The Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC), the student government at the college, is funding and launching an airport rideshare program that will provide free transportation from two Los Angeles area airports to campus exclusively for students from “non-traditional” family structures and immigrant, DACA/undocumented, first-generation, and low-income students. Continue reading
In an open letter to outgoing Pomona College President David Oxtoby, a group of students from the Claremont Colleges assail the president for affirming Pomona’s commitment to free speech and demand that all five colleges “take action” against the conservative journalists on the staff of the Claremont Independent.
The letter, written by three self-identified Black students at Pomona College, is a response to an April 7 email from President Oxtoby in which he reiterated the college’s commitment to “the exercise of free speech and academic freedom” in the aftermath of protests that shut down a scheduled appearance by an invited speaker, scholar and Black Lives Matter critic Heather Mac Donald, on April 6.
“Protest has a legitimate and celebrated place on college campuses,” Oxtoby wrote. “What we cannot support is the act of preventing others from engaging with an invited speaker. Our mission is founded upon the discovery of truth, the collaborative development of knowledge and the betterment of society.”
In their open letter, the students sharply disagree.
“Free speech, a right many freedom movements have fought for, has recently become a tool appropriated by hegemonic institutions. It has not just empowered students from marginalized backgrounds to voice their qualms and criticize aspects of the institution, but it has given those who seek to perpetuate systems of domination a platform to project their bigotry,” they write.
“Thus, if ‘our mission is founded upon the discovery of truth,’” the students continue, citing Oxtoby’s letter, “how does free speech uphold that value?”
The students also characterize truth as a “myth” and a white supremacist concept.
“Historically, white supremacy has venerated the idea of objectivity, and wielded a dichotomy of ‘subjectivity vs. objectivity’ as a means of silencing oppressed peoples,” they explain. “The idea that there is a single truth–‘the Truth’–is a construct of the Euro-West that is deeply rooted in the Enlightenment, which was a movement that also described Black and Brown people as both subhuman and impervious to pain. This construction is a myth and white supremacy, imperialism, colonization, capitalism, and the United States of America are all of its progeny. The idea that the truth is an entity for which we must search, in matters that endanger our abilities to exist in open spaces, is an attempt to silence oppressed peoples.”
In reference to the protests of Mac Donald, the open letter explains that engaging with Mac Donald’s speech would have amounted to a debate not “on mere difference of opinion, but [on] the right of Black people to exist.”
“Heather Mac Donald is a fascist, a white supremacist, a warhawk, a transphobe, a queerphobe, a classist, and ignorant of interlocking systems of domination that produce the lethal conditions under which oppressed peoples are forced to live,” the letter claims. “Why are you [President Oxtoby], and other persons in positions of power at these institutions, protecting a fascist and her hate speech and not students that are directly affected by her presence?”
The open letter concludes by insisting that Oxtoby apologize for his April 7 email and issue a new message that the college “does not tolerate hate speech and speech that projects violence onto the bodies of its marginalized students and oppressed peoples.”
The students also demand that the Claremont Colleges “take action” against the staff of the Claremont Independent for their “continual perpetuation of hate speech, anti-Blackness, and intimidation toward students of marginalized backgrounds.” Taking a step further, they call for “disciplinary action” against conservative journalists from the Claremont Colleges.
“We also demand that Pomona College and the Claremont University Consortium entities take action against the Claremont Independent editorial staff for its continual perpetuation of hate speech, anti-Blackness, and intimidation toward students of marginalized backgrounds,” they write. “Provided that the Claremont Independent releases the identity of students involved with this letter and such students begin to receive threats and hate mail, we demand that this institution and its constituents take legal action against members of the Claremont Independent involved with the editing and publication process as well as disciplinary action, such as expulsion on the grounds of endangering the wellbeing of others.”
The letter’s signatories, of whom there are more than 20 at the time of publication, request a response by the afternoon of April 18.
The authors of the letter did not immediately respond to the Independent’s requests for comment.
Update: A link to President Oxtoby’s original email has been added to this article.
Just under five years ago, on the thirtieth anniversary of Plyler v. Doe, then-president Barack Obama put forth an executive order that created the immigration policy known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). In higher education, this policy has conferred many benefits upon certain undocumented residents of the U.S., including limited protection from immigration officers and access to public and private financial aid packages.
DACA grants immigrants a two-year grace period during which they are treated as temporary residents and are eligible for work permits. The policy is only available to those who (a) came into the United States before their sixteenth birthday before June 2007; (b) are currently in school, are a high school graduate, or have been honorably discharged from the military; (c) were born after June 15, 1981; and (d) are not a threat to American security.
Those granted DACA status have no path to citizenship, yet they still can receive a number of benefits normally exclusive to legal permanent residents of the U.S. These benefits include being able to obtain a driver’s license in all fifty states, having an ‘exempt non-citizen’ status that absolves them from the fines for not having insurance under the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, being granted special tax refunds and credits, and being able to obtain temporary social security numbers.
The benefits of DACA for its grantees, however, go far beyond these basics and extend deeply into the American higher education system. In twenty states, DACA immigrants are allowed to register for public community colleges, colleges, and universities with an in-state resident status, which halves their tuition costs in many circumstances. In six states, they qualify for state-funded financial aid packages for public colleges and universities. On top of any state-sponsored financial aid packages for which DACA grantees qualify, there are many private scholarships and grants available. States like Utah offer private funding through public universities to their DACA students.
Some private colleges such as Amherst College and Columbia University offer the same need-blind admission policy to both domestic and non-citizen applicants alike. Others, such as Pomona College, a member of the Claremont Consortium, go further and do not differentiate between documented and undocumented applicants for either admissions or financial aid. Pitzer College and Scripps College, also members of the Claremont Consortium, each offer full, renewable grants for one undocumented first-year student per year. Scripps also recently announced they will follow Pomona’s example and will begin extending need-based financial aid to all undocumented students, regardless of their DACA status, next fall. Meanwhile, at the other Claremont Colleges, Claremont McKenna College and Harvey Mudd College, undocumented students must apply for external scholarships such as the Cal Grant if they require financial assistance, though at Harvey Mudd, they are encouraged to apply for international student financial aid.
Once DACA students have graduated from their respective undergraduate institutions, state law determines the opportunities available to them. In California, for instance, DACA students may acquire licenses to practice law, medicine, nursing, and pharmacy; can study abroad; and, for the University of California postgraduate programs, they are eligible for all financial aid, grants, and fellowships applicable to U.S. citizens.
Nonetheless, even with all of the benefits of the DACA program, DACA students still fear that their information might be passed along to federal immigration officers. While all DACA immigrants’ information has been shared with the Department of Homeland Security, ICE may not access this information at this time. Many DACA students fear that this could change under President Trump. In response to these anxieties, DACA students and their allies have advocated that colleges become ‘sanctuary campuses.’ Like sanctuary cities, they would protect the local undocumented community from deportation and arrest by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers.
Unfortunately for DACA students, neither of these sanctuary environments have any real legal force, as ICE can still conduct raids on a sanctuary campus. The most that these sanctuary communities and immigration activists can do is to refuse to share information with ICE, to hand over undocumented immigrants, or to coordinate with local police as they attempt to assist ICE. Given that ICE only has around five thousand agents, help from local police departments is necessary for successful ICE operations.
Even within the five-college Claremont Consortium, the magnitude of each school’s efforts greatly differ. Pomona’s president David W. Oxtoby acknowledges that calling the college a ‘sanctuary campus’ is not entirely accurate as Pomona cannot offer either literal sanctuary or legal authority in protecting its students; yet, of the five colleges—arguably of virtually all liberal arts colleges—Pomona offers the greatest amount of aid and support to its estimated fifty to sixty undocumented students. Pitzer and Scripps, on the other hand, have declared themselves to be sanctuary colleges, but the services designated for their undocumented students are much more limited than those of Pomona. Harvey Mudd and Claremont McKenna put even less resources toward supporting their undocumented students, have not changed their nondiscrimination policies to the extent which Scripps and Pomona have, and neither institution has come forward offering to help these students find legal aid if needed.
Colleges have been eager to throw public support behind their undocumented students, as evidenced by strong support for DACA among college presidents. All five presidents of Claremont’s undergraduate institutions, along with the presidents of 634 other institutions, signed a letter put forth by President Oxtoby that DACA should not only be sustained, but should also be expanded. Calling DACA’s expansion a “moral imperative” and a “national necessity,” President Oxtoby goes on to state that undocumented students “represent what is best about America.”
Not all college administrators, even those who signed it, are completely on board with the progressive sentiments President Oxtoby expresses in the letter. Claremont McKenna’s president Hiram Chodosh wrote to the CMC community, “I believe that the Statement’s specific advocacy for DACA may … compromise non-partisan values vital to higher education.” All five schools, however, including Claremont McKenna, have promised to offer counseling resources to their undocumented students and to require that Claremont College Campus Security officers not ask students to disclose their citizenship status.
It is unbelievable how freedom of the press, a right our Founding Fathers so cherished, has eroded in a country that prides itself on its liberties. It is unbelievable how the right to cover an open event, which freedom of the press entails, cannot be practiced on college campuses.
Last week, while trying to cover an open event discussing the role of the Asian-American and Pacific Islander (API) community in the Black Lives Matter movement, hosted by Pomona College’s Asian American Resource Center (AARC)—which considers itself a “safe space”—I uncovered the sad state of free press at Pomona College. I was hoping to objectively cover this event, to bring out the little-known viewpoints of the API community on the Black Lives Matter movement. This hope was greeted by resentment and hostility, and I left with one message: Freedom of the press does not belong, and is not welcome, in safe spaces.
The process of stifling free press begins right as a journalist walks through the doors into the safe space. While I was initially welcomed when I asked if I could record the event and take notes, further questioning revealed I was trying to cover the event for a student-run publication. Even then, the event facilitators extended their warm welcome, until it was brought to light that this student-run publication was The Claremont Independent, a conservative-leaning paper. No more warm welcome and no more recording allowed, but I was still permitted to take notes.
The death blow of free press in this “safe space” struck later, when I started to take notes on my laptop just as the event began. As I finished typing my second line of notes, I was informed that note-taking would only be permitted if it was approved by all participants of the event—if even one participant objected to my note-taking, I would not be allowed to take notes. Unsurprisingly, after a blindfold vote, at least one person voted against note-taking, and I was told to stop taking notes. I was told that taking notes made participants uncomfortable, and that I should respect the AARC as a “safe space.” In a subsequent meeting with the director of AARC, I was told the AARC functions primarily as a “safe space” where participants should feel comfortable, and that people’s fears and concerns of an Independent journalist taking notes should be respected in this safe space, adding that the AARC does not want its views advertised to an audience the Independent could reach.
Despite making it clear that speech at this event should make all participants comfortable, attacks on capitalism and “capitalist violence,” the “heteropatriarchal” society, and traits of the “model minority” (like working hard and obeying the law) were left unchecked, without the slightest consideration of whether I, with differing political views, would feel comfortable listening to endless assaults to values which I hold dear. Yet with free press dead, who dares challenge this hypocrisy?
In the college campus “safe space,” with no freedom of the press, there is no check on the lack of ideological diversity, no way for “safe spaces” to promote their messages through an objective third party, and no way for the public to know about and effectively help pressure and protest against the hypocritical “inclusiveness” of safe spaces.
Free press is the restraint that keeps “safe spaces” from becoming “hate spaces” that do not fear whether the stifling of differing views, the silencing of people from different parts of the political spectrum, and the venting and promotion of anger towards certain groups of people, will ever be exposed to and critiqued by the public, where there is no fear whether the public will pressure them to change. Because, without the restraint of free press on safe spaces, the public will simply never know.
Unless safe spaces are made accessible to the free press, journalists need to abide by a new rule concerning reporting in safe spaces: Don’t try. Yet I remain confident, and hopeful, that through the efforts of those who act to uphold our Founding Fathers’ values on college campuses, the rule for journalists will be “Dare to try. Dare to uphold and defend the diversity of opinion, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press.”
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.