Pomona President Oxtoby Holds Diversity Forum

Dozens of Pomona College students met with Pomona President David Oxtoby and other Pomona administrators on Mar. 31 at a student forum about diversity and inclusion initiatives. The forum followed a Mar. 23 email to Pomona students from Oxtoby, acting Vice President and Dean of Students Jan Collins-Eaglin, and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Elizabeth Crighton, which announced several diversity and inclusion updates, including the creation of new positions.

According to Collins-Eaglin, Oxtoby “met with a number of student groups” after receiving the list of demands from students in November 2015 and “promised that there would be another public forum” where students could meet with the College’s executive staff to discuss diversity and inclusion issues. Eight Pomona vice presidents, eight faculty and staff members of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Diversity (PACD), and Associate Deans of Students Sefa Aina and Ric Townes all took part in the forum.

“This dialogue was part of ongoing conversations on campus about how we can move forward on diversity and inclusivity,” Oxtoby wrote in an email to TSL. “It was a great opportunity to hear directly from students about their concerns as well as respond to questions about a wide range of issues that are part of life on campus.”

The conversation consisted of three sessions of roundtable discussions, each lasting about half an hour. Every table had a Vice President and a note taker from PACD, and students sat at a different table for each session of the conversation.

According to Oxtoby, students brought up concerns including financial aid and classroom climate, support for international students, and the need for staff and faculty training opportunities, as well as creating more on-campus spaces for groups.

“This type of meaningful dialogue helps us gauge where we have made progress and where we have more work to do,” Oxtoby wrote. “I’m glad that we continue to have opportunities for purposeful conversations with students that can result in both better understanding and actions that can come out of that understanding of needs and the desire for change. I believe there is a shared commitment by all of us to keep working to make Pomona more welcoming and inclusive for all students.”

According to Daren Mooko, associate dean, Title IX coordinator, and diversity officer and a member of PACD, PACD “suggested to the President that VPs be available to talk to students” at the forum as an “effective way to bridge communication between students and administration.”

In addition to administrators sharing updates about diversity initiatives and answering questions about demands, students also brought forth suggestions and concerns during the conversation.

“It was interesting to see the variety of concerns that students had for different groups,” said Haruka Sano PO ‘18, an International Student Mentor Program (ISMP) mentor, “because different student groups were scattered around the room, we built more solidarity as a student body advocating for different issues.”

Collins-Eaglin said, “At my table, I felt that students were able to ask whatever questions they wanted to ask about student affairs, and the recommendations were helpful. For example, when a student is hospitalized, have a brochure informing the student what’s going to happen, how do you transition back. I thought that was a very productive recommendation.”

Sano was at Collins-Eaglin’s table when an RA brought up the concern regarding hospitalization procedures.

“You specifically see how an issue can be raised to the administration and how the administration and students can work together to meet the student need,” Sano said. “I went to represent ISMP, and as a member of one mentor organization, I thought it was helpful to get to know other groups’ concerns and the issues they raised.”

According to Collins-Eaglin, Oxtoby will start a second round of discussions with students and student groups during the remainder of this semester.

“There are changes already,” Collins-Eaglin said.

The interview process has started for a new case manager in the Office of Student Affairs, whose work will focus on wellness and mental health. According to Collins-Eaglin, the case manager will be responsible for developing hospitalization procedure programming, following up with students, and working with faculty.

A new post-bac position will also be created, who will work with Townes and Aina as the first generation and low-income student programs coordinator. In addition, the Quantitative Skills Center will hire an assistant director to work with cohorts and help with professional development for faculty.

Staff members from Facilities and Campus Services and Student Affairs have been evaluating spaces for student groups.

“By the end of the semester, we will know [the President’s] decision on space,” Collins-Eaglin said.

According to Mooko, PACD met on Monday, Apr. 4 to “catch up” on what took place at the student forum.

“We are working with PACD members, who generously helped by recording notes at each table, to recap the conversations and share a summary with the students and administrators who attended the meeting,” Oxtoby wrote in an email to TSL.

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