The Associated Student of Pomona College (ASPC) Senate passed a resolution Oct. 12 in support of the Pomona College administration’s decision to rehire any fired workers who obtain work permits before their old positions are filled.
The Senate resolution also indicated the Senate’s support for a Pomona faculty resolution passed Dec. 7 that called on the administration to provide jobs, backpay up to two years and compensation for reasonable legal and document-related expenses to any fired worker who could obtain valid work authorization. The faculty resolution came in response to the firings in December of 17 Pomona employees who could not prove that they were legally allowed to work in the United States.
ASPC President Sarah Appelbaum PO ’13 said that the Senate’s policy positions are intended to “demonstrate [the administration’s] commitment to those workers … and that this is an opportunity to make amends.”
In response to the faculty resolution, President David Oxtoby released a statement in February that said that the college would not offer two years of backpay and indefinite payment of all legal expenses.
“The college covered some legal expenses for workers from whom documents were requested,” Acting President Cecilia Conrad wrote in an e-mail to TSL. “We believe that was an appropriate and generous package. The policy announced last week is consistent with the commitment made by President Oxtoby in February that the college is open to rehiring workers with valid documents.”
Victor Silverman, a history professor at Pomona, said he was glad that the Senate had “stepped up on this issue.”
“The rehiring of the workers would be an important step toward healing the college community, and it would be an important step to restoring Pomona’s reputation in the wider community,” he said.
Silverman was one of the authors of the faculty resolution that was passed last year.
“The ASPC resolution is milder than the faculty resolution in that they are simply encouraging them [the administration] to give priority to the fired workers, or to rehire them only if their positions were open, while the resolution last year was to rehire regardless of whether the position was open,” Silverman said. “The intention of both resolutions and the spirit of them is very much the same.”
Two Senate members voted against the resolution.
“I don’t think the college has the obligation to pay for the legal expenses and backpay, but I think if the workers get their papers in order then they should be given priority to come back,” said Junior Class President Tommy Conkling PO ’14, who voted against the resolution.
“Pomona’s budget, even though we have a very large endowment, is more constrained than I think most people think, and so, in my opinion, the money would have to come from something I value more,” he said.
North Campus Representative Tracy Zhao PO ’13 drafted part of the resolution. Then, the Senate collectively crafted the language.
Appelbaum said, “The college has talked a lot about healing our campus community after what happened with the firing of 17 workers last year, and I think that a lot of other folks on the Senate, and definitely I, felt like this would be an important step in this process.”
“It would demonstrate to workers who are eligible to reapply and who do reapply that the college isn’t just willing to rehire them, but that the college wants to welcome them back to this campus community,” she added.
“Our hope is just that [the administrators] listen to the students, take into account what we have to say, maybe factor that into making that decision,” said Darrell Jones III PO ’14, Commissioner of Community Relations.