The Student Life: Why I Am a Part of the Alexander Hall Vigil

From The Student Life: Link to original article

By SARAH APPLEBAUM

Perhaps you’ve seen the tents around Alexander or heard about the encampment from someone else. Perhaps you’ve read the letter released on Wednesday morning to the Pomona College community, signed “Concerned Pomona Students.”

But reading a statement released by a group of people taking an action is very different from speaking one-on-one with or hearing from an individual participant. For those of you who don’t get the chance to speak to someone involved (and we absolutely welcome discussion, questions, and engagement from all members of the community), I would like to share why I personally am participating in this extended vigil.

It is important for me to state that I can speak only for myself and my own reasons for participation, and that what I say here does not and is not intended to reflect or represent the motivations of all students involved.

I am taking part in this extended vigil because I am frustrated. I am frustrated that a member of the Pomona College community would file a complaint against the administration and its hiring practices in the first place. I am upset and disappointed that the Pomona College Board of Trustees and administration decided to re-verify College employees’ legal authorization to work, in light of the fact that there was little legal need for it, and I believe that this decision was made without adequate consideration for the impact it would have on people’s lives. And I am deeply hurt and saddened by the firing of 17 members of the Pomona College community. As I have attempted to respond to these events as a student of Pomona College—through letters, meetings, statements, and the current extended vigil, in collaboration with other students— I have found that my frustration extends to other issues regarding the place for student voices, as well as the place and role of the Board of Trustees.

I have been spending, and plan to continue spending, a majority of my days (and nights) at the extended vigil by Alexander Hall because I (and others) have attempted to address the College’s actions through various means and have yet to receive an adequate response. I am participating in this action because I am troubled by the Board of Trustees’ inaccessibility, excessive authority, and lack of transparency. These are qualities of the Board that have been apparent to me throughout this entire process. I am here, camping out on the lawns by Alexander Hall, because I desire a space where I can voice my concerns as a student on my own terms.

For me, the creation and continued existence of this extended vigil is intended to express open and public condemnation of the College’s actions, but also to create a place where students could work in collaboration to encourage dialogue—not only addressing immediate concerns such as the recent termination of members of our community, but also long-term visions of a more open, transparent, and compassionate Pomona College.

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2 thoughts on “The Student Life: Why I Am a Part of the Alexander Hall Vigil

  1. Jennifer says:

    This is crazy. I just learned of all of the actions of the students and faculty from President Oxtoby’s letter. These 17 former workers are most likely here in the United States illegally. The school cannot violate the laws and keep them employed. On so many different levels the school would not be in a position to continue providing the incredible education that it does if it knowingly violates laws. And, even if the school took some independent investigation to make sure it was complying with laws, who cares? Do the students and faculty of Pomona not ever check their own compliance with different types of things that might impact them (even if they don’t agree with whatever it is)? The school did not pass the laws and what the school has done does not necessarily mean that it is in agreement with the laws. Students and faculty should focus their energy on trying to do things that may change the laws if they feel that strongly about them. These efforts against the school are a waste of time. I went to Pomona College and I am as frustrated now as I often was when I was there. There are so many students and faculty who have unbelievable gifts and waste time pointing fingers and taking actions that don’t mean anything and are misplaced. Really, try to focus your gifts and efforts in the right direction and where you might be able to make a difference.

    • Ty Geltmaker, Ph.D. says:

      Dear Jennifer,

      I went to a so-called preppy Trinity College in Hartford in the early 1970s. Even there and then your argument would have fallen flat. Sometimes, especially within institutions dedicated to a humanistic investigation of life, it’s necessary to draw a line and stand on the side of human rights, even disobeying/defying the law. Pomona, as a great institution, had this chance and missed it, sending worthy employees out from their jobs.

      Ty Geltmaker, Ph.D. (History/Italian/Literature now and then as adjunct, USC, Cal Arts, CUNY)

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