The nearly month-long investigation into an incident last month involving three students and a vice president has been closed and no charges are being pressed, according to an email President David Oxtoby sent to the student body March 31. The investigation was in response to three students’ allegations that Assistant Vice President of Facilities and Campus Services Bob Robinson kicked a chair toward one of the students during a March 3 meeting at the SCC.
Robinson said that his attorney asked him not to comment on the allegations.
The investigation into the March 3 incident did not find evidence supporting the accusation, Oxtoby wrote. Following the email, the three students who made the allegations—Gabe Lewin PO ’13, Claire Cahen PO ’11 and Julie Juarez PO ’12—released a letter April 5, enumerating “several problems” that they had with the manner in which the investigation was conducted.
“It became pretty clear that this was a biased investigation,” Lewin said.
The students filed a report with Campus Safety an hour after their meeting with Robinson, during which they discussed the Workers for Justice (WFJ) unionization campaign. Campus Safety delivered the report to the Pomona Dean of Students office that night.
The following week, the students released a letter describing the incident and delivered it to Oxtoby and Vice President and Treasurer Karen Sisson. Sisson, along with Vice President for Human Resources Brenda Rushforth, interviewed each of the students individually as part of the investigation.
“As Bob’s superior, Karen should not have been involved in the investigation,” Lewin said. “She might have something at stake.”
“They asked us very pointed questions, hinting at the fact that we may have been lying,” Cahen added.
The students also said that Sisson threatened them, pointing to a statement she made in the March 11 issue of The Student Life: “If these are false allegations, that also carries some serious consequences since these allegations are made that could put someone’s livelihood in jeopardy.”
“It is inappropriate to talk about whether allegations are false during an investigation,” Lewin said. “It shows that this wasn’t neutral.”
“It was complete victim-blaming,” Cahen said.
Sisson declined to comment on the investigation, deferring instead to Oxtoby's e-mail.
The students initially filed a report with the Claremont Police Department in addition to Campus Safety.
“We have been advised by the detective involved in that investigation that the district attorney found no cause for any action and has declined to press charges,” Oxtoby wrote in his e-mail.
Oxtoby also expressed concern about the nature in which the students reported their allegations, referring specifically to the public letter they distributed around campus.
“It is important to emphasize that all members of our community should be encouraged to come forward with complaints when necessary,” he wrote. “There are very good reasons why allegations of this nature are normally addressed in confidence. I sincerely hope that we can all agree that openly broadcasting personal allegations of this sort against any member of our community was inappropriate.”
Sisson echoed this sentiment in an earlier email to the student body, sent March 8.
“I am also concerned about the manner in which these charges have been broadly disseminated. No complaint was brought through any formal channels,” Sisson wrote.
Lewin called this and other comments from the administration an attempt “to delegitimize our cause by saying we didn’t go through formal avenues.”
“Karen criticized us for the open letter, but failed to acknowledge that we went to Campus Safety,” he said.
Sisson and Rushforth met with the three students on March 30 to share the results of the investigation and to ask them to keep the information confidential “to respect the privacy of those involved,” Cahen said. In their letter, the students criticized Oxtoby for sending an e-mail to the college community the day after the students were asked to remain silent.
“Because in this case the staff member was identified by name in TSL and in circulated materials, I felt it was necessary—with the permission of the staff member involved—to let you know that the allegations have now been thoroughly investigated through proper channels, and the involved parties have been notified of the factual conclusions reached,” Oxtoby explained in his e-mail.
Cahen argued that the investigation “can’t be separated from Workers for Justice,” the group of dining hall workers who have been campaigning for a union since March 2010.
“The whole reason Bob wanted to meet with us was to talk about dining hall staff,” she said. “If they’re investigating their own anti-union campaign, we’re not surprised they found themselves not guilty.”