Pub Event Description Causes Uproar

A Facebook event page for Pub, a weekly party hosted by Pomona College fraternity Kappa Delta, sparked heated debate this week among 5C students, alumni, and members of the Claremont community. The dialogue drew the attention of external bloggers, who targeted students who expressed their views on the Facebook event page.

The America-themed event, which was described in the event page as a celebration of patriotism and
Natty Light, received criticism from students who claimed that the theme was insensitive and indirectly promoted imperialism, violence, and racist power structures. 

The
dialogue that emerged on the event page escalated to personal attacks that were brought
to the attention of Pomona’s Office of Student Affairs. According to
Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum, some the comments from the page were examined for potential violations of Pomona policy, but all were found to be within the parameters of the college’s Student Handbook.

“Anything
that was brought to our attention, this is something that Dean [Daren] Mooko, myself,
others were looking at … there are some very clear policies, and was this a
violation of policy? No,” Feldblum said.

Feldblum
added, however, that the comments that she reviewed were still disturbing and
not reflective of what she expects from discourse within the Claremont
community.

“I think
that, and I’m not alone in this, many people were looking at the language that
was going on from across different commentary and saying, ‘This is not the kind
of dialogue we want to engage in,'” she said. “And so that’s really troubling. It’s really
troubling to go from attacking ideas to attacking people.”

On
Feb. 19, Barstool Sports,
a men’s lifestyle and sports blog described by its creator as “sport/smut,”
published an article with a screenshot of the event page and clips
from comments by students on the page. Comments left by Barstool readers
ranged from “America or GTFO” to “Who cares just throw the party and do the American thing and pretend
those uptight fags don’t exist.”

A separate New
England-based blog of a similar type posted an
article that included photos and the full names of 5C students who had been particularly outspoken against the Pub theme on the event page. 

Feldblum
expressed shock at the publication of students’ photos and identities, and added that the administration is investigating what they can do to protect
students from these types of attacks. She said, however, that there is limited legal recourse the administration can seek in this case.

“I’m
outraged by the fact that an external blog took the photos,” she said. “My top concern and my top priority is for the students. We want to do what we can, but it’s difficult to force blogs to take down
photos.”

An individual commented on the blog under the name Erik Carlson, who is an associate at
Sidley Austin, a law firm that is not Pomona’s official legal counsel but has been employed by the college in the past. The individual claimed to be representing Pomona, and requested that the article be removed from the blog, threatening further legal action.

When
reached for comment by TSL, Erik Carlson said that he was not at all aware of the situation and that the comment was a hoax. Feldblum
also noted that Sidley Austin is not currently employed by Pomona and will not provide legal counsel to the college in this case.

Assistant
Director of the Smith Campus Center John Lopes said that the attention the
event received online warranted an enhanced security detail for the event.

“Operationally,
our first priority is the safety and security of our students,” Lopes said. “We had an extra
building manager, [and] an extra Campus Safety officer, just in case folks outside
the 5Cs wanted to make their physical presence felt and possibly be as hostile
as their online presence.”

Acknowledging KD’s recent probationary status while also referencing their community outreach work, KD member Don Swan PO ’15, who is also president of the Inter-Fraternity Council, said that he believes that the criticism that the fraternity receives is important in helping the organization improve.

“Everything
is under a microscope, which I think is good because it makes us be better,” Swan said. “And
hopefully when they’re looking at us that closely, maybe they can see, ‘Hey,
these guys aren’t nearly as bad as they seem to be,’ you know, just looking at
some of the stereotypes [about KD] that they might have been given.”

Joseph Reynolds PO ’15 voiced his opinion
on what could be learned from the situation as a whole.

“I think we
need to improve our education about empathy and emotional intelligence … It takes a lot of vulnerability and strength to have a
real, open conversation,” he said. “When you have a group of people that doesn’t know how
to care about each other, that’s not a community.”

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