Pomona College’s Sagehen Employee Support Fund, which the college started in October “to respond to some of the immediate needs of [Pomona’s] furloughed staff,” has been able to provide emergency grants to 85% of all eligible employees thanks to a high volume of donations. According to an email from the Pomona administration, over 165 of the more than 200 furloughed employees have contacted America’s Charities, Pomona’s partner organization, to receive their $1,500 emergency grants.
Despite having made significant gains, the fund has still fallen short of its goal to respond to the “immediate needs of [Pomona’s] furloughed staff.” As of now, Pomona has received $250,000 of the $300,000 requested in its original statement. Staff became eligible to apply for grants on October 15.
The decision to furlough staff received criticism from faculty when it was first announced in September, with some claiming that, while the college faces serious financial issues, including a budget shortfall of $37 million, “there are many ways for the college to approach that that would not fall on the people with the least resources employed by the college.” Student group Occupy Pomona also criticized the furloughs, stating that “[i]n challenging times, [Pomona’s] true intentions and values have come to light.” Another student group, the 5C Student Worker Alliance, raised $57,000 to distribute to furloughed employees.
In addition to the Employee Support Fund, Pomona partnered with UNITE HERE Local 11 and the Hospitality Training Academy earlier this month to provide meals to seniors homebound by the COVID-19 pandemic. The program has enabled the college to bring back a portion of its dining hall staff, who “are being paid regular wages through the end of the calendar year.” Pomona has not confirmed whether or not this program will continue into the spring semester, whether or not any students return to campus.
According to Pomona, “[t]he Sagehen Employee Support Fund is a joint effort of the Alumni Association Board, Staff and Faculty Charitable Giving Committees, Faculty Executive Committee, Advancement Office, ASPC and the Pomona College Board of Trustees.” The college stated that donations have come from alumni, faculty, trustees, administrators, and students.