Pomona College trustees gathered in Indian Wells, Calif. for the triennial Trustee-Faculty Retreat from Feb. 27 to March 1. All faculty and trustees were invited to participate in the programming. All told, 26 current trustees, two emeriti trustees and two ex-officio trustees attended, as well as 111 members of the faculty and administration.
The primary topic of discussion was diversity. The agenda included three plenary talks, given by Associate Dean of the College Fernando Lozano, assistant professor of psychology Adam Pearson and sociology and Chicana/o-Latina/o studies professor Gilda Ochoa. Associate Dean of Students Jan Collins-Eaglin also presented at the retreat.
Each plenary talk and presentation focused on topics related to diversity and student success and was followed by a breakout session with small groups of trustees and faculty.
“In discussing diversity … no one’s trying to attack anybody, but everybody’s trying to recognize a challenge, and how, at the college, we navigate the challenge. It’s a way for the faculty to really communicate with the board about these big, multi-year tough challenges,” history professor Gary Kates said.
Trustee Meg Lodise PO ’85 said that the discussions among faculty and trustees challenged people on all sides of the discussion.
“Obviously conversations about diversity can be challenging and push people out of their comfort zones,” she said. “I think continuing to advance diversity and inclusivity is an imperative from the board’s perspective.”
According to Kates, the group did not discuss the “Lighting a Path to 2025” plan, which the President’s Advisory Committee on Diversity drafted last October to set goals to make the college more diverse over the next 10 years. However, the discussion focused on a similar topic of how a diverse student body functions at the college.
President David Oxtoby said that the retreat placed a spotlight on how diversity specifically connected to student success.
This retreat is the 36th trustee-faculty retreat since the event began in 1951, according to the retreat itinerary. Unlike most colleges, Pomona invites its entire faculty to attend the trustee-faculty retreat, which Oxtoby described as “unique.”
“There are a lot of places where the board will go off and invite a few faculty to meet with them,” Oxtoby said. “But the fact that this isn’t a selected group of faculty, it is the whole faculty; that’s very unusual.”
Kates, a member of the Retreat Planning Committee, added that he does not know of any other college that hosts an event as inclusive of both trustees and faculty.
“Most college and university administrations very much want to keep rank and file faculty away from members of the Board of Trustees,” he said. “They do everything they can to make sure there’s no contact, and when there is, they want to make sure it is scripted and controlled. This is a weekend largely unscripted; there’s a lot of open time.”
Lodise expressed her pleasure at the opportunity to interact with the faculty.
“It gives us a chance to have important and informal conversations,” she said.