OPINION: Pomona fails to understand role of mental illness in admissions process

A drawing, all in blue and white, of a person kneeling and crying while holding several circles on their back. The circles contain drawings of a brain, a dollar sign, a broken heart, a cross, a family of two adults and one child, and the Pomona College logo.
Graphic By Meghan Joyce

When I was 13, I made the mistake of coming out to my mother and stepfather. Years of emotional abuse, Christian conversion therapy and familial estrangement ensued. This extended to all facets of my life, including where I would attend college.

Columbia University, of course, was not an option, for attending such a “singing and dancing school” would result in me “raping someone in a dark alley.” Obviously.

This is my way of setting the stage, explaining the build-up of tension and resentment that ultimately culminated in my parents disowning me during my senior year of high school. I was kicked out of the house with no reasonable accommodations (they dumped me off at my grandfather’s house, two hours away from my high school), and when friends offered for me to stay with them, my mother wasted no time calling their parents to inform them that I was “a danger to their family.”

By this time I had secured my acceptance to Pomona College, and for all intents and purposes I thought things would begin to look up. I was, after all, out of a toxic household, finally able to rekindle relationships that been forcibly cut off during my stay at the house that was never a home.

I was wrong.

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My parents immediately prevented any form of communication between my sister and me. We were best friends throughout our entire lives, and nobody meant (or means) more to me than she did. And now that was gone, too.

I won’t say my mental health was great before all of this transpired, but I was definitely averse to adopting any sort of psychodiagnostic label. Of course I wasn’t depressed. Everyone thinks about killing themself every day, right?

Regardless, at this point the reality of my mental state became painfully clear. This was, unsurprisingly, reflected in my grades. Concerned for my future, I immediately reached out to Pomona for fear of having my acceptance rescinded.

I was consoled, told my circumstances would be taken into account, that the institution would “accommodate” me, that I was supported and merely had to do my best.

Well, as fate would have it, my week-long absence from high school (while staying with my grandpa) was not an “excused” absence, and thus professors were under no obligation to allow me to make up the assignments I had missed. And given that I was in five AP classes, I missed quite a few assignments.

That, coupled with debilitating depression and the news that my mother had spent my entire college fund just to spite me, made “doing my best” incredibly difficult.

In the end, my GPA “slipped” to a weighted 4.0 (compared to my usual 4.6), and consequently Pomona rescinded my acceptance.

I wish I could have prepared for it, but every time I reached out to them they simply told me that “no decision had been made,” that I would have to “wait until final grades had been released,” even when I knew perfectly well that my grades would not change. They waited a whole month after graduation to inform me of this decision, at which point it was too late to apply to any other school.

The best part is that, when my dad went in to contest this decision, their response was basically, “some students have endured similar hardships and still maintained their grades.”

In other words: Pomona did not care about me.

No accommodations, no sympathy and definitely no support. And I know I am not the only one. I have friends who endured similarly traumatic events and had their acceptances rescinded as well.

The culture of performativity at the 5Cs is a grave problem, and it begins with the administration.

Why bring this up now? Well, Pomona’s evident indifference, while not a wholly novel concept (let’s face it: Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services, while well-meaning, is grossly ineffective), has recently become abundantly clear with the decision to cut off-campus funding for mental health resources.

But hey, at least we had tens of millions lying around to build a new gymnasium. Glad to know there are more pressing issues than students’ mental well-being.

I’ve had enough. Enough neglecting students with mental illness. Enough supporting students only when it’s convenient. Enough inaction.

Pomona, it’s time to get your act together.

Pomona was not able to respond to queries on their policy regarding rescinding acceptances by press time.

Cameron Tipton PO ’20 is a psychology major. They are passionate about creative writing, mental health issues, Lana Del Rey and Foucauldian discourse.

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