Pomona College President G. Gabrielle Starr and interim Queer Resource Center Director Manuel Diaz held a Q&A with students on Tuesday to solicit student feedback and opinions regarding the ongoing hiring process for a new QRC director.
Jonathan Higgins, a writer and speaker on LGBTQIA+ issues, was named the new director in June but was abruptly fired in July after the school decided its “vision to ensure the support of all LGBTQIA+ students at The Claremont Colleges did not match [his],” Pomona Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum wrote in an email to the Pomona student body.
The timing of his firing coincided with the publishing of an article on the right-wing publication The College Fix the day before, which discussed several of Higgins' controversial tweets. The story was later picked up by The Claremont Independent.
One of the tweets was a response to the question, “Who are you automatically wary of/keep at a distance because of your past experiences?”
“White gays and well-meaning white women,” Higgins wrote.
Higgins also tweeted, “I finally have nothing to say other than police are meant to service and protect white supremacy” and “So y’all been real quiet about #heterosexualprideday, I mean I thought I’d see parades celebrating rape culture, homophobia and transphobia.
“Oh wait: y’all do that everyday,” he added.
Starr claims the article was “not the cause of his being fired,” and Feldblum wrote in the all-campus email that Pomona “was aware of Dr. Higgins' tweets and social media presence prior to our offer to hire him in early June.”
Pomona Associate Dean M. Ricardo Townes added that “there were conversations with Dr. Higgins about a number of things, including the tweets.”
Approximately 25 students attended the meeting Tuesday. Many expressed concerns about the hiring process and what they hoped to see in a new director. One Pomona student said that they wanted a director who will invest in students as individuals and give support on an individual basis.
“Clearly this person has to be able to help make sure queer and trans students of color feel that the space [of the QRC] is a space that they would want to go to and be a part of,” said Townes, who is chair of the search commitee.
Theluncheon was one part of the community outreach that the search committee is undertaking. Students from all 7Cs are encouraged to attend meetings like this one and tell the committee what they hope to see in a new director.The search committee is comprised of student, faculty, and staff representatives from the 7Cs, as well as a search firm specializing in finding leadership for LGBTQIA+ organizations.
Townes said he wants as much student engagement as possible. The committee hopes to hire a new director by Thanksgiving, though Townes concedes it might take longer than that to find the right person.
“The committee is really committed to this process,” said Townes. “We are going to do it right, not do it rushed.”