In an open letter released this evening—the second this week on the matter—a group of students at the Claremont Colleges have demanded that the Pomona College administration apologize for removing Dr. Jonathan Higgins from his position as director of the Queer Resource Center (QRC).
The students, who identified themselves as the “Concerned QTPOC [Queer Trans People of Color] and Accomplices of the Claremont Colleges,” urged the college to issue a “formal apology to Dr. Higgins and statement of the wrong that has been done” with Higgins’s termination, as well as to clarify the college’s stance on “what constitutes a fireable offense with regards to social media posts.”
The college announced Higgins’s removal last week after several controversial statements from his public Twitter account, including a tweet in which he expressed his wariness of “white gays and well meaning white women,” surfaced in national media coverage.
In the latest open letter, simmering frustration with the rapidity of Pomona’s decision—and with the lack of input from students or the other Claremont Colleges—is evident. The students say that they want “an explanation of why a decision that affects a 5C [Claremont Consortium] resource was made seemingly unilaterally, with the involvement of only Pomona staff” and without the involvement of “any of the QRC staff or any queer students on campus.”
The letter also seeks a “description of the process for hiring Dr. Higgins’ replacement, with particular focus on safeguards and steps to ensure that the hiring process selects someone who will be an ally to and advocate for queer students of color,” and urges the college to take steps “to ensure this type of hiring debacle does not occur again.”
Additionally, the students claim that queer trans people of color see the QRC “as an unwelcoming space” and that the QRC is underfunded and understaffed. These issues, the students say, “merit action” by the college.
“[W]e do believe that the events described above,” the students write, “are serious and merit action and work so that Claremont can be a positive community for queer students of color.”
Unlike last week’s letter from the “Outraged Student Affairs Professionals,” an amalgamation of staff members from colleges across the country which demanded the firing of a college dean for her role in Higgins’s firing, the latest letter concludes that more information is “necessary to pin blame on any particular administrator,” and the majority of signatories of the new letter hail from the Claremont Colleges.
The Claremont Colleges is a consortium of five elite undergraduate liberal arts colleges which includes Pomona College, Claremont McKenna College, Harvey Mudd College, Scripps College, and Pitzer College. The Claremont Colleges share a Queer Resource Center.
This is a developing story and will be updated accordingly.
Update: In a response to the Independent‘s request for information regarding Pomona’s decision to not consult QRC staff members on Higgins’ dismissal, a Pomona College spokesperson stated that the college “[doesn’t] have anything further to add to the statements we’ve previously shared.”
William Gu contributed reporting.