January 17, 2012
To the Pomona College Students:
As Chair of the Student Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees, I want to express my gratitude to the students who met with us in December. Our conversation about the issues raised by the students who held the vigil—and more generally about ways in which we can improve communication between the Board and the students—was substantive and constructive. We were impressed by the students’ commitment and thoughtful approach, and we share their concern about these issues.
Among the topics we discussed were ways to incorporate more two-way communication during the annual Trustee-Student Retreat, how to facilitate the distribution of information about issues before the Board, and ways to increase student understanding of Board governance. In order to build on and follow through with the many helpful ideas that emerged from this meeting, the Board of Trustees has authorized the creation of a new ad hoc Trustee-Student Task Force on Student-Trustee Communication, to explore and recommend ways to improve communication and understanding between the Board of Trustees and Pomona students.
Specifically, the Task Force will review the ideas raised by the students and trustees during the meeting; explore campus communication mechanisms and other measures adopted by the other college and university boards to promote communication, responsiveness, and understanding between students and trustees; and develop a set of recommendations for the future.
We have already selected the student and trustee members of the Task Force, which will be co-chaired by Trustee Jason Rosenthal and myself. We anticipate that the group will meet over the next month and half and present a set of recommendations to the Board at its next meeting in spring 2012.
As you may know, in addition to meeting with students, selected trustees met separately with faculty members and dining staff, including some employees whose jobs were terminated. Both of these meetings were likewise substantive and constructive. In fact, the meeting with dining staff was profoundly moving for trustees as it gave them an opportunity to hear directly from people who lost their jobs after years of faithful service to the College.
In order to address the issues raised in these meetings, the Board of Trustees will be undertaking a review of their procedures for responding to complaints and authorized the creation of a subcommittee to conduct an internal review of the actions taken in this particular case. The Board will also be considering ways of establishing a regular line of communication between the Board and members of the staff.
In every meeting, there was a shared sense that the events of the past few months are the result of a national problem—the harshness of U.S. immigration laws. The trustees have committed to work together with the Administration to set up a forum in the near future that will allow us to focus as a community on better understanding these complex issues and ways we might work to make things better.
This has been a painful time for all of us, and our hearts go out to those who were affected by the events that sparked these conversations. Trustees have joined others in the College community in providing additional help to the affected families through a local non-profit. I am heartened by the fact that as a College family, we are able to come together, learn from each other and look for ways to move forward constructively.
Lynn Yonekura ’70
Chair of the Student Affairs Committee
Pomona College Board of Trustees