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May 10, 2024

Incoming ASPC President: Pomona Board of Trustees want to “buy our silence and complicity in genocide through donations”

The president said that the Board of Trustees met students and faculty with "sheer disrespect" in a May 7 meeting.

Samson Zhang
Pomona Divest from Apartheid set up a mock apartheid wall at Smith Campus Center from March 28 to April 5.

The 2024-25 ASPC Student Body President said that Pomona Board of Trustees wants to “buy our silence and complicity in genocide through donations” in an email sent to all students. The president, who asked to not be named in this article due to doxxing concerns, said they attended a meeting with the Investments Committee of the Board of Trustees on May 7 to talk about divestment from Israeli genocide, where students and faculty were met with “sheer direspect.”

A copy of the email, sent on May 9 at 12:03 p.m. with the subject “Update on Recent Board of Trustees Meeting,” is below.


Dear Community,

I write with deep concern for the governance of our college following a meeting two days ago of a student and faculty delegation with the Investments Committee of the Board of Trustees. President Starr disclosed in this meeting that of the 10 companies that the recent faculty resolution called for divestment from, Pomona College is directly invested in one company and may be indirectly invested in others through broader exchange traded funds and hedge managers.

When confronted with the direct charges of the student referendum and faculty resolution in favor of divestment from weapons manufacturing and the apartheid system of Israel, the Board Chair attempted to discredit these results by sharing that they received numerous “emails” from people who disagreed. These emails pale in comparison to a referendum that saw 60% voter turnout (which, as a professor at the meeting shared, is double the turnout of voters in the most recent LA County election) with an overwhelming 85% of student voters calling for divestment from weapons manufacturers and 82% for divestment from all companies aiding the ongoing apartheid system within the State of Israel. Our key partners in shared governance, the faculty of Pomona, similarly voted by a near supermajority (64%) to call for divestment from weapons manufacturers and companies complicit in human rights abuses committed by Israel. These direct calls for action in alignment with community values against apartheid and genocide were met with complete inaction by the Board of Trustees. This not a new issue; students for many years have campaigned for an end to investments in Israel, and ASPC divested 3 years ago. However, when directly pressed for a vote, the Board refused to even promise that a vote on such issues could come in the near future.

The sheer disrespect the student delegation received was also characteristic of the out-of-touch nature of the Board Investments Committee. When I shared that the key communities that make up the institution as it currently is, the faculty and students, had overwhelmingly voted in favor of divestment, the Chair of the Investments Committee responded that “I probably would take exception to the implication that trustees and alumni are not a part of the community that comprises this thing called Pomona College. Particularly as a trustee who gives a great deal of my time, my money, my energy – which is all highly sought after – to this institution pro bono. Perhaps even people on this call are attending the college on financial aid that I funded.” These are notes taken by our Senate Aide, emphasis my own, so I apologize for any minor errors, but the guiding principle of this Board is that they can buy our silence and complicity in genocide through donations. That assertion is wrong.

There is a deep structural issue with our College that its ultimate governing body is, by my perception, determined by wealth and the donations one can amass, rather than dedication to students, or even the guiding value of improving our world and serving as a global citizen. I’m currently following closely my local school board election, and candidates there have shared how their vision as a Board member is to listen and serve students, who are the ultimate experts on an institution they live and breathe daily. I wish this same sentiment were true for our Board, but they are not accountable to alumni or students. A path forward for discussion in the coming year could include community elections for the Board.

The institution has been silent in the face of a student encampment, which shows the deep dedication of our students to non-violent political struggle, even putting their lives on the line should more brutalizing police be called in by administrators. This is not a corporation, but an institution of education, and should be dedicated to genuine betterment of the world and proper treatment of its students. I am beyond disturbed by the lack of understanding of the highest officials of our College of the need for alignment with our values against genocide and to listen to the students and faculty that comprise this institution. This is a call for divestment now, and a promise for genuine interrogation of our systems of power in the coming year.

Please, as always, reach out with questions and comments. I’ve also attached below a summary and transcript of the recent Town Hall on divestment that our Senate Aide prepared for greater transparency.

ASPC Transcript — Town Hall

ASPC Summary — Town Hall

In community,

[Name redacted in this post due to safety concerns]

Student Body President ’24-’25

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Thanks for reading Undercurrents

Undercurrents reports on labor, Palestine liberation, prison abolition and other community organizing at and around the Claremont Colleges.

Issue 1 / Spring 2023

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How Pomona workers won a historic $25 minimum wage; a new union in Claremont; Tony Hoang on organizing

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