Students returning to campus two weeks ago noticed that there were no longer tents in front of Alexander Hall, a change from the constant presence at the end of last semester. This semester the Concerned Students of Pomona have decided to discontinue their vigil, which was a response to the document checks and termination of 17 College employees.
The students considered extending the vigil, said Sarah Appelbaum PO ’13, one of the participants.
“[The vigil] made sense at the time,” Appelbaum said. It “was largely symbolic,” and reinstating it may have had different implications, she said. “[Alexander Hall] was a building where a lot of administrators had their offices, and some of us felt that if they weren’t there it didn’t make sense for us to be having the extended vigil.”
A Dec. 5 statement to the community by participating students stated that the vigil, which lasted from Nov. 30 to Dec. 15, was meant to “express disappointment with the College’s recent actions and to show solidarity with individuals directly affected by those actions.”
According to Appelbaum, the decision to begin the vigil was made by an informal networks of students, many of whom had previously been involved with other demonstrations on campus. Many of these students were also part of the group that had written the letter to the Board of Trustees on behalf of the Committee for Campus Climate and Diversity.
The letter made specific requests, including an open conversation with the Board of Trustees about the decision to investigate the original complaint, which accused President Oxtoby’s administration of illegal hiring practices, and the board’s method of following through on this allegation.
“Given the Board’s apparent unwillingness to open up lines of communication, we decided to hold an extended vigil in hopes that the Board and the administration would respond to us,” the letter stated.
The students did get a chance to speak to the Board of Trustees in a meeting Dec. 14. But Appelbaum said the current situation is “not ideal,” since the 17 terminated employees have not been rehired. She added, however, that the Board of Trustees did meet the students’ original demands.
“The administration was very supportive of our presence in front of Alexander,” she said. “As defined under Pomona’s student handbook about different policies for organizing and demonstrations, there could have been a way that [the administration] could have interpreted [the policy] to say that we couldn’t be there.”
Instead, administrators chose to interpret the policy so that the students could stay.
“We were in touch with the vigil students through the time they were in front of Alexander,” Dean Miriam Feldblum wrote in an e-mail to The Student Life.
The Concerned Students of Pomona did not have any specified leadership during the vigil.
“There were no positions assigned, there was no one in charge, and people could really devote what they could,” Appelbaum said. “In some ways it felt more like a community effort than [anything else] I’ve done on campus.”
Appelbaum stressed that her opinions are not representative of the group as a whole.
“There was no real set group to begin with,” she said.
There will be an open forum with current and fired dining hall workers in Rose Hills Theater on Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 7 p.m.