Deans Condemn Student Clubs for Barring Students on Anonymous Complaints

This afternoon, an email was sent out to all Pomona College students from the Dean of Students Office condemning clubs at the Claremont Colleges (5C’s)—an undergraduate college consortium consisting of Pomona, Harvey Mudd College, Claremont McKenna College, Scripps College, and Pitzer College—that have been excluding individual students based on anonymous complaints to electronic lists attached to event invitations. Deans Avis Hinkson—the college’s Dean of Students—and Sue McCarthy wrote that while they “recognize many factors may have led to the use of such lists on campus, the practice of barring, bullying or otherwise punishing students in this manner must end immediately.”

In practice, anyone who sees a Facebook event page hosted by one of these 5C clubs can anonymously blacklist another student through a Google Form or other attached electronic form submission, with no necessary evidence of wrongdoing, and as a result prevent that person from accessing or attending said event. These lists could be used to de facto bar individuals based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or political beliefs. 

A recent example of this practice occurred at an event called “VIVA Latino-América”  hosted on Pomona College’s campus celebrating Latin music and culture. Part of the Facebook event description read: “If you do not feel comfortable with any person attending the event due to any reason, then they will not be allowed to attend.” The description then instructed people to anonymously enter names into a Google Document, for which a link was also attached. The result was that if somebody did not like a certain student, or deemed that student to be a threat to themselves, the student could be barred from the party for no reason apart from the subjective claim that a certain individual’s presence made them uncomfortable.

However, while the deans acknowledged that the blacklists could be used to prevent sexual violence by certain students, acknowledging “the many challenges survivors/victims face here and nationwide,” they encouraged students to report such matters through the college’s established reporting procedures. “Pomona is dedicated to providing resources for confidential support and promoting a campus culture of care and respect. For this and all forms of discrimination and harassment, Pomona is committed to providing a formal complaint resolution process that is equitable.”

The email sent by the Dean of Students Office added that “the use of anonymous allegations of misconduct to socially isolate or exclude students should not take the place of the College’s established procedures, which encourage reporting, provide support and ensure that all parties are treated fairly and that allegations of discrimination, harassment and/or sexual misconduct are confidentially handled and thoroughly investigated.

Jack Weber, a first-year student attending Pomona told the Independent that he “[doesn’t] think that clubs should be able to blacklist students. Pomona College should strive to push students outside of their intellectual comfort zone. Excluding students with different or ‘uncomfortable’ views works against that mission.”

The email included a warning that the College “will be contacting student leaders of all registered student organizations to remind them of their obligations under the College’s non-discrimination and other policies and that any future use of such lists may result in organizational and individual disciplinary sanctions.”

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