Dear Pomona College Community,
This academic year, we at Pomona College have seen incidents of vandalism that raise deep concern, with a student’s Israeli flag cut in two and, most recently, a map in Oldenborg where the name of the state of Israel was removed.
Criticism of all nations is protected by the U.S. Constitution, and debate over global issues is welcome on our campus. Destructive acts are not, and defacing or destroying individual or college property is both against our student code and against the values we hold dear.
These acts have taken place against the troubling backdrop of rising antisemitism in the nation. In January, antisemitic flyers were distributed in Claremont, including a few locations on our campus, showing quite literally how this disturbing phenomenon can reach into our community. We want to be clear in stating that antisemitism is a form of hate, and we reject antisemitism in all its forms, and the growing wave that is emerging across the United States makes it crucial for us to work together.
There is a meaningful distinction between political speech and hate speech, and we see this as a moment to reemphasize our commitments to both open inquiry and mutual respect. We encourage active citizenship and activism on campus and acknowledge these as essential to a liberal arts education. Across our campus, we will have differing views and intense debates, yet we must always recognize our shared humanity.
The College has put into place several tools we believe are essential to this moment:
First. Education. Antisemitism is real and growing. Poison fruit that should have died on the vine is being tended and nurtured; to stand in the way of that growth, one of the most important measures involves learning about the history of this form of hatred. A teach-in on antisemitism is planned for later in the semester, to be given by a member of our faculty.
Second. Community. Restorative justice is a way to respond to harm in a community, emphasizing healing, social support and active accountability.
Restorative justice circles are facilitated spaces to identify harms, needs and solutions through an inclusive and collaborative decision-making process with the goal of outlining community actions and next steps. A restorative justice circle was held for the Oldenborg community, and we are exploring future dates for the wider campus community to join us.
Third. Dialogue. The College is working with the Sustained Dialogue Institute to offer options for those interested in building relationships across faiths and identities by discussing experiences that students face in daily life from antisemitic beliefs. Participants can expect to have conversations like “What have you seen of how antisemitism and other forms of hate and bias intersect together?” and “How do recent antisemitic events and their aftermath in the broader society impact students?”
Sustained Dialogue is a process codified by the late Harold “Hal” Saunders, a U.S. diplomat who played a key role for decades in peace processes in the Middle East, including the Camp David Accords.
Our goal is to create and sustain a campus atmosphere in which everyone can flourish. Through these and future measures, we will fulfill our moral and educational responsibilities to oppose hate and to inform each new generation regarding its destructive history.
G. Gabrielle Starr
Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students
Yuqing Melanie Wu
Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College