I Resign: The Writing Center’s Mission is to Teach Writing, Not Ideology
Dear Professor Bromley, Ms. Liu-Rojas, and Ms. Snell,
I am writing to resign my position as a Writing Fellow. I wish that I felt I could continue in this role and am sorry to resign mid-year. As you know, writing is one of my passions and as you also know, that wasn’t always the case. It was my freshman seminar that convinced me I could write and that I enjoyed it. My professor, Dean Lozano, was instrumental in that process, and his Writing Fellow, Ben Brasch, was key as well. At the conclusion of the course, I decided to apply to become a Writing Fellow in the hope that I could inspire other writers the way I had been inspired. I was thrilled and honored to be selected to serve as a Fellow.
I had genuinely thought the purpose of the Writing Center was to teach writing. I hadn’t realized the writing instruction would be delivered with a side of ideology and that the ideology was not only mandatory but also more important than the actual teaching of writing. I’ve learned this over the past few months, which is the reason for my resignation.
First, Ms. Snell, the Writing Center Team Coordinator, asked me to meet with her. She accused me of being an obstacle preventing the Writing Center from being a “safe space.” This came in response to a news article I had written that detailed a series of no-whites-allowed “safe spaces” at the Claremont Colleges. Ms. Snell specifically mentioned my article, and noted she was concerned that my involvement with both the Writing Center and the Claremont Independent would lead students to associate the organizations with one another. Obviously, many other Writing Fellows contribute to campus publications. But as far as I’m aware, no one else has been told that’s a problem.
My next meeting was with Professor Bromley. She told me she was worried that I was not doing enough to make the Writing Center a space where students feel welcome. To rectify that, she canceled my appointments that night and asked me to read three packets about identity politics instead. One of the readings states that teaching English to non-native English speakers is an attack on free speech. Another criticizes “the hegemonic feminist theory produced by academic women, most of whom were white.” The third, titled “Heteropatriarchy and the Three Pillars of White Supremacy,” states that capitalism is racist. I read all three packets, as I had been told to do. I did not agree with the opinions presented in any of them, nor did I see any connection between these readings and my work at the Writing Center.
Ms. Snell then asked to meet with me again to talk about what I had read, and what role identity politics should play in the Writing Center’s mission. My peers have proposed their ideas for a new Writing Center mission statement, noting that we should aspire to “provide a space for students to work through their ideas with fellows trained in a writing pedagogy that considers how race, gender, sexuality, language, national-origin, and socioeconomic status influences and affects those ideas,” “educate ourselves so that we better understand oppression, liberation, and dynamics of difference and power as they manifest themselves in the Writing Center,” and “acknowledge and interrogate the ways in which the Writing Center, Pomona College, and academia itself perpetuate and have perpetuated injustice and oppression.” I told Ms. Snell that, in my opinion, the goal of the Writing Center should remain unchanged: to provide “students with a community of experienced readers and writers, offering free, one-on-one consultations at any stage of the writing process—from generating a thesis and structuring an argument to fine-tuning a draft.”
I guess that was the wrong answer, since the next day I was placed on probation and informed that I needed to meet with Professor Bromley and Ms. Liu-Rojas, the Writing Center’s administrative assistant, the following week. I was told the reason for my probation was that I had missed a mandatory meeting for Writing Fellows, but at my meeting with Professor Bromley and Ms. Liu-Rojas, we did not discuss that at all. Rather, we talked about my prior meeting with Ms. Snell. Apparently, “her feelings had been hurt” because of my “tone.” Professor Bromley and Ms. Liu-Rojas told me that if I did anything else they deemed wrong, I would be fired.
The following night, I worked my normal shift. I met with two students and I thought that both consultations had gone well. However, I soon received an email from Professor Bromley stating that the Writing Center had received an “anonymous complaint” from a student who had worked with me, that they were investigating the situation, and that my appointments would be canceled until further notice. Perhaps coincidentally, a quick Facebook search revealed that one of the students with whom I worked that night had dressed as “White Supremacy” for Halloween and appeared in photos with two other students who were dressed as “Steven Glick and his White Fragility,” yet she still chose to work with me as her tutor.
Based on these incidents, which have occurred over many months, it has become clear that the Writing Center is harassing me because of my political beliefs. This is unacceptable, just as harassment based on gender, race, religion or any other demographic or ideological construct is unacceptable. My probation is not related to any inadequacy of my work at the Writing Center. Rather, it is due to my political views, which differ greatly from those of the Writing Center leadership. Each time I have been asked to meet with Writing Center leadership, I am asked to talk about controversial political issues that are unrelated to my work at the Center. Soon after each meeting, I have been informed I’ve done something wrong on the job and need to be punished. I had hoped that President Oxtoby’s recent statement in support of free speech at Pomona College would be a game changer, allowing conservative, libertarian, and classically liberal students and faculty to share our honest opinions with our progressively liberal peers who seem to control the sanctioned conversation on campus. Unfortunately, I was naively optimistic. His words carry no meaning if they are ignored and countermanded by Pomona’s faculty and staff.
I wish I could continue to work at the Writing Center because I feel that it’s important for all students, whether black or white, on financial aid or not, conservative or liberal, to have a place to review and strengthen their writing. Unfortunately, the Writing Center no longer seems to be that place. Until the Writing Center can return to its apolitical mission and forsake its acceptance and appeasement of political harassment, I regret that I must resign my position as a Writing Fellow.
Editor-in-Chief, The Claremont Independent