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.”