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  • The Claremont Independent

Pomona Student Senate Backs Student Activists on Campus

Update: The ASPC clarified its earlier statement, disclaiming support for the firing of incoming Pomona professor Alice Goffman, the removal of Scripps College dean Charlotte Johnson, and for demands for disciplinary action against conservative students on campus.

In the interests of representing ASPC’s clarification, the title of this article has been updated.


In an email statement released on Friday, the Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC), Pomona College’s student senate, affirmed its support of student activists across the Claremont Colleges, who are variously seeking to shut down free speech, punish conservative journalists on campus, and terminate a Pomona College professor and a Scripps College administrator.

ASPC expressed its “solidarity” with the protests that shut down Black Lives Matter critic Heather Mac Donald’s speech at Claremont McKenna College early this month, a demand for Pomona College president David Oxtoby to denounce free speech and to punish conservative journalists of this publication, the strike of Scripps College resident advisors, and student demands for Pomona to rescind its hiring offer of White sociology professor Dr. Alice Goffman.

“We are writing with regards to recent campus events, including the student-led protests at Claremont McKenna … ongoing conversations around the role of RAs through the demands of the Scripps and Pomona RHS [and] the recent decision of the Pomona College Sociology Department to hire Alice Goffman,” ASPC explained in the email. “These events have disproportionately affected individuals from the most marginalized backgrounds in our community: people of color, working class individuals, and immigrants. We call on the Claremont Colleges to do better in the pursuit of equity. We are in solidarity with students and Claremont Colleges community members fighting for institutional accountability, nuanced discussions, and increased support for students.”

After the protest against Heather Mac Donald early this month, Pomona College president David Oxtoby reaffirmed the college’s commitment to free speech and expressed his disappointment in the protesters. Pomona’s student senate, however, took a different stance in its email, backing the demands of students who called for Oxtoby to apologize for his statement in support of free speech and to punish conservative student journalists for their coverage in the aftermath of Mac Donald’s appearance:

“Following the protests [against Mac Donald], President Oxtoby released a letter to the Pomona community, in which he discussed academic freedom and free speech, and took a disappointed stance in addressing the events that had taken place on CMC’s [Claremont McKenna College] campus. In response to President Oxtoby’s statement, Black students at Pomona and across the [Claremont University] Consortium wrote a letter to President Oxtoby demanding he apologize for his previous patronizing statement, and affirm that Pomona College does not tolerate speech that projects violence onto its marginalized and oppressed communities, especially Black students. ASPC is in solidarity with Black students at Pomona and at the 5Cs [Claremont Colleges] in their continuous fight for better conditions on this campus.”

Asked by the Independent whether their solidarity extends to calls for administrative sanction against conservative journalists on campus, the ASPC Senates 2016-17 and 2017-18 issued the following joint statement:

“ASPC supports freedom of speech and the rights of student journalists. We also support holding students accountable according to the student code, and the right of the College and students to initiate judicial proceedings against other students who have caused community harm. We support holding all campus journalistic publications to a high standard of journalistic ethics.”

In its email, ASPC also explained that it backs the strike of resident advisors at Scripps College, stating that “Scripps RAs went on strike over the lack of support from the administration …The[ir] letter demands the resignation of Charlotte Johnson as the Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Affairs, improvements to financial aid policies, changes to the Residential Advisor role, and increased mental health support, among other policy changes … We are in solidarity with the RAs’ asks surrounding policy changes.”

Following the hiring of Dr. Alice Goffman as a visiting professor of sociology over two Black candidates, an anonymous open letter demanded that the College rescind its hiring offer to Goffman. Although the College ultimately decided to follow through with hiring Goffman, ASPC is fully behind the students calling for the rescission of Goffman’s offer and backs demands for student control over the hiring of faculty in the future:

“Sociology students are currently protesting the hire of Alice Goffman as a visiting professor in the sociology department. The protests are situated in complaints that department does not support students of color and that Alice Goffman’s scholarship is anti-black and lacks positionality … We urge the formalization of student voices in all hiring processes, including for visiting professors. We call upon the faculty and administration to listen to take the demands of sociology students seriously, and to consider that such escalation to direct actions is the culmination of previous frustrations with the department.”

Despite expressing its full support for these initiatives, one of which sought administrative sanctions against conservative students on campus, ASPC claims to “recognize that Pomona students, much like members of ASPC Senate, may not all agree on how to respond to the aforementioned events. We affirm the value of open community dialogue and the responsibility of student government to listen and seriously consider students’ voices.”  

The ASPC’s budget is provided by a mandatory fee paid by all students. For the 2017-2018 school year, according to a letter sent to all students and parents, ASPC “has fixed its student fee at $355” per student.


Update: Following publication, the ASPC contacted the Independent to clarify its position:

“We do not support firing Professor Goffman, as the College and Professor Goffman have already signed a contract. We support formalizing more inclusion of student voices in future hiring practices for all levels of professors, including visiting professors …

… We are in solidarity with the RAs’ asks surrounding policy changes. We do not support the firing of Dean Charlotte Johnson …

… we absolutely do not support punishing students for being conservative journalists. Rather, we welcome political dialogue on campus. However, if students feel that other students have caused tangible and foreseeable community harm, they are welcome to initiate judicial proceedings, as is their right under the Student Code. We support the right of all students … to initiate judicial proceedings whenever they feel the Student Code has been violated …

… Taking the quote ‘students to initiate judicial proceedings against other students who have caused community harm’ in isolation removes context that clarifies our stance: conservative views do not automatically entail community harm. Conservative views are not a basis for administrative sanction.”


Matthew Reade contributed reporting.


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