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.”