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Students of color allowed ‘safe space’ without white males at Pomona College 

‘There is nothing wrong or ungrateful about requesting … the safe spaces necessary to make it through the antiBlack white capitalist institution, Pomona College’

A Students of Color Alliance lounge that requires students fill out a form listing what identity-based group they belong to before being granted electronic ID card swipe access to the venue has been established at an elite private college in Southern California.

Pomona College administrators approved the swipe-access decision in November to address student protests after easy access to the lounge had been somewhat restricted for a few years due to COVID-related occupancy rules, The Student Life reported Dec. 2.

The Students of Color Alliance posted on its Instagram page Nov. 28 that “Previously, there was no standardized process for granting swipe access to the lounge, which limited the use of the space as it was intended. Moving forward, there will be a google form that students of color can fill out to request swipe access to the space.”

The recently published online Google form to request swipe access hosted by the Students of Color Alliance asks applicants to provide their name, email, student ID, and the name of the affinity group they are affiliated with, if any.

The online form does not explicitly state white males are not allowed, but “it goes without saying,” said a campus source who asked to remain anonymous in an email to The College Fix, adding they “thought excluding people from access based on their race was illegal.”

Patricia Vest, Pomona’s senior director of communications, told The College Fix: “Per our policy, student spaces at Pomona College are open to all students.”

She did not respond to a follow up question asking whether white males would feel welcome in the lounge and who approves the swipe-card access requests.

The lounge was first established in May 2017 by international student groups. At the time, it was billed as a “shared space,” according to an online Pomona report on its debut.

Located on the bottom floor of a dorm, it is “equipped with a kitchen, library, fireplace, and multiple couches, tables and chairs for all international and undoc/DACAmented students on campus to come together,” the 2017 announcement stated.

The Student of Color Alliance, which oversees the lounge today, includes several identity-based groups: the Latinx Alliance, Caballeros & Señoritas Student Alliance, Eritrean and Ethiopian Student Association, African Student Association, Women of Pre-Health, and Asian American Resource Center.

Last month’s swipe-access decision was made amid larger turmoil over the lounge after Pomona’s Black Student Union was displaced due to campus construction and administration decided to “build a wall” to bisect the Students of Color Alliance lounge, partitioning off a portion for the BSU.

Pomona is located on a shared campus with a consortium of other colleges that include Claremont McKenna, Scripps, Harvey Mudd and Pitzer colleges, and space is limited.

A “Stop the Wall” protest was launched in November, with students of color arguing they should be given their own exclusive “safe space” on campus, according to their solidarity statement.

“The lounge is already shared by five student groups on campus, and building the wall would mean that our shared space would be minimized and limit our capacity to hold a safe space for students on campus,” said the statement [italics in the original].

“…There is nothing wrong or ungrateful about requesting that both groups with differing goals, interests, and events have the safe spaces necessary to make it through the antiBlack white capitalist institution, Pomona College,” it added.

The students accused administration of trying to force the wall on them and tokenizing them rather than living up to their stated diversity, equity and inclusion promises.

The Student Life reported that Pomona President Gabrielle Starr stated in an email in mid-November the school would halt plans to build the wall for now.

“I appreciate that so many students came to share their views and experiences,” Starr said. “Whenever any of us feel hurt in our community, it is a collective concern and we need to stop and hear the issue out. I’m sorry for that, and I extend my love and respect to you all.”

MORE: Nine of ten Pomona College students say campus climate hinders free speech

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix.