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Pomona College Joins Other Claremont Colleges in Day of Solidarity

More than a thousand members of the Pomona College community gathered on the College’s Marston Quadrangle on Wednesday, March 10, to show solidarity with the rest of the Claremont Colleges community in speaking out against racism and violence.

The event came near the end of what a number of speakers referred to as a remarkable day of discussion and reflection, as the institutions of The Claremont Colleges (also including Scripps, Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd and Pitzer colleges and Claremont Graduate University) canceled classes in order to devote the entire day to discussions of race and community. The day ended with a rally on the campus of Claremont McKenna College.

"Although formal classes were not held at Pomona College Wednesday, I was pleased and deeply impressed by the amount of real education that was taking place throughout our community," said Pomona College President David Oxtoby. "In speeches by faculty and students at the Marston Quad open microphone, in small group discussions throughout the day, and in evening forums held in dormitory lounges, issues of race, class, gender, diversity, and tolerance were addressed in deep and significant ways. The day provided an occasion for the full community to come together to support each other and to explore directions for future change at Pomona College."

The day’s events—all part of what Pomona College Dean of Students Ann Quinley referred to as “a day of solidarity and teaching”—were organized in response to a hate crime that occurred Tuesday, March 9, in a parking lot shared by Pomona and Claremont McKenna colleges. According to reports, a car belonging to a Claremont McKenna faculty member who had just taken part in a forum on hate speech was vandalized sometime that evening. The windows of the car were broken, the tires slashed, and the body of the vehicle spray-painted with racial epithets. Claremont Police and the FBI are currently investigating the incident, which has been formally classified as a hate crime, and Claremont McKenna College has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the apprehension of the persons responsible.

President Oxtoby had urged students and faculty to use the day to come together to demonstrate their unity in opposing acts of intimidation and to discuss future steps to build trust and improve the climate of racial understanding on campus. “We must realize that education needs to take place outside as well as inside the classroom,” President Oxtoby wrote to the College community Wednesday morning. “I ask that each of you use this change in daily routines to further this education.”

The day included a number of informal opportunities for faculty, students and staff to come together to discuss the significance of recent events, beginning with a “teach-in” on Marston Quad and continuing with a range of small-group discussions.

The day culminated in an evening rally involving students from all five Claremont Colleges and Claremont Graduate University on the campus of Claremont McKenna College.

Here are a few of the comments offered by speakers at the Pomona College gathering:

  • "Violence is the antithesis of critical thinking and learning, and we must express our outrage that someone tried to do this on our campus. They will not succeed. The faculty have only begun to decide what to do in response to this, and we will continue that discussion, and try to produce in the coming weeks and months recommendations about actions that will bring about real and lasting change on campus." –Michael Kuelhwein, professor of economics and chair of the Executive Committee of the Faculty
  • "A lot of times, I know, you [Pomona students] get disillusioned with what you're trying to do. Is anyone supporting you? Are your ideas right? Do you really represent the whole student body? And today, and over the course of the last couple of months, I've really been incredibly proud. I'm a very proud Sagehen right now. If you were there in Collins [Dining Hall of Claremont McKenna College] last night, if you witnessed the dialog that took place between the students and the faculty and administrators who were there, you'd agree that it was awesome. I can't thank you enough, and I hope we can go forward with this." –Ari Greenburg ’04, president of the Associate Students of Pomona College
  • While the dynamics of what's happening at Pomona College and The Claremont Colleges can be seen as a microcosm of the larger society, that should not let us off the hook. We need to instead envision Pomona College as a model for what an inclusive community can look like.” –Gilda Ochoa, associate professor of sociology and Chicano studies
  • "If we are to make progress on issues of racism and race relations at Pomona College, it will mean we will be uncomfortable. Progress does not mean that we feel happy or that we are making a lot of friends. Progress means our world view is being confronted and we are learning and that will be uncomfortable. In the coming days, if you are engaging in these issues you will feel uncomfortable and you shouldn't worry because it means we are making progress." –Daren Mooko, director of the Asian American Resource Center

Related stories:
3/19/04: In wake of police report calling hate crime at CMC a hoax, colleges reaffirm commitment to improving our community.

3/11/04: Pomona College joins other Claremont Colleges in day of solidarity.

3/10/04: Pomona College joins other Claremont Colleges in canceling classes for one day on March 10 in response to hate crime.