The Claremont Progressive: Editorial on Document-Check Aftermath

From The Claremont Progressive: Link to original article

We’ve devoted the entire issue to reflecting on the events at the end of last year that shook our community to the core — namely, the trustee-ordered document audit of Pomona College employees that stripped 17 individuals, 16 of them dining hall workers, of their livelihoods on Dec. 1 — and the actions that various individuals and groups undertook in response.

Much of the uproar has died down since students have returned from winter vacation. Only the semi-permanent closure of Frank Dining Hall on weekends serves as a reminder of how the College has changed. Even this, however, has functioned mostly to deflect the attention back onto students’ lives and students’ problems. The surface-level inconvenience has distracted from addressing the deeply embedded, systematic injustices that brought it about in the first place.

There are questions that should be asked, but no one seems to asking them. We’ll ask them for you. How, for instance, did the terminated workers and their families weather the holiday season without the prospect of steady employment? And what about the workers who remain at the dining halls — how have they adapted to the sudden loss of skilled, experienced colleagues and friends? How has this affected the ongoing fight for unionization? On Tuesday, several workers, both current and former, spoke to those questions at an open panel. You can find minutes from that forum below. And as always, nothing should stop you from speaking with the workers in person.

Which brings us to our next line of inquiry: last summer, workplace policy changes prohibited dining hall staff from speaking to students and other non-workers during their working hours. Workers for Justice (the pro-union worker organization) lodged a formal complaint to The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) about this, as well as the denial of a promotion due to the employee’s decision to wear a Workers-for-Justice pin over their uniform. The NLRB ruled against the College.

In short, Pomona College violated federal labor laws regarding the treatment of its employees. Why has this information not been made more public? This is only one instance out of many in which the College has refrained from public education on its own initiative. It’s true that President Oxtoby acknowledged the recent New York Times article that portrayed the College in a less-than-flattering light. But what of the many, many other articles that have been printed throughout the nation? (Did you know that Oxtoby even appeared last week on public radio to engage in brief verbal sparring with Pitzer Professor Emeritus José Calderón?) concernedpomonastudents.wordpress.comhas compiled excellent media coverage as well as archives of other key documents that most definitely won’t make it to the Pomona College homepage.

Of course, it’s not surprising that the College is less than willing to air its dirty laundry. It has no obligation to provide access to every piece of media that mentions its name. Which is why it is therefore all the more imperative that we keep asking questions — the more difficult to ask, the better. The College would be perfectly content for us to move on and to forget all that has happened.

Even the creation of a student-trustee task force to facilitate better communication with all members of the Pomona community — the Board’s capitulation to calls for improved transparency — has been a murky business from the start. Why has the membership of this task force not been publicly disseminated? What does it mean that meetings are conducted in Dean Miriam Feldblum’s home? The initial email from the Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC) President Nate Brown about applying to be on this committee stipulated that “ASPC, along with students from the vigil, will select a group of students to sit on this task force” (emphasis added). But which students? Several of us on the Progressive were active members of the extended vigil; none of us received an invitation to participate in the selection process. In an effort to honor the pledge to transparency, members of the task force provide more information in this issue about the proceedings of their meetings thus far.

We at the Progressive want to ensure that this community never loses sight of the past. We hope that you, our reader, will take this issue as an opportunity to reflect on the events of last semester, learn more about the steps currently being taken by students and Trustees, and above all, remain vigilant against future transgressions by the administration.

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