an email to the Independent. “Safe spaces… are supposed to make everyone feel comfortable. Criticizing masculinity makes males who adhere to traditional gender norms uncomfortable.”

Update: October 4, 2016

Sabine Scott, a leader of the “Masculinity + Mental Health” event, issued the following statement in an email to the Independent:

“Our ‘Masculinity and Mental Health’ event was created with the goal of providing a space to examine to effects of masculinity on mental health. In order to preserve the confidentiality of the space I’m not going to disclose what was discussed, but it was a productive conversation that helped people explore how masculinity impacted each person’s individual experience with mental health. Participants were able to find support in other people who have had similar experiences, and the meeting empowered both the men and women in the meeting to realize how the pressure to conform to stereotypical masculinity can have harmful effects on being able to share emotions and maintain healthy relationships.”

Correction: October 5, 2016

An earlier version of this story stated that 5Cs Thrive was part of the The Hive. A representative from Pomona College stated in an email to the Independent that 5Cs Thrive is not affiliated with The Hive, they just used the venue for their event.

Speedo Hike Canceled Over ‘Body Image,’ ‘Bro-iness’ Concerns

Yesterday, On the Loose (OTL), the outdoors club of the Claremont Colleges, announced the cancellation of their annual speedo hike due to concerns regarding body positivity. The event, which had previously been one of OTL’s most popular of the year, involved over one hundred students from the Claremont Colleges hiking up Mount Baldy in speedos.

“By having the Speedo Hike as our official welcome event each year, we unintentionally sent the message that to participate in OTL, you must be fit and comfortable with your body image,” OTL wrote on its Facebook page. “The name ‘Speedo’ itself inherently implies bro-iness. OTL is so much more than just that, but many potentially interested students get turned off to our club each year because of Speedo Hike.”

Clarissa Worcester, a staffer at the Outdoor Education Center, added, “the publicity/legacy surrounding that of the speedo hike is immediately and inextricably ostracizing. Not to mention how it directly excludes individuals with religious dressing practices. No matter what work you do, the ‘speedo hike’ will manifest itself as OTL taking out and funding a group of students that is nearly guaranteed to be almost exclusively outdoor-experienced, fit, and heavily swayed in the direction of outdoor—and otherwise—privilege that OTL is trying to work against.” Worcester added, “OTL’s decision to not put many folks’ organizational effort and time into an event that is widely associated with bodily shaming/exclusion just seems to make a lot of sense.”

Not all students agreed with the decision. “I want to express my profound disappointment in your decision to cancel the speedo hike. This decision is, in my opinion, a mistake that goes decisively against your responsibility as the heads of the club to enable transformative experiences in the outdoors,” wrote Jeremy Snyder, a Pomona student. “OTL should strive to serve as many people from as many backgrounds as possible, but this should be an additive process, not a reductive one. In terms of enabling outdoor experiences, taking the speedo hike off the docket is a net negative. No progress is made by its cancellation. If the hike is cancelled, every individual and group that would have opted not to participate will stay on campus that saturday just the same. The sheer absence of the Speedo Hike will not propel them outdoors, so it is not productive to that end. What does change, however, is that now every person who would have partaken—for whom the speedo hike could have been a fun, challenging, and socially transformative experience as it was for my friends and I—will now spend their saturday on campus as well, sedentary. The decision to cancel the hike has not propelled anybody new outdoors, it has merely erased the chance for students to have a new and singularly memorable experience.”

Samuel Breslow (PO ’18) pointed out that attendees of Speedo Hikes in the past were never forced to don speedos. “I think it’s important to note that wearing a speedo was not a requirement for participation in the speedo hike,” noted Breslow. “I can also speak to it from personal experience: I decided to keep my clothes on (for comfort/in order to lessen the sunburn), and no one ever pressured me in the slightest to take them off.”

“This has been a difficult decision for us to reach. We know lots of our beloved members will be disappointed that Speedo Hike isn’t happening this year,” states OTL’s Facebook page. “In an effort to make the club more inclusive and accessible to everyone, we didn’t want to advertise a trip that our staff felt like wasn’t representational of the full OTL mission and purpose.”

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Image: Flickr