Tag Archives: Dining Hall Boycott

The Chronicle of Higher Education: Firing of Workers Who Failed to Provide Documents Divides Pomona College

From The Chronicle of Higher Education: Link to original article

By EMMA ROLLER

When Pomona College fired 17 employees in December because they could not prove they were in the United States legally, it created a divisive controversy on the campus at the same time that it raised a tricky question: How can a college best handle obeying a law that many students and faculty members disagree with?

Even David Oxtoby, Pomona’s president, has called the situation at the Claremont, Calif., institution ironic, given the college’s commitment to promoting Latino culture and diversity on campus. And while Mr. Oxtoby and members of Pomona’s Board of Trustees have said their hands were tied in the matter, some students and faculty members think the liberal-arts college, one of the wealthiest in the United States, could have handled the situation with more respect for the employees. Continue reading

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , ,

The Claremont Progressive: Document Check Timeline

From The Claremont Progressive: Link to original article

Document Check Timeline (pdf)

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Inland Empire Weekly: Social Activism 101

From The Inland Empire Weekly: Link to original article

By TOMMY PURVIS

Pomona College administrators’ ivory tower group think and the finer virtues of noblesse oblige appear to stop at the bottom line. It was evident on Dec. 1 when College President David W. Oxtoby stood firm in the face of public pressure to fire 17 long-term immigrant employees following their two-year effort to form a union. The decision was met with simultaneous and instant direct action from students, alumni, faculty, community members, a workers’ rights organization and a formidable union.

For years, the Frary Dining Hall workers made fine college cuisine and cleaned dishes for students in the 80-year-old building made famous from the priceless hand-painted mural on the great north wall by Mexican muralist Jose Clemente Orozco. The well-known image of Prometheus—the Titan from Greek mythology who stole fire from Zeus to give to the mortals—is proof that life does often imitate art. At least for the students from this liberal arts college who are awake and trumpets social activism. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , ,

Feldblum: Response to Community Actions

Dear Students,

On Tuesday, November 29th, I sent you an email regarding our community and recent events on campus.  In that message I mentioned the possibility of a boycott of the dining halls and communicated the expectation that students have the right to demonstrate and other students have the right to eat in the dining halls.  I want to take this opportunity to further illuminate expectations regarding these events, especially as the boycotts are continuing.

Some of the demonstrations have been loud while few others have not. I understand that some of the demonstrations have taken place during quiet hours, which are midnight to 8am, Sunday through Thursday, and 2am to 10am Friday and Saturday.    We would like to strike a reasoned balance between students’ rights to demonstrate and students’ rights to a quiet and comfortable living space to study and sleep.  We hope the students and others who choose to demonstrate will adhere to the established quiet hours and not create amplified sound.  Some of the demonstration sites are right next to residential buildings and have violated quiet hours.

If students experience excessively loud noises during quiet hours, I recommend they approach it like any other noise complaint; try and ask the source of the noise to respect and comply with quiet hours.  If the noise continues, please contact Campus Safety (909-607-2000) so they may address the noise and subsequent policy violation.  We have asked Campus Safety to notify the on-call dean so that the on-call dean can respond with the Campus Safety officer and communicate College policy.   As you may have seen, on-call deans may be present during demonstrations and can be an additional source of support, if needed, both for students who are demonstrating and those who are not.   This includes the extended vigil that students are holding outside of Alexander Hall.

As stated in their “Statement of Presence, ”  this group of students is committed to “communicating clearly and respectfully with all community members,” not obstructing access to Alexander, abiding by quiet hours and being mindful of noise levels, and “maintaining a peaceful, nonviolent space.”   In turn, they have asked of the College to respect their rights and presence, including “consideration and clear communication from all community members,” access to the lawn outside Alexander Hall, and limited involvement of Campus Safety or CPD (except for a Campus Safety officer at night).    I support their desire for open, respectful dialogue, and support their rights to express themselves and their presence outside Alexander Hall.

It is my deep hope that as a community, we can all recognize this particularly stressful time.   With final exams, papers and projects coming due in the next weeks, and the continuing events on campus, it is even more important for all of us to be courteous and respectful toward one another, and be open to hearing what others say.

If you would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Take care,

Dean Feldblum

Tagged , , ,

The Student Life: 17 Employees Terminated Over Documents; Boycott, Vigil Extended

From The Student Life: Link to original article

By JEFF ZALESIN

Pomona College fired 17 staff members yesterday, after those employees were unable to meet the college’s deadline for submitting updated work authorization documents. The terminations, which most directly affected dining services employees, marked the end of a three-week verification process that has provoked outrage from many organizations and individuals, both within and beyond the Claremont Colleges.

Demonstrations against the college’s actions are expected to continue into the weekend, as two of the community’s most visible groups of protesters signaled that they would keep up their efforts. An impromptu alliance called the Concerned Students of Pomona College has continued to hold a vigil outside Alexander Hall, where some students spend their nights in tents. Meanwhile, members and supporters of Workers for Justice (WFJ), the pro-union group of dining hall workers, have called for a boycott of Frary Dining Hall through today.

All meals at Frank Dining Hall have been cancelled from today through Sunday because of the “logistics of providing service,” Director of Media Relations Cynthia Peters wrote in an e-mail to The Student Life.

“We recognize that the action that the college has taken is something that has been detrimental to our sense of community here on campus, and we’re trying to do everything we can to re-establish the strength of the bonds that we have,” said Davis Saul PO ’14, a participant in the Alexander Hall vigil, who also said he supports WFJ.

Also on Thursday, Scripps College President Lori Bettison-Varga told the Scripps community in an e-mail that she had halted an attempt to reverify work documents for seven of her college’s employees this week. Bettison-Varga was not available for comment on whether her decision was related to recent events at Pomona.

Pomona administrators have described the document checks and firings as part of a series of legal obligations, triggered earlier this year by a complaint to the Board of Trustees that accused President David Oxtoby and his administration of illegal hiring practices. According to an e-mail to the Pomona community from Paul Efron PO ’76, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, an external audit cleared the administration of illegal practices but also revealed deficiencies in the files of 84 employees, which the college was legally required to investigate.

“We agree that the College and some of its employees have been placed in a difficult and unfortunate situation, which we wish could have been avoided,” Efron wrote. “However, while many of us believe that the country’s immigration policies are in need of reform, it is important to emphasize to the Pomona community that the College has a responsibility to comply with the current laws.”

University of Utah law professor Michael Teter PO ’99, who recently taught at Pomona as Visiting Professor of Politics, challenged Efron’s legal reasoning in an open letter to the Board of Trustees.

“The decision to conduct an audit of the I-9s demonstrates, at best, overzealousness and, at worst, a fundamental disregard for the dignity and privacy of every employee,” Teter wrote. “To seek to justify the College’s actions by referring to a discredited allegation and to federal law is disingenuous.”

Teter added that the college may have exposed itself to new legal risks through its handling of employment documentation. In addition to initiating “intrusive and arbitrary verifications,” he wrote, Pomona “may also have violated the National Labor Relations Act.”

Teter also wrote that the likelihood of intervention by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office (ICE) “turns out to be more imagined than real,” since Pomona is not the type of employer that is likely to draw attention from the federal agency. At a faculty meeting on Nov. 16, Oxtoby defended the administration’s decision to set a Dec. 1 deadline for documentation updates by suggesting that a longer process could lead to unwanted involvement by ICE.

Peters, the Pomona spokesperson, wrote in an e-mail to TSL that the college’s actions were legally necessary, despite Teter’s observation about ICE’s track record.

“The law is clear on this matter,” Peters wrote. “Speculation about the likelihood of ‘getting caught’ is not a legitimate factor in deciding whether the College will comply with the law.”

Peters added that Oxtoby and the Board of Trustees had agreed to keep the Dec. 1 deadline in place, even as many community members called for the deadline to be pushed back.

“The College determined that the time provided was reasonable and provided sufficient time for affected employees to gather their documents,” she wrote. “In addition, Human Resources made clear to the employees that it was willing to be flexible in any case where an employee needed additional time in order to resolve a specific and resolvable issue.”

The deadline, however, has been widely criticized for allowing too little time.

“Because [the Department of Homeland Security] is not involved, I think the college has quite a bit of leeway in terms of how much time they give their workers,” said Lourdes Haley PO ’01, an immigration lawyer who provided pro bono service to some Pomona employees. “There have been companies who have given their workers a year to resolve some of these issues.”

As late as Tuesday, some employees said they were unsure about what documentation problem the administration was asking them to fix. One dining hall worker said that he had not received specific instructions from the Office of Human Resources, and even his lawyer was unable to resolve the confusion.

“The lawyers said, ‘You have everything they need to provide you with a job. Why are they asking for more info, or to reverify this info?’ ” the worker said.

Many students also said they felt confused and frustrated this week, especially because it has proven difficult to get in touch with the Board of Trustees.

“We feel that they have undue influence over what we do and that we somehow need to create a more open and accessible channel of communication with them,” vigil participant Kelly Park PO ’12 said of the trustees. “We’re going to be here as long as it takes for that idea to be communicated, and possibly for trustees to respond in kind to us.”

While the vigil shares some central goals and supporters with WFJ, the two groups are not affiliated and have used different tactics to promote their views.

“We’re maintaining a commitment to staying a relatively quiet space, to maintaining a peaceful and non-violent space, so we’re not going to be storming into Alexander anytime soon,” Sarah Applebaum PO ’12 said of the vigil. A WFJ rally entered Alexander Hall on Monday and supporters directly approached Oxtoby to ask him to extend the Dec. 1 deadline.

A few individuals have also accused WFJ supporters of using intimidation to keep students from breaking dining hall boycotts.

“They were bullying me, essentially, by telling me that what I was doing was morally wrong,” said Kristina McOmber PO ’12, who held up a sign next to WFJ organizers outside Frary on Thursday in protest to their demonstration. “I was just disappointed in the behavior of my fellow students for trying to shame me for protecting my first right as a student in the handbook, which is the right to reasonable quiet.”

Members and supporters of WFJ plan to protest the terminations at Frary today.

Ian Gallogly and Maya Booth contributed reporting for this article.

Tagged , , , , ,

Claremont Port Side: Workers for Justice Boycotts Dining Halls

From Claremont Port Side: Link to original article

“We, the undersigned, pledge to honor Pomona College’s Dining Hall Service Staff decision to take economic action by standing in support of their decision. If this economic action takes the form of a boycott, I pledge to eat at a dining hall that is not under boycott. “

Frary Dining Hall nearly empty during the boycott (photo by Tim Reynolds PO ’15)

These are the words on the pledge sheet for students who support the Boycott of the Pomona Dining Hall services. Yesterday, Workers for Justice staged a boycott of all Pomona Dining halls, including Oldenbourg. Students who usually roll right out of bed and head to Frank or Frary trekked all the way to Scripps or Collins for breakfast.

The boycott was held in protest against Pomona College’s decision to fire all immigrant workers who do not have all the proper legal documentation ready by December 1. Certain people see this as an attack on the dining hall workers, who have been fighting for the rights to unionize for a while now.

An organizer of the boycott who prefers to remain anonymous, said this, regarding the reason why it was necessary to protest in such a manner: “Working is a right; everyone deserves to have a job. And finding out how these workers have had their jobs and livelihoods threatened just inspired me to want to help them.”

For the workers and their supporters, the boycott is a symbol of support, and a fight against discrimination and inequality.

Nevertheless, there have been negative responses to the protests. Yttrium Sua, a freshman at Pomona College said, “I support their motives, but I oppose their methods, which frankly are pushing me towards a general ambivalence and apathy towards this whole issue.”

Students living in dorms close to Frank and Frary complained about the noise levels. There were a few students who admitted that they felt intimidated by the presence of the protestors in front of the dining halls. One student said, “Walking up to the front door and seeing a bunch of people shouting and walking definitely makes you less eager to enter the dining hall. Even if it’s not their intention to do so, it just feels like it.”

But for people like Ustav Kothari, the boycott is to send a message to Pomona College that are some people who in the community who want “transparency and exchange of information” regarding the documentation matter. And on the subject of intimidation, he says: “No, we don’t intend to intimidate anyone. When I see you walking up here, I just come up to you and ask if you know about the boycott, and if you don’t, I explain, and it’s your choice. You can do whatever you want after that.”

What still remains a mystery is how this is affecting the decisions Pomona College. Have they received the “message” and will they respond?

Tagged , , ,

Feldblum: On Community Actions and Protests

Dear Students,

On behalf of all the Student Affairs offices on campus, I want to acknowledge that this has been a very painful period for many members of our community. We deeply feel the impact of this on the student community on campus. I want to let you know that all Student Affairs staff and offices are here to provide support, to listen to you and your concerns, or just be a place to come to if you would like to do so.

Whether we are directly or indirectly affected by the actions the College has taken in order to comply with its legal responsibilities, many students, staff, and faculty have experienced great distress. The recent events on campus have brought to the fore the difficult immigration realities that hang over millions of individuals and families in the U.S. today, even as they also highlight that many of us here hold competing opinions about our country’s  immigration laws and practices.  Members of our community also have widely divergent points of view concerning the situation here on campus, and the impetus and implementation of the College’s actions.  These divisions are now creating new rifts within our community, and challenging us as a community to maintain our capacity for respectful conversations.

On behalf of the student deans, I would like to add that the role of Student Affairs deans extends to being present any time there are demonstrations on campus in order to support students – both those who are protesting and those who are not – and to support student understanding of and compliance with College policies concerning such events. We are there to ensure that students are able to express their rights to demonstrate, and we also want to support those individuals who choose to express a different opinion or who choose not to demonstrate at all. We understand there may be a boycott of the Pomona College dining halls tomorrow, November 30.  Students have a right to demonstrate and call for a boycott, and other students have a right to enter and eat in the dining halls. Part of our role as Student Affairs deans will be to help ensure unimpeded access to the dining halls, as well as respecting the protestors, as per the College’s demonstration policy in the Student Handbook.

We recognize that students hold many different views concerning these events, and we want to encourage you to be mindful of your peers as well, and understanding of each other’s rights to varying opinions. Whether in the residence halls, dining halls, Smith Campus Center, or elsewhere, we encourage you to remember this diversity of opinion and be respectful of these differences and of each other. I encourage anyone who has concerns about this to contact me or another Student Affairs dean.

If you would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

Dean Feldblum

Tagged , ,