Help Pomona students evicted during COVID-19

Dear students, alumni, and members of the Pomona community,


Summary

We are asking for your help in giving direct, timely assistance to Pomona College students experiencing financial uncertainty during COVID-19 and our campus closure. Your contributions will be distributed in the form of need-based grants to students facing hardships such as housing insecurity, food insecurity, unexpected medical bills, providing for family members and loved ones, loss of income, unemployment, mental and physical health, and restricted accommodations. 


Stopgap Measure to Pomona College’s Official Response

This campaign is separate from the official COVID-19 Emergency Fund created by Pomona College, and has been organized as an additional resource for direct, immediate assistance by a coalition of first-generation, low-income, international, and homeless students, as well as survivors of domestic violence and abuse . Throughout its response to COVID-19, the College has failed to understand or to meet the needs of students who face poverty, housing insecurity, and other significant barriers by treating them as liabilities and risking their safety. Our open letter  describes how the College has used threats and intimidation to forcefully remove students from campus — the very students that the College make institutional promises to support in its brochures, admissions, and rhetoric. Even after the College committed to additional support measures following pressure from our community, the College is limited in how and when they can fund students, making it too slow, insufficient, or otherwise unable to support members of our community who have high levels of need. Many students have not been able to afford their off-campus living expenses while waiting to access their Room and Board refund. Unexpected expenses that the College does not usually cover (i.e., lost items, repairs) can have especially adverse financial consequences during an economic fallout, and some students carry additional responsibilities of providing for loved ones and family in bills such as rent, healthcare, and groceries that the College, likewise, cannot cover. A combination of Pomona College’s financial support and our community-driven, direct relief can best address the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 that extends beyond what the College has been willing to support. 


Latest Status

We have approved a total of $16,165 in grants for 37 students, and have received 91 requests for housing and funding assistance as of March 26th. 


Background

Student organizers at Occupy Pomona started this campaign just hours after the College notified hundreds of students that their petitions to remain on campus had been denied, and were required to move off campus in four days, without any communication on how the College would support them if they had no viable place to live. This left many students facing homelessness, especially students who are first-generation, low-income, international, and homeless, as well as survivors of domestic violence and abuse. We penned an open letter  objecting to the College’s response to COVID-19, which included a completely arbitrary petition approval process, and threats to students denied their petitions with a fine of up to $100 per diem and firing from on-campus jobs. 

Even after the College made some concessions to students who had been denied their petitions, the effects of COVID-19 continue to impact students in ways that the College has been unequipped to support. For example, students who were rushed off-campus by the College’s intimidation tactics are still waiting to access their Room and Board refund, even though the College told them to use the refund to pay for their off-campus living arrangements. Some students who remain on campus have had their accessibility and accommodation needs ignored as administrators decide on living arrangements during campus closure, and yet other students face additional responsibilities to provide for loved ones and family following loss of income and medical emergencies during the pandemic. As the full consequences of COVID-19 continue to unfold, we are organizing this campaign to be able to meet current and impending needs of Pomona College students and to stand in solidarity with members of our community who are most at risk. 


Who We Are

16 student volunteers in Occupy Pomona’s Financing Committee are responsible for deliberating and voting on student requests, as well as other administrative tasks. We are first-generation, low-income, BIPOC, undocumented, queer, international, and/or homeless students, as well as students impacted by domestic violence and abuse. 


Philosophies Guiding the Fund

We ask members of our community to read through the following guidelines regarding the use and maintenance of the Emergency Fund:

1. The fund is a communal resource for students experiencing financial insecurity  to meet varied and unpredictable needs during COVID-19, pooled together by over 900 community members. The volunteer team’s role in the fund is to place these funds directly into the hands of students in need.

2. Decision-making power about our fund is shared as much as possible. Impacted students are in the best position to evaluate their needs. The volunteer team distributes information and their process  widely across our community so that students can make informed decisions concerning themselves and others. 

3. The fund is a first-come, first-serve resource so that students can receive timely assistance as needs arise. The volunteer team is not concerned with maintaining the longevity of the fund; it is the responsibility of the community to consider our long-term well-being when requesting funds.

4. We refuse to adhere to mechanisms of control that operate through surveillance and penalty, and instead rely on mutual trust, accountability, and collective care so that our funds can reach those with the highest levels of need. The volunteer team minimizes collecting data from students to cases where it is required for legal procedures, or reveals gaps in existing structures, and commits to explaining why we are collecting information and how we will use it.

5. We acknowledge that forms of institutional support often fail to understand and meet the needs of students experiencing poverty, housing insecurity, and other forms of risk, and that’s where our emergency fund comes in. We work with Pomona College intentionally, and ask that students have the College cover their expenses when they can, to the extent that their support is in the service of students.  

6. The volunteers fully understand the public scrutiny placed on them as student representatives of Pomona College and strive to uphold accountability and transparency to the highest standard while protecting the interests of impacted students. 

Timeline

March 11th - Students receive an email that they are not to return to campus after spring break due to public health recommendations. 

March 13th - The majority of 370 petitions to stay on campus are denied, and students are threatened with fines of up to $100 per diem, and firing from their on-campus jobs by Wednesday, March 18th at 5 p.m. There is no information on how the College will support displaced students to live off-campus, despite many students lacking a home to return to. 

March 14th - Occupy Pomona releases an open letter  objecting to the College’s Coronavirus response. This fundraiser is started to cover essential needs of students evicted from Pomona College, and we open four new Venmo accounts: POM-COVID19-1, POM-COVID19-2, POM-COVID19-3, and POM-COVID19-4. 

March 15th - Short-term emergency grants from the campaign are made available for Pomona students, and the first grant is transferred through Venmo. It becomes more known among students that the College is providing a $250 flat grant to all students who request it from Dean Avis Hinkson for covering general expenses. 

March 19th - Long-term emergency grants and the Emergency Fund FAQ are made available. Organizers also release an open letter  demanding that accessibility be made a concern when choosing which dorm building to house students in during campus closure. Starting this date, long-term grants are considered for a budget of one month as students wait for further announcement from the College about their Room and Board refund. 

March 20th - A day after California issues a shelter-at-home order, President Gabi Starr announces that all students remaining on campus will be allowed to stay through the end of the semester. 

March 23rd - Students who moved off-campus before March 20th have a credit posted to their student accounts that is 50% of their Room and Board expense for the semester, subtracted by their existing balance. The next day, the Credit Balance Refund form  is made available for students who have moved off-campus to directly access their refund by check or direct deposit, earliest by the first week of April. As of this date, long-term grants are still considered for a budget of one month because students are still uncertain when exactly they can directly access their refund. 


Fund Allocation Process

1. A student requests funding on our short-term or long-term grant form. 
2. The request is anonymized by a volunteer whose role requires them to see the identity of the person who submitted the request (i.e., transactions, direct contact).
3. All 16 volunteers can see the anonymized request, and they deliberate and vote on each request by a “Yes,” “No,” “Partial funding,” or “Maybe” on a Google Spreadsheet. 
4. Votes are tallied daily and each grant is decided by a majority vote. 
5. Students will be notified of their result in under 48 hours. 
6. The funds are transferred through Zelle, ACH transfer, or a reimbursement every Monday and Friday. 
7. If a request has been denied, approved partially, or needs more information, volunteers will be in touch with a student with a clear explanation of why the decision has been made. 

We have more details on our allocation process in our Frequently Asked Questions  document.


Fund Management Structure

All of the the donations in this GoFundMe, as well as the majority of the money transferred into our 4 Venmo accounts (POM-COVID19-1, POM-COVID19-2, -3, -4) are withdrawn directly into an organizational account registered by Occupy Pomona with the Associated Students of Pomona College  (ASPC). ASPC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit representing the student government at Pomona College, and conducts financial transactions for student organizations. The funds will be distributed from our organizational account to individual students through Zelle, an ACH transfer, or a reimbursement procedure at a time communicated with the student, through a same-day transfer if necessary. Transactions will be recorded by volunteers and staff at Occupy Pomona and ASPC, and ultimately processed by the ASPC’s Staff Accountant. 

The remainder of the funds from Venmo, $261.47, has been used to buy supplies for students, including vitamin C supplements, cough suppressants, mucus decongestants, cleaning wipes, hand soap, and face masks.

In the past, the beneficiary of the GoFundMe has appeared as Pomona FLI Scholars, or Professor Maryan Soliman of Scripps College, who is a trusted faculty member teaching in a fellow member institution of the Claremont Colleges. We had made these temporary arrangements as we clarified the tax and legal implications of our fund, and ultimately chose to open our own organizational account with ASPC. To be clear, neither Professor Soliman nor the organizers at Occupy Pomona have received any funds from this campaign as a result of our involvement. 


Important Links

Frequently asked questions provides more information about our Emergency Fund.

Short-term and Long-term grant forms for Pomona College students.

Off-Campus Housing Request Form  for Pomona students seeking low-cost housing. Student organizers have compiled a private spreadsheet of hosts and leases. 

Accounting spreadsheet  shows how our funds have been allocated. 

List of resources  is a one-stop document for Pomona students navigating COVID-19. 

3/14: On the Future of Pomona College Students  is an open letter by Occupy Pomona on the College’s COVID-19 response and eviction of students. 

Linktree  has links to all resources, articles, and forms related to Occupy Pomona. 

Follow Occupy Pomona on Twitter or Instagram .


Contact Information

If you have any questions, concerns, or contributions, please email occupypomonafinance@gmail.com.


In solidarity,

Occupy Pomona Organizers


Original GoFundMe Description: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1gqTeeSQvq2D_G5oMfLCpODqCJFS_tGOMCzainWaWEDY/edit?usp=sharing

Donations ()

  • Henry & Vanessa Dotson 
    • $75 
    • 1 d
  • Ivette Fernandez 
    • $75 
    • 5 d
  • Marcus Zeender 
    • $50 
    • 5 d
  • Anonymous 
    • $300 
    • 6 d
  • Anonymous 
    • $40 
    • 6 d
See all

Organizer and beneficiary

Pomona FLI Scholars 
Organizer
Claremont, CA
Associated Students of Pomona College 
Beneficiary
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