ASPC endowment presentation adjourned early amid student demonstration for workers’ pay

A photo of a slide of Jeff Roth's presentation on the endowment
A presentation on Pomona College’s endowment was cut short after a student demonstration regarding dining hall workers’ ongoing wage negotiations interrupted the scheduled programming. (John Paul Ferrantino • The Student Life)

Following last spring’s student body vote to disclose Pomona’s fossil fuel investments, Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC) hosted a Nov. 10 meeting open to the student body, at which Pomona’s financial officers presented information on the college’s endowment and budget support.

ASPC organized the presentation to allow students to ask questions about the endowment, Pomona Student Body President Vera Berger PO ’23 told TSL in an email. 

“The majority of the meeting was meant to be a discussion among students about how the college views the endowment and how we can best advocate for budget changes,” Berger said. 

However, Berger adjourned the meeting following an interruption toward the end of the presentation from students regarding Pomona dining hall workers’ ongoing negotiations for higher wages. 

During the presentation, Chief Investment Officer Dave Wallace and Chief Operating Treasurer Jeff Roth described how the $2.8 billion endowment is derived and incorporated into the college’s yearly operating budget, which is $256 million for this fiscal year.

Roth explained that two major streams of funding for the college are student revenue and the endowment payout, which is a little over $150 million. Pomona uses these funds for faculty and staff salaries and benefits, along with the financial aid program. 

According to Roth, 40 percent of the overall budget comes from the endowment. The endowment consists of an investment pool of over 1700 individual endowments in restricted portions dictated by donors and unrestricted portions, which support the overall budget and general operations of the college.

Most of the investments are allocated to alternative asset classes, such as private equity and venture capital, to allow the endowment to exist in perpetuity while maintaining its purchasing power. Through diversifying investment strategies, the college outperformed its benchmark, enabling the endowment’s contribution to comprise 40 percent of the overall budget, compared to about 20 percent 15 years ago. 

“This is a combination of the college making good stewardship decisions in prior years by adding some money to the endowment and … donors who are very generous,” Wallace said.

Roth said a unique aspect of Pomona’s endowment is how much of the operating budget it funds compared to peer institutions. The Board of Trustees approves a spending rule, or payout, that governs the yearly amount of the endowment used to support the budget.

“Its design is to provide stability and stable increases to support the budget,” Roth said. “The sources all grow in terms of their expenditure levels each year when we’re talking about personnel and financial aid costs.”

Toward the end of the presentation — before the administrators invited students to ask questions — speaking on behalf of Claremont Student Workers’ Alliance (CSWA), Ben Brady PO ’25 interrupted the meeting. More than 20 others in the audience stood up to show their support. 

“You have 14 percent [of the endowment] that is liquid that you could be putting towards salaries right now on your own admission,” Brady said. “We need to stand up for the progressive values that Pomona claims to stand for.” 

Brady said in an email to TSL that the interruption aimed to deliver a message from CSWA to administration in support of the workers’ demands for a raise. According to Brady and CSWA’s calculations, it would only take 0.6 percent from the endowment to grant these raises.

“Pomona can afford it, workers deserve it, and we ought to do it,” Brady said. “… It’s confusing to see Pomona pushing simultaneous narratives of ‘Look how much money we have available’ and ‘We don’t have enough money to pay a living wage.’ It’s revealing of where their priorities lie.”

In response to the interruption, Berger adjourned the meeting early.

“I structured the meeting such that the presentation would be followed by questions from senators, questions from guests and then a student-only discussion,” Berger said. “Despite my announcements that there would be time for Q&A at the end, the interruptions during the presentation rendered the meeting difficult to proceed as planned.”

Members of Divest Claremont Colleges met up with the Claremont Student Workers’ Alliance prior to the meeting and agreed to join their action, Divest Claremont Colleges President Nicholas Black PO ’24 said. After the adjournment, members of Divest Claremont Colleges and CSWA marched outside and began chanting. 

“We sat through the presentation from the administrators and stood up when CSWA held their demonstration, interrupting the meeting to share concerns about the mistreatment of Pomona’s dining hall workers,” Black said. “We expected the senators to allow the demonstration to run its course — CSWA planned to exit the meeting immediately after anyway.”

However, Black said student senators spoke over CSWA and demanded that they stop. When CSWA refused, Berger adjourned the meeting. 

“I was definitely disappointed at the lack of solidarity that was shown to student activism groups from ASPC,” Black said. “We expect ASPC to represent our concerns to the administration, and it seemed like they were siding with them over us. In my view, ASPC shouldn’t be hostile to student organizing if they’re going to accurately represent our interests.” 

Berger told TSL that CSWA’s action caught her by surprise in the meeting, so she operated with the limited information she had. 

“Of course I wish I had known what the groups were planning, so we could work alongside them, but I understand that was not the case,” Berger said. “I think student organizing can be more effective when we organize together.”

In an email to TSL, Roth said while the presenters made it through most of the prepared material on Pomona’s endowment and budget support, they were not able to field questions. Roth and Wallace offered to join a future ASPC meeting.

“The endowment is an ongoing topic of discussion among students; we will be thinking about how to best go about learning about its workings, giving students a platform to inquire … about the endowment and advocating for change,” Berger said. “… The ASPC Senate will continue to explore how we can best promote transparency and flow of information between students and admin and work alongside our constituents.”

Facebook Comments