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  • The Claremont Independent

Rebuffed After Seeking Professor’s Firing, Students Try Boycott, New Demands

After Pomona College’s sociology department rejected students’ demands for the rescission of a hiring offer to Alice Goffman on account of her allegedly “racist” and “unethical” research, students now have commanded the department to preclude Goffman from “teaching required sociology courses” and to fund a speaker series criticizing her work. The students have also announced a boycott of sociology courses at the college.

The students reiterated their earlier demands for control over hiring decisions and for a formal letter from the department, which now must contain a list of “concrete steps the Department will take moving forward to ensure such undemocratic, covert hiring processes are never repeated.”

According to the latest set of demands, Goffman should be “prevented from teaching required sociology courses, including … Introduction to Sociology,” though the students stipulate that “[s]he can be allowed … to teach non-required sociology electives.” The students also request that Pomona College sociology students be granted the ability to take their required sociology courses at other colleges—or simply not take them at all, enrolling in alternative courses “in different academic departments (Anthropology, ethnic studies, etc.)” to fulfill the requirements of the sociology department.

In their first set of demands, students lambasted the department for hiring Goffman, a White woman, over two Black candidates. To mitigate the possibility of this oversight occurring in the future, they now are seeking “the creation of an additional tenure line that prioritizes representation from a diverse pool of applicants.” The students also reiterate their demand for “the creation of peer-appointed, influential student positions on the hiring committee” to “be at the forefront of all current and future hiring decisions in the Sociology Department. The current lack of transparency and student input on hiring decisions is not an issue unique to the Sociology Department, but is a recurring pattern throughout the College.”

“An adequately-funded speaker and workshop series to occur monthly for the duration of Alice Goffman’s professorship” is the next demand from the students. Though the series would only feature Goffman’s critics, the students explain that “this series will ensure an open democratic debate about the merits of Goffman’s work by bringing her most serious critics to the Claremont Colleges to speak. We hope to feature diverse academics who exemplify ethical, reciprocal, mutually beneficial, and community-grounded research.”

The students want the department to “hire a staff member to coordinate this series in collaboration with Sociology students.” “If this is not possible,” they helpfully add, “we are open to having Sociology students/student organizers receive financial compensation to coordinate the series.”

The final demand is for an explanation of Goffman’s hiring from the department’s hiring committee. This letter must detail “further rationale and transparency that led to Goffman’s hiring decision,” including “a discussion of Goffman’s credentials in relation to the posted job description.” The students further demand that the department explain “the lack of representative student involvement in the hiring process” and detail the “concrete steps [it] will take moving forward to ensure such undemocratic, covert hiring processes are never repeated.”

On Friday, in the hopes of putting pressure on the department, the students behind the demands began sharing a Facebook post urging other students at the colleges, “as part of being in solidarity,” to “unregister from Pomona College Sociology courses for the Fall 2017 semester.”

The Department of Sociology has not yet responded to the Independent’s request for comment. This story will be updated upon receipt of a response.


Will Gu contributed reporting.


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