November 13, 2023
The college's rationale shifted from rain damage to a prohibition of memorials at SCC over the night before the takedown.
Overnight on Oct. 24, Pomona College removed over 100 letters, signs, flowers and other items to clear a vigil for Palestine from Smith Campus Center. The vigil was set up on Oct. 20 in an action that drew over 150 students and 15 organizations who shared solidarity statements.
The college’s communication with students initially cited rain damage as the reason for removal. After students pushed back that there were plans to restore the vigil, the college clarified that memorials could not be set up in SCC in general.
Here’s how it happened, according to emails and screenshots of emails obtained by Undercurrents.
Monday Oct. 23, 3:22 p.m.
On Monday afternoon, Associate Dean of Students Josh Eisenberg emailed a former Claremont Student Worker Alliance organizer about removing the vigil.
In the email, Eisenberg noted that the vigil had been damaged by the previous night’s rain, and asked the organizer if they would like to have “CSWA remove specific items and then Facilities can remove the rest?” or for facilities workers to clean it up.
In a reply at 4:56 p.m., the student clarified that CSWA did not lead in organizing the vigil, nor was the student a leader of CSWA anymore.
They also shared that “there are volunteers who are committed to restoring the vigil very soon,” asking Eisenberg to “please continue to respect the vigil in the meantime.”
“This is a time of immense grief,” the email ends.
Josh Eisenberg acknowledges the response in a reply at 5 p.m. Below is the full text of his email.
I am so sorry! You are listed as the president in Engage and the one post forwarded to me listed it as a CSWA event.
I’ll do some more looking.
At around 8 p.m., Eisenberg forwarded the email chain to a Students for Justice in Palestine organizer.
“I thought the vigil … was organized by CSWA,” Eisenberg wrote in the email. “I don’t know if SJP organized but I just don’t want the more permanent items thrown away.”
About two hours later, the SJP organizer confirmed that the vigil will be restored and asked for it to be kept up.
Echoing the former CSWA organizer, the student noted that “this event was not organized by any group but rather by many students who wanted to be in community with one another,” and that “as [former CSWA organizer] said, people are committed to keeping the vigil up indefinitely and restoring it consistently.
“The vigil is incredibly important to all those who helped create it, as well as many other community members who are mourning at this time … Please continue to respect the vigil and all the work that went into it,” the student said in the email.
Eisenberg responded early Tuesday morning to say that the vigil will be cleared. Rather than rain damage, the reasoning provided this time was a prohibition of memorials at SCC entirely.
“We cannot have the SCC fountain or the plaza become the Pomona home to memorials or other smaller tributes,” Eisenberg said in the email. “We will constantly have to decide what counts as a memorial, what groups are able to use the space, and it gives our SCC housekeeping staff and facilities extra work.”
“Although you will likely disagree I appreciate your understanding,” Eisenberg said.
The physical removal of the vigil was not caught on photo or video, but by the morning the vigil was gone.
Issue 1 / Spring 2023
Setting the Standard
How Pomona workers won a historic $25 minimum wage; a new union in Claremont; Tony Hoang on organizingRead issue 1