Tag Archives: Pomona

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

Editorial: The Importance of Free Expression

Free speech on campus has become a growing issue in the US and internationally as traditionally freer countries place more and more restrictions on speech. As students and journalists at the Claremont Colleges, we have seen the negative repercussions of this trend firsthand—in our classrooms, jobs, places of worship, and even in our coffee shops.

It’s sad what this culture has cost the colleges. We live in a community of bright, engaged students, but fear of radical left wing retribution too often stifles conversations before they start. We are fortunate to study under great professors but, going forward, the quality of many of our tenured faculty will be subject to how well a given professor fits into the Social Justice Warrior mold. Even our peers’ charitable efforts fall prey to the expanding reach of political correctness.

It’s our job as students to shape the community here on campus, but the administration has the power to set the tone and step in when our peers or teachers abuse their power. Too often, our administrations are compliant or even complicit in the destruction of our community’s cohesion and intellectual growth.

Yet last Thursday, President Chodosh and Dean Uvin stood up in favor of our rights in an email released to Claremont McKenna College’s student body and alumni. The email outlined the administration’s commitment to protecting free speech on campus, both inside and outside the classroom. By defending students’ and faculty members’ right to think and speak freely, Claremont McKenna College’s administration has made an important pivot away from the increasingly sensitive culture of censorship and toward a more positive academic community. This will serve students well both in Claremont and outside the bubble.

CMC’s announcement is a strong first step, and we’re hopeful that the administration will take this policy seriously in order to provide students with a well-rounded intellectual environment. We now call on the administrations at Pitzer College, Scripps College, Pomona College, and Harvey Mudd College to adopt the University of Chicago’s policies on speech as well. The Claremont Colleges have a great capacity to influence the world around us, but that can’t happen unless we are allowed to grow as thinkers and as people. We cannot overstate the importance of free expression on campus. Without it, education is impossible.

Steven Glick, Editor-in-Chief

Megan Keller, Publisher

Daniel Ludlam, Managing Editor

To Burn in the Melting Pot: How Can We As Students of Color Better Address Diversity?

“I’m in awe of the diverse backgrounds, talents and academic abilities of the new members of the Class of 2020,” Pomona College’s Dean of Admissions proudly stated in an announcement introducing the admitted class of 2020. “And I look forward to welcoming them to the Pomona community.”

Students and faculty alike are thrilled about Pomona’s admission of the most racially diverse class to date, and understandably so. Racial diversity is certainly something that should be taken into consideration when celebrating a year’s admits and in looking at the progress we as people of color have made in academia. However, race is not the be-all end-all for defining diversity on campus, and nor should it be the sole cause for rejoicing; it is ultimately the diversity of thought that is praiseworthy in building an interconnected, catenated community. Being eager to learn about others’ experiences, I will not feel excited about Pomona’s “diversity” until the ideologies, political and ethical contrasts, and upbringings of students are as dissimilar, yet still communicable. As a person of color myself, I feel more entitled to confront the number of issues I see with how we as students of color talk about race—not how White people should act—and because I evidently don’t identify as White, I am more concerned about what we can do to start the dialogues about race. The diversity of Pomona’s student body as it stands now is only skin deep, and to make these differences more than a pat-ourselves-on-the-back statistic, we as students regardless of race have to undertake a shift in how we address identity.

The dynamic diversity of thought begins where the now hollow definition of “diversity” ends: once the students are admitted and become members of the community. Among those celebrating this historic moment are the current Pomona students of color who push for “safe space” communities built to avoid confrontation with those of dissenting viewpoints—including those within their own demographic(s). Speaking from experience, this alienates people of color with different experiences who may come to a school as diverse as Pomona to seek out dialogue among people with similar identities, yet varied points of view. Defenders of the safe-space phenomenon often argue that it is needed as a coping mechanism as a form of self-preservation, but the reality is that any method resulting in removing oneself from opportunities to reach out to other people will, whatever one calls it, make both parties less likely to connect.

Creating a vibrant conversation between different identities and experiences is the only way to take the fullest advantage of diversity on campus. But so far, this conversation has not seemed possible. The endless “discussions” on campus engender a warped sort of echo-chamber validation that further incentivizes students to avoid conversations with those who hold conflicting views or opinions. Student-led discussions, such as the sustained dialogue on silencing and “tone policing” held at Scripps last semester, have amounted to nothing more than a way for students to express aggressive hostility to opposing views while silencing any kind of rebuttal or challenge to their beliefs. To these students, as Sophie Mann so aptly put it, feelings assume the role of facts, and both the vilified and the vilifying parties go their separate ways bereft of intellectual growth.

While I have witnessed both White and non-White students distancing themselves from conversations regarding race, White students do not expect the same sort of understanding of, and empathy towards, their identity that many students of color do. This sentiment makes sense, as White students’ racial identities are generally not challenged nor made vulnerable by the presence of their counterparts, as it is such the other way around; this is to say that White people do not need the kind of consolation many students of color have come to necessitate. Their desire for commiseration is unmet because they are seeking a number of paradoxical and mutually incompatible forms of treatment from White students. In looking to White students for validation and affirmation of their racial identity, they simultaneously believe White students are unable to comprehend the very concept of racial identity. They then embrace a self-victimizing mentality which garners only pity, not respect, from White students. Though much of their unease and uncomfortability is legitimate and warranted, the fellow-feeling they receive from White students, ironically in the form of pity or subtle patronization, is not as respectful or as congenial as they would like.

What confuses me the most is how although students of color want White students to look through their eyes, they expect that White students come into conversations about racial identity already looking through the eyes of a person of color, or at the very least with an adequate amount of knowledge about race. After conjecturing that many White students do not have the faculty or the background to discuss race, they insist on White people “educating themselves” because they have Google and, as has been explained to me on countless occasions, they have “the necessary researching skills, given that they made it to such a prestigious college.” But how can students of color seriously expect White people to even care about their issues when they push and pull White people so much? White people are not under any actual obligation, and have no need to, become more racially sensitive and aware. When students of color will not take the time to explain what race means to them, they then  give up the right to complain about how ignorant they believe White people to be, given that their silence is contributing to it. These antinomies result from both insecurities of the racial identities of these students of color, along with a feeling that if somebody—against whom these students are biased—legitimizes a belief system that may prove conflicting with their own, then their beliefs are somehow of more merit and thusly more authoritative accounts of the “person of color experience.” The problem is that although a few White students may genuinely not want to discuss race, or even spend time with people of color, the rest are quite receptive and open to hearing about people of color’s racial experiences, but are made less so by the exasperating struggle to even know where to begin learning.

But this is not only the fault of the students; the administration is also involved in further lowering the impetus of White students heeding racial issues with serious consideration. Given the recent push on campus for college-approved, racially-segregated safe spaces, the Claremont Colleges have become complicit in furthering the self-congratulatory, mutual admiration society that limits the discourse they claim to want to promote by having students of so many unique, yet dissimilar identities. What’s worse, the colleges play no role in preventing what comes from these delineations: entitled, one-sided demurring where even people of color are humiliated and silenced when their views do not fall in line with the progressive narrative. If admitting such a racially manifold group of students results in their self-removal and lack of ideation from exposure to other identities and experiences, does racial diversity warrant celebration at all?

In their efforts to diversify the student body, Pomona recently adopted a strategic plan created by the President’s Advisory Committee on Diversity entitled “Lighting the Path to 2025: A Vision for Diversity.” In this document, the word “diversity” is defined as “the multiple, intersecting dimensions of difference that help distinguish one individual or group from another.” This plan does include a section on seeking to “foster a climate that welcomes dissenting views,” though the only strategy proposed to do so is to “promote social spaces of interaction between faculty, staff, and students.” But in practice, these spaces—such as the sustained dialogues—are not settings where discourse is encouraged. Rather, they provide a bully pulpit for those students who have no interest in considering or internalizing others’ opinions, and discourage students with different views from contributing to the discourse on campus. As far as I have seen, it is the students of color who are reluctant to adapt to a climate of dissenting views. Within the echo chambers of these race-specific communities, an aversion to the consideration of opposing viewpoints  is glorified.

Much of this vision only seeks to integrate a greater number of people of color into Pomona without addressing the already present and crippling fissures disuniting the student body: students of color’s feelings of disregard towards their identities, White students’ feelings of being villainized despite them making their best efforts to engage in a dialogue with students of color, and neither party having a successful means of communication. Students of non-minority demographics are expected to embrace and embody these other identities while remaining silent about their own, even though they themselves contribute to the diversity of Pomona. They are asked to internalize the experiences and opinions of marginalized students, yet there is no reciprocation of this sentiment on behalf of “non-marginalized” students. If even as diversity stands now there is this much dissonance, how can we expect the community to develop with even more variation in the student body?

While the administration of Pomona itself can create as many resources, opportunities, and conversations from the top down as it wants, it is up to the students to challenge and better themselves and their perspectives. Before we begin to focus on admitting more diverse students, we need to establish a culture of discourse so that those already here can freely express their beliefs in a dialogical manner. What we need to do as a community is to understand that each and every student admitted to Pomona has their own unique and equally-valuable narrative regardless of race. With these various upbringings, creating conversations that may be uncomfortable or objectionable to some—yet pivotal for expressing the identity of others—may help bridge the gap because there will be less hesitation to have challenging discussions. Much of the diversity that we as a community seek will come from our exposure to the diversity of thought, not the diversity of superficial qualities.

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Image Source: Flickr

CLSA Response “Trumps” Claremont Administration and Students

The Chicano Latino Student Affairs Office (CLSA) released their monthly newspaper CHISPAS in April with a statement from the Associate Dean of Students, Tony Jimenez, in support of political diversity within Chican@ / Latin@ student groups at the Claremont Colleges.

“With international upheaval, the 2016 presidential election and the issues at the colleges, it is important that we take care of each other.” Dean Jimenez states. “We are a community with a diversity of political beliefs and viewpoints. As such, it is very important that we have mutual respect for each other, even when we disagree.” He adds, “What makes us strong is not only our diversity of nations, but our diverse viewpoints. College is a time to engage in thoughtful discourse. Please be mindful and respectful of others. At times we may disagree on our ideas, but we can still have respect for our fellow members of the Claremont community.”

This statement comes in stark contrast to administrators’ responses to recent political and criminal acts on campus, in which the administrations of both Scripps and Pitzer Colleges condemned the word “Trump” as racism. Scripps’ Dean Charlotte Johnson responded by saying that “negative reaction registered by many members of the community is understandable and far from extreme. As all who have experienced can confirm, racist acts and intimidation are not always overt,” in reference to the phrase “#trump2016” written on a Mexican-American student’s whiteboard. Dean Johnson also mentioned her support of first amendment rights and freedom of expression on campus, but highlights that unique circumstances allow speech to be considered hateful or intimidating to students of certain identities. Pitzer’s Dean of Students, Moya Carter, went so far as to denounce the “foolish, embarrassing, hate filled, Islamophobic, fact devoid behavior being represented by some of the [presidential] candidates” just before reminding students to accept diversity of political opinions on campus.

Students at Pitzer and Scripps, however, thought that the statements and actions from administration did not go far enough. Pitzer students wanted the administration to condemn the vandalism as a hate crime and racial intimidation. Scripps College Student President Minjoo Kim openly denounced the Donald Trump messages, immediately assuming that this was an act of racism, harassment, violence, and intimidation of Chican@ / Latin@ students on college campuses. Based on the information from both incidents, we cannot be sure whether or not these messages were written to harass and intimidate students of color. Regardless, it is absurd to claim that messages written on whiteboards and walls are violent or dangerous. This is especially absurd at liberal arts colleges, where “dangerous” ideas are supposed to be discussed in an honest and respectful manner. Vandalizing school property at Pitzer and writing “trump2016” on whiteboards at Scripps is childish and immature, but student responses toward these acts are equally troublesome.

Students like these who consistently advocate for increased racial diversity and support on college campus also need to accept the consequences of diversity in all its aspects. Back in March, my peers created a Facebook page to attack me based on my race and my right-leaning political beliefs after I wrote an article about Callisto, a sexual assault reporting app that has the potential to increase sexual assault reporting rates on college campuses. Other students at the Claremont Colleges simply cannot accept the fact that some Latino students do not follow the typical progressive narrative on campus. With conservative and libertarian college students making up a very small minority of the student population, this shortage is much more noticeable for students of color at the Claremont Colleges who, more often than not, only know a handful of students who they can relate to on both a political and racial or cultural level.

CLSA recognizes that Chican@ / Latin@ students come from different countries, have different nationalities, and come from a wide variety of socioeconomic, religious, and political backgrounds. Many of CLSA’s cultural and student programming events recognize and respect the diversity within the Chican@ / Latin@ community. CLSA supported all students participating in student protests, discussions, and other activities relating to the lack of institutional support for marginalized students in their December newsletter. The office does a good job of talking to and accommodating students from all these different backgrounds. I’ve felt nothing but compassion, understanding, and honesty from the deans and staff that work at CLSA these past four years.

Accepting more and more diverse student bodies doesn’t necessarily mean more students of color. It also means more conservative students, more students from different income backgrounds, and more students from increasingly different cultural, international, and political backgrounds. We are put in an environment where ideas are supposed to clash, contradict, and compile with each other so that we are all better students by the time we graduate. Sure, I would love to see more libertarian, conservative, low-income, first generation Mexican-American student-athletes at the Claremont Colleges, but my personal growth and development would not progress if I was surrounded by students who are just like me all the time. Increased diversity on our college campuses will create more of these clashing ideological conflicts, but we have to accept and learn from those experiences if we want to become better students and a truly inclusive campus community.

Social Justice Warriors Are the Reason Donald Trump Exists

Over the past couple weeks, students at colleges across the country have retreated into their safe spaces to protest the “hate speech” that is Donald Trump’s name. Never to be left out of a big PC trend, the Claremont Colleges have seen plenty of oversensitivity to Trump as well. Students and administrators at both Scripps College and  Pitzer College have referred to the phrases “#Trump2016” and “Make America” as “harassment,” “intimidation,” and “racism,” among other things. What these students seem to be missing is that their outrage is exactly what has made Trump’s candidacy so successful.

Political correctness has reached a point where it is essentially impossible to have an honest, open conversation about sensitive issues. Trump’s rise is nothing more than a direct response to the growing trend of language policing, and nowhere has this pattern of offense-taking victim culture been more evident than right here in Claremont.

At Pomona College, students protested an America-themed party because they felt that it supported “imperialism, violence, and racist power structures.” A mad scientist-themed party was opposed because the student government felt that the party’s name—“Mudd Goes Madd”—“trivializes mental health and disability issues.”

At Pitzer College, the Student Senate rejected a proposed Yacht Club because they thought that the word “yacht” was offensive to low-income students. Just weeks later, that same Student Senate did not approve a student’s request to start a campus branch of the national DreamCatcher Foundation—an organization that helps to give happy experiences to terminally ill hospice patients—because, even though the Student Senators believed that it “seems like a worthy organization in their goals and mission,” they were concerned that the word “DreamCatcher” was a form of cultural appropriation. This despite the fact that the CEO of the national organization is Native American herself.

The administration at Scripps College rescinded its invitation to George Will to speak at the Malott Public Affairs Program, a conservative speaker series intended to provide students with an opportunity to hear viewpoints they disagree with, because they didn’t agree with the conservative views Will expressed in a column he had written for the Washington Post. A cupcake-decorating event at Scripps was criticized for being a “garbage, cis, white event” and  “incredibly violent to trans women,” and students who defended the event were called “racist.” Just a few weeks later, the same on-campus coffee shop that hosted the cupcake event allowed only “people of color and allies that they invite” inside. Minority-only “safe spaces” appeared at Pomona College as well, where students were told that the presence of white students would prevent their nonwhite peers from feeling “safe” and “comfortable.”

The political correctness movement is losing traction because students are growing tired of being told what lecturers they can listen to, what parties they can go to, what clubs they can start, what charities they can support, and how they can decorate their cupcakes.

This same principle applies to most Americans on national political issues. Any opposition to illegal immigration and any efforts to call out radical Islam have been deemed unacceptable by the PC police. Much of Trump’s appeal comes from his brash, unapologetic demeanor and ongoing crudity in the face of public resentment. He maintains his strong views on immigration despite frequently being called a racist by progressives. He is willing to speak out against radical Islamic terror even when his critics try to call him an Islamophobe. He’s the only presidential candidate in American history who can talk about the size of his penis without committing political suicide. The fact that Trump is willing to confront societal taboos and revel in other people’s shock and distaste hits home with those who are tired of rampant PC culture dictating what they can and cannot do with their lives.

Overwhelmingly, Trump is supported by those Americans that feel constantly derided by elites in academia, the media, and Washington, DC. It only confirms Trump’s narrative when students and administrators at some of the most elite, exclusive, and expensive colleges in the country describe the act of writing Trump slogans on campus as “hate crimes” and acts of “violence.” These sorts of reactions communicate to the American working class what Trump has been peddling throughout his campaign: the upper echelons of society find your very presence offensive and they will seek to exclude, or even—in their ideal world—oppress you. How do you imagine that looks to Trump supporters? Every time a social justice warrior tries to call out Donald Trump over supposed bigotry, he, she, they, or ze adds more fuel to the Trump fire. Ah, the irony.

 

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Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

President Oxtoby to Step Down

In an email sent this morning to the Pomona College community, David W. Oxtoby – thirteen year President of Pomona College – announced his plans to step down in June 2017.

President Oxtoby states that he is “very proud of Pomona College.” In particular, he references “the successful conclusion of Campaign Pomona: Daring Minds,” a five-year, $250 million fundraising effort that has contributed to new construction projects like those of the Studio Art Center and Millikan Hall, as well as increased funding for internships, fellowships, and scholarships.

He further assures the community: “While I am considering opportunities I might pursue, my highest priority will remain leading this amazing institution in the months ahead. I am confident that the leadership and expertise of our faculty, the experience of our staff, the determination and talent of our students, and the time we have to partner together on the shared goals will make this a smooth transition and allow us to remain focused on the critical work still at hand.” With the support from the Board, President Oxtoby plans to continue advancing “the College’s key priorities and successful operations of the institution.”

This advancement will include “working to improve diversity and inclusion, developing plans for the new Pomona College Museum of Art, progressing [Pomona’s] commitment to be climate neutral by 2030, and taking the next steps to further integrate the new Sontag Center for Collaborative Creativity into The Claremont Colleges.”

President Oxtoby closes by urging the college to “continue to move ahead, celebrating the meaningful work we do here every day and exploring exciting opportunities for the future.”

Sam Glick, Chair of the Pomona College Board of Trustees, emailed the Pomona College community following President Oxtoby’s announcement, stating that “We will celebrate President Oxtoby’s many contributions to the College in due course.  For now, however, both President Oxtoby and the Board of Trustees have plenty of work to do.  Every year that he has led the College, President Oxtoby has moved our institution forward with characteristic energy and ambition.  I expect his final year to be no exception, and he has the full support of the Board of Trustees in continuing to advance Pomona’s mission.”

Mr. Glick continues: “Meanwhile, the Board of Trustees must begin the important task of choosing President Oxtoby’s successor.  Selecting a new leader is the highest duty a governing body has – a duty that my colleagues on the Board and I intend to carry out with humility and careful deliberation.  Over the next month or so, we will design a process to select the tenth president of Pomona College.  While we will share more specifics regarding that process in April, I know that it will reflect Pomona’s long tradition of shared governance, and, as with previous presidential searches, will take into account the perspectives and priorities of Pomona’s diverse community, including faculty, staff, students and alumni.”

Mr. Glick concludes by assuring the Pomona College community that “Pomona has never been in a stronger position to recruit a new president, and President Oxtoby’s transition presents us with a valuable moment in which we can reflect as a community on who we are, who we want to be, and how a new leader can support us on that journey.”

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Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Pomona College Faces Discrimination Lawsuit

Matt Harris, 18, is suing Pomona College for $20 million on charges of discrimination. Harris, of Portland, OR, claims that the school violated federal law for failing to recognize his right to self-expression. The lawsuit, filed yesterday, asserts that Pomona College discriminated against Harris based on his identity and barred him from participating in school activities with his peers.

Upon arriving to campus for orientation, Harris was surprised to find that he had not been assigned to a room and was not on the roster for any of Pomona’s Orientation Adventures. When other freshmen were matched with sponsors and given a scheduled time to register for classes, Harris was not. Concerned, he stopped by the Admissions Office in search of an explanation.

“Basically, they told me that they didn’t think people like me belonged at Pomona,” recalls Harris. “They thought I was different from the other students, and somehow inherently worse. It was really unbelievable to hear comments like that from an administrator at a school that touts itself as so tolerant and open-minded.”

Pomona administrators felt that the treatment of Harris was perfectly justified. “These activities were for Pomona freshmen only,” said Assistant Dean of Admissions Will Hummel. “Matt Harris was not admitted to Pomona. He graduated with a GPA of 2.3 and scored a 1240 on his SAT. While we do use a holistic admissions approach, there’s only so much we can do in situations like this. On his letter of rejection, I recommended that he consider applying to Scripps instead, as he might be better able to contribute to diversity there.”

Harris insists that this is not an issue of qualifications, but rather a classic case of bias. “What I don’t understand here is why nobody cares at all about my identity,” said Harris. “I raise my own sage grouse in my backyard, I gave up showering and drinking water long before the drought even started, and I am committed to taking down the colonialist cisheteropatriarchy. I even wear a Che Guevara t-shirt every single day. I self-identify as a Pomona student, whether the admissions office likes it or not, and nobody can take that away from me.”

Harris’ lawyer, who at the time of this writing is named Atticus Larson (Larson is still in the process of having his first name legally changed), noted that he believes Harris’ case has strong precedent in cases pertaining to workplace discrimination.

“Essentially, Pomona rejected my client despite his superior qualifications. Pomona claims that Harris’ grades and test scores make him less capable of succeeding at Pomona, but this is clearly false,” Larson began. “My client’s credentials show that he is even better qualified than most Pomona students to smoke weed and sleep through his 1:15pm classes while whining about the oppression he faces. The evidence could not be clearer, and I have no doubt the judge will agree.”

Vice President and Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum explained that, in response to the controversy surrounding Harris, Pomona is currently in the process of revising its policies pertaining to bias and discrimination. “At Pomona, we make a conscious effort to avoid discrimination based on one’s race, gender, sexuality, and socioeconomic status,” Feldblum wrote in an official statement. “However, it has come to my attention that—for the entire history of the school—we have discriminated against people based on their academic credentials, and that needs to stop. We are currently working toward a solution for a more inclusive Pomona.”

                                                                              

Image: Flickr

 

News Flash, Pomona: We’re #1—And That’s a Good Thing

Pomona College was ranked #1 in Forbes magazine’s 2015 Best Colleges List, a fact that the college had proudly stated on its recently-renovated website since the ranking came out this past July. Earlier today, however, Pomona removed its Forbes ranking from the school’s official website in response to a petition that made the rounds on Facebook starting yesterday. The petition, signed by 58 of Pomona’s approximately 1,600 students, expressed concerns about the “harmful effects of college rankings” on students applying to colleges.

The statement reads, “Pressure to attend highly ranked schools can result in stress, anxiety, and unhealthy competition among students at a time when we are most in need of support, trust, and objective information.”

There are several problems with this rhetoric. First of all, most students applying to college begin their search by perusing US News and World Report, Forbes, Business Insider and other college rankings lists to get a sense for the schools that are realistic options for them given their academic credentials.  Only then do they review schools’ own websites. Even though Pomona removed its ranking from its website, the ranking is still easily accessible on Forbes’ website where students and their parents are likely to see it.

Further, removing the ranking from Pomona’s website will not change the pressure students feel to attend highly ranked colleges.  As long as these rankings exist, students will feel compelled to try to attend a highly ranked college, as these colleges (especially those on Forbes’ list) promise a higher return on students’ college investment.  Given the ever rising cost of a four-year education, this is important for all students, particularly those from low-income families or those who are paying for college without parental assistance. 

Additionally, the petition’s concerns about a lack of objective information are completely unfounded. Forbes’ rankings are based almost entirely on objective criteria: graduation rates, retention rates, graduates’ salaries, and average federal student loan debt load, for example. The only subjective data Forbes uses is student evaluations from RateMyProfessor, which constitute just 7.5% of a school’s ranking.

The petition goes on to state, “We encourage Pomona College to instead emphasize the many qualities which make it great and beloved–its community and relationships, small and rigorous classes, commitment to access, and student research and leadership opportunities. These qualities tell the story of our college far better than a single number.”

Oddly enough, these criteria are all entirely subjective. Nearly every US college brags on its website about its “community and relationships,” “rigorous classes,” and “leadership opportunities.” If these were the only criteria that schools presented to their prospective students, it would be impossible to distinguish any two colleges from one another. Forbes—and other similar rankings—use objective data to compare drastically different schools and give students the best opportunity to make a decision based on the qualities that are most important to them.

Students who don’t care about rankings—presumably the same students who signed the petition—should not care either way about how the rankings are publicized. After all, they certainly don’t take them into consideration when choosing which school to attend. But for some students—and, more importantly, for many employers—rankings are very important. The unfortunate truth is that despite Pomona’s strong academics and high ranking, it still is not a very well known school. There is a strong possibility that potential employers will not have heard of Pomona and will need to look it up when Pomona grads apply for jobs. The first hit an employer who googles Pomona College will see is Pomona’s official website. If pomona.edu lists the Forbes ranking right from the get-go, it guarantees that employers will know that Pomona is a well-respected college.

Perhaps the most troubling part of this debacle is the statement that it makes. Pomona’s removal of its ranking from the website is simply a statement that the school does not feel comfortable embracing its own success. Whether students are willing to admit it or not, college is competitive. Students compete to attend the best schools, schools compete to matriculate the best students, and employers compete to recruit graduates from the best colleges. In a competitive environment, not everyone can be a winner. Pomona should take pride in the fact that a major publication considers it to be the best college in America rather than giving in to the concerns of a handful of students who are worried that our objective success will negatively affect our vibrant and diverse community. There is no harm that can come of leaving the ranking online, but real harm could be done to Pomona graduates by failing to post the ranking. It is the responsibility of the college to do everything in its power to help its students succeed, and by removing the ranking from its website, Pomona has failed in that responsibility.

At Pomona, our culture assumes that anyone with a complaint has a legitimate grievance. This is simply not true, and it will be to the detriment of the school if we continue to allow anything that bothers even the tiniest fraction of our student body to be banned.

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Photography by Wes Edwards.