Diversity Committee Recommends Queer Studies Faculty Post

As a liberal arts college, Pomona College boasts a plethora of courses across all disciplines. For gender and women’s studies major Sarah Appelbaum PO ’13, however, academic options have occasionally been sparse.

“There have been semesters where there wasn’t a single course offered talking about queer theory that was within my interest,” Appelbaum said. “There have just not been a lot of options… because we don’t have enough professors who are able to regularly offer courses talking about queer theory.”

This need, however, may soon be filled. The creation of a Queer Studies faculty position was listed first in the summary of recommendations in the “2010-11 Annual Report from the President’s Advisory Committee on Diversity (PACD),” published on Oct. 17.

“On an academic level, it would be valuable to have a professor here whose primary focus allows them to engage with some of that scholarship,” Appelbaum, a PACD member, said. “On a social level, I believe that the creation of a Queer Studies faculty position would demonstrate Pomona’s commitment to offering classes relevant to queer-indentified students, as well as non-queer-identified students who are interested in queer studies topics.”

While Appelbaum stressed the importance of this recommendation, it is only one of the many recommendations in the PACD’s report. The annual report provides Pomona President David Oxtoby with information and suggestions regarding multiple projects to expand diversity in the Pomona and Claremont communities.

“Each year, the Diversity Committee explores a number of strategic issues and a number of smaller issues,” Oxtoby wrote in an email to TSL. “The report helps to assess progress to date and to set goals for the future. I use it to help set priorities in the area of diversity for the year ahead.”

Even with the goals neatly outlined in the report, Nicole Redford PO ’13, a PACD member during the 2010-2011 year, said the process to implement these changes is often slow. For example, the suggestion of a tenure track faculty position in Queer Studies was also listed in the 2009-2010 annual report.

Other goals, such as the establishment of gender-neutral bathrooms in academic and administrative buildings, have also progressed slowly.

“We mentioned [gender-neutral bathrooms] last year as something that we really wanted to happen, and as of right now, we’re now pushing for it,” Redford said. “It took a while to get that happening, so [the process takes] a lot of patience.”

Redford said the eventual goal is to develop a map showing the available gender-neutral bathrooms on campus, and PACD Chair Professor Jen Scanlon said the creation of a gender-neutral bathroom in the Rains Center is currently in the works.

“We feel strongly that although [gender-neutral bathrooms] exist in the dorms, our administrative and academic buildings also need to provide safe, legitimate restroom options that are gender-neutral,” Scanlon wrote in an email to TSL.

Other recommendations in this year’s report include administering a staff survey, hiring a college Ombudsperson, working to achieve Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance in campus buildings, and creating a 7C Disability Services Center for students with learning disabilities as well as those with physical disabilities.

“The 7C Disabilities Services Center is something that Pomona very much supports. As it involves all seven schools in the consortium, it isn’t as simple as saying ‘We want it done,’ but the project seems to be on the front-burner, so people are hopeful,” Scanlon said.

To assess current projects and to identify targets, the PACD is broken down into subcommittees to address more specific issues.

“[Subcommittees] meet outside of our actual PACD meetings, and we just talk about what we want to happen,” Redford, who served on three subcommittees, said. “We think of foci that we want to do for the subcommittees with the input of everyone, and then by the end we all come together and talk about every single subcommittee.”

After the final report was published, Scanlon said that this year the PACD has made an effort to increase the report’s publicity through college-wide emails and more information on the Committee’s webpage.

“We hope that by getting the report out there, faculty, staff, and students across the college will review our recommendations and think about their personal impact on diversity and diversity issues at Pomona College,” Scanlon said.

The entire PACD report can be found on the Pomona College website at http://www.pomona.edu/about/diversity/year-end-reports.aspx.

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