Kathy Lu – Pomona ’14
Kelly Park – Pomona ’12
On Monday, Nov. 7, 84 members of the Pomona College community – professors, students, and workers – were informed of deficiencies in their work documentation, and were required to report to one-on-one meetings with the human resources (HR) department within the next few days. While many of those who received letters were able to resolve the issues easily, others faced greater challenges. When questioned, HR was unable to provide specific details concerning exactly what deficiencies their work documentation revealed; instead, they demanded full sets of legal documentation, including residency papers, upfront. Furthermore, the targeted individuals were initially denied access to their I-9 forms, then barred from making copies of them to take to outside legal consultation (because they were denied the presence of legal counsel during the meetings themselves). Instead, the school listed two lawyers based on Santa Monica, an hour’s drive away, as approved legal counsel.
Events quickly followed that were intended to raise awareness of the implications of a move that has been repeatedly framed as merely clerical or administrative. Community members stood vigil outside of Alexander Hall on Friday, Nov. 11, the last day on which the one-on-one meetings occurred. On Monday, Nov. 14, a community forum was held to contextualize the demand for documentation within a broader, hostile climate against immigrant individuals. At the forum, professors presented a resolution drafted by the History and Intercollegiate Department of Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies that condemned the Board of Trustees, a resolution later voted on and approved at the weekly faculty meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 16. At the meeting, attended by Pomona students as well as faculty, President David Oxtoby answered questions regarding the initial reasons prompting the demands for document reverification.
Allegedly, a complaint was filed with the Board of Trustees regarding incomplete or improperly handled documentation undertaken by the HR department during the employment process. The Board of Trustees then relayed the complaint to Oxtoby, initiating a two-step process of investigation, first enlisting an external agency that would conduct a documentation review before performing an internal audit of employee documentation. According to Oxtoby, the college was legally obligated to engage in such documentation review because of concerns of criminal liability that would implicate both himself and the entire college administration. This legal obligation cited by both the Board and Oxtoby, however, has been called into serious question by members of the Pomona faculty, including Victor Silverman, a labor law expert and history professor.
The Board’s demands led directly to the chain of events currently unfolding, requiring that employees of Pomona College reverify their documentation before Dec. 1, a deadline that is fast approaching. Unfortunately, Oxtoby was able to disclose no further details about the demand nor the person who filed it, citing either personal ignorance or concerns of confidentiality. As of the date of this printing, college employees will have barely over one week to rectify the so-called deficiencies within their paperwork. Failure to do so subjects employees to immediate dismissal.
A lecture by Attorney Victor Narro, expert on immigration and labor law, will provide more information on the legality of the reverification process on Tuesday, Nov. 22.