President Starr launches plans to address financial discrimination, antisemitism at Pomona

Big Bridges at Pomona College
Pomona president Gabi Starr plans on putting her initiatives into action during the spring 2023 semester. (Ben Jones • The Student Life)

Pomona College President Gabrielle Starr will move forward with the school’s initiatives to address antisemitism and diversifying student enrollment in the new year.

Starr introduced the administration’s plans to support interfaith and middle-income students in an email to Pomona students on Nov. 17.

“Rising antisemitism is a disturbing trend in our nation. As an institution of higher learning, we need to take an active role to help reverse it,” Starr told TSL via email. 

Starr’s announcement came two months before antisemetic flyers were anonymously put up on and around campus. The Claremont Colleges’ Campus Safety Department initiated patrol of the 5Cs and joined the Claremont Police Department in their investigation of the incident on Jan. 7. The investigation is ongoing.

The Pomona administration has collaborated with the Sustained Dialogue Institutes to reinstate their student dialogue program, Shaping Dialogue Now, first launched in 2018. This semester, the program will be hosted by Avis Hinkson and Josh Eisenberg, who are both Deans of Students. 

According to Starr, these student dialogue groups will discuss allyship to Jewish students at the 5Cs and explore “interfaith approaches to combating antisemitism.”

Shaping Dialogue Now has worked closely with the rabbis at the Claremont Colleges Services’ Chaplain’s Office in launching this semester’s discussion topics. Rabbi Yossi Matusof, co-director of the Claremont Chabad, was a staunch supporter of the partnership. 

“When there is more darkness and hate, we need to add more light and love,” Mutsof told TSL via email. “5C Chabad is stepping up its efforts to add more light — the light of a thriving, welcoming and fun Jewish community that helps students feel proud to be Jewish!”

Rabbi Hannah Elkin, Jewish Chaplain and director of Hillel at the Claremont Colleges, was optimistic about the impact student discussion has on holistically addressing antisemitism and cultural bias at the 5Cs. 

“Sharing stories and learning about the experiences of others helps us all feel seen,” Elkin said via email. “The Claremont Colleges care deeply about supporting students with a wide range of religious, ethnic, racial, gender [and] sexual identities. [We] work very hard to combat bias and strengthen diversity, equity, and inclusion work on campus.”

Ayelet Kleinerman PO ’24, a member of Claremont Hillel, underscored the importance of providing a forum for Jewish students to describe their lived experience with antisemitism as well.

“Antisemitism has become normalized in our culture today — and in some cases, its existence is denied,” Kleinerman said. “Jewish students should be the ones deciding [what] is antisemitic. [Those students] should be at the core. Shaping dialogue is a great start.”

Starr reiterated Pomona’s commitment to supporting students of all backgrounds as a primary motivation for the administration’s new initiatives to increase enrollment of middle-income students as well. 

A middle-income household is defined as one that earns $75,000 to $150,000 per year. While Pomona has been on a journey to accept more students of lower-income backgrounds, middle-income households are often left out of this equation. 

According to Starr, Pomona hopes to enroll more middle-income students in the following school year “without affecting enrollment of lower-income students.”

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