Pomona Concedes, No Fines or Residential Access Restrictions

After the deadline to vacate campus, Pomona College “deans and staff are reportedly walking through all dorms,” asking students if they have permission to stay on campus. According to student group Occupy Pomona, deans walked through the residence halls two times in a day. Pomona College also verbally informed student activist group Occupy Pomona that students will not be fined and will continue to have access to residence halls. This is a major milestone for student activists, who began by ensuring that students would not be forcibly removed from campus.

Admin will also send out an email by noon tomorrow explaining next steps. They have said that there will not be fines, nor will they shut off access to buildings. — OCCUPY POMONA (@OCCUPY_POMONA) March 20, 2020

UPDATE: Admin has announced that students living on campus right now will be able to stay at Pomona through the end of the semester. By Tuesday morning, all on-campus students will need to move into Oldenborg. #HomelessAtPomona — OCCUPY POMONA (@OCCUPY_POMONA) March 20, 2020

UPDATE: Deans and staff are reportedly doing walk-throughs again right now. Going through dorms of those approved to stay and those awaiting appeal responses. Hearing that some are asking for IDs. — OCCUPY POMONA (@OCCUPY_POMONA) March 19, 2020

Occupy Pomona previously met with Pomona College officials, including Pomona President G. Gabrielle Starr and Dean of Students Avis Hinkson on March 18.

Previously, Pomona denied the majority of petitions for students to stay on campus amid an evacuation to prevent the potential spread of the coronavirus, leaving many low-income and international students with no home to return to, even if travel costs were paid. 

Occupy Pomona published a letter with the group’s arguments, citing how “a survey among Pomona College students who have filled out a petition to stay has found huge inconsistencies in reasons for approval and denial to stay on campus.” The letter centers around the several problems many students who have been denied their petitions to stay on campus face. 

International students are worried to contract the virus through extensive air travel. These students are also concerned about potential visa restrictions to return to the US for graduate study or employment. Traveling students also hope to avoid transmitting the virus to older, immunocompromised family members. The letter notes that first-generation and low-income students face a significantly higher risk of homelessness if evicted under short notice. Lastly, some students do not have the “emotional capacity” or family situations where they can continue to complete their challenging Pomona course loads.

Prior to publishing this letter, Occupy Pomona had been protesting the College’s decision to evict at-risk students from their on-campus housing, citing limited resources and the importance of social distancing. The letter specifically references other top-tier liberal arts colleges, such as Williams College and fellow Claremont College Consortium member Harvey Mudd College (HMC), which did not make move-outs mandatory. Occupy Pomona also expressed gratitude for families who welcomed displaced students into their homes. However, Starr “strongly recommend[ed] that families and students do not carry out these types of ad-hoc arrangements).”

In addition to its demands, Occupy Pomona promised that students who stay on campus would practice social distancing and not travel outside of California during the semester as long as the state is in a State of Emergency. 

In response, Pomona sent out an email on March 20th stating that all 98 remaining on-campus students “will need to move into Oldenborg, which has the type of air circulation deemed healthiest for this situation,” as well as being closer to the mailroom and having a better student-bathroom ratio than residential halls like Sontag and Dialynas, which Occupy Pomona requested be made accessible to students in their open letter to Pomona’s administration. Each student will be assigned a single in compliance with California Governor Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order and social distancing requirements. 

Room selection will be “mindful of disability accommodations and roommate preferences” in compliance with Occupy Pomona’s demands. All students still on campus will also be required to remain on the meal plan, which will be serving grab-and-go meals from Frary dining hall until March 22nd and subsequently from Frank dining hall to facilitate access from Oldenborg. Pomona will also be working to make sure students on campus have access to “personal items such as soap, toilet paper and menstrual products.” Prorated refunds of room and board will continue to be available to students who move off-campus during this period. Student workers will continue to be paid, “regardless of whether they are able to continue working,” and though laptops will continue to be made available to students, computer labs will remain closed due to a lack of available staff.

According to the email, “Student Health Services and Monsour Counselling information will be updated on their website[s], and Aetna can be reached at (877) 480-4161.” Pomona’s off-campus therapy program will also continue functioning. Students are also required to comply with public health requirements allowing only for essential travel, and may not be permitted to return to campus if they spend the night off campus. These regulations have been put in place to comply with social distancing regulations and to limit the spread of COVID-19 on campus.

 

Jesus Munoz contributed to reporting.

 

Photo: Pomona College

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