Last Updated on December 11, 2022

A private college in California recently approved an electronic access system to a study lounge for nonwhite students. In order to gain entry, students must submit a form listing their ethnic identity, according to a report from The College Fix.

Administrators at Pomona College approved the electronic swipe access system in November after student protests. The Students of Color Alliance posted on its Instagram page Nov. 28 that “Previously, there was no standardized process for granting swipe access to the lounge, which limited the use of the space as it was intended. Moving forward, there will be a google form that students of color can fill out to request swipe access to the space.”

The recently published online Google entry application asks applicants to state their name, email, student ID and the name of the ethnic group they identify with, if any. The form is managed by Pomona’s Students of Color Alliance.

White students are not explicitly barred from the lounge, though one campus source, who asked to remain anonymous, told The College Fix that it “goes without saying,” adding that they “thought excluding people from access based on their race was illegal.”

Patricia Vest, Pomona’s senior director of communications, told The College Fix that the lounge was open to “all students,” though she did not answer a follow-up question that asked if white male students would be welcome there. She also did not answer when asked about how the electronic access system is managed.

The lounge was first established in May 2017 by international student groups and was presented as a “shared space,” according to a blog post from Pomona. It was also billed as a place where both “undocumented” and legal immigrants can mingle.

Located on the bottom floor of a dorm, it is “equipped with a kitchen, library, fireplace, and multiple couches, tables and chairs for all international and undoc/DACAmented students on campus to come together,” the 2017 announcement stated.

In 2022, the lounge is managed by the Students of Color Alliance at Pomona, which includes a number of smaller student groups. Groups under the umbrella include the Latinx Alliance, Caballeros & Señoritas Student Alliance, Eritrean and Ethiopian Student Association, African Student Association, Women of Pre-Health, and the Asian American Resource Center.

Last month, the electronic access system was approved after student protests after Pomona’s Black Student Union was displaced due to campus construction, The College Fix reported. Administrators then decided to build a “wall” to bisect the Students of Color Alliance lounge, partitioning off a portion for the Black Student Union.

BSU students complained that they had lost their exclusive “safe space” on campus, according to a statement released at the time. “This long-term plan was a hasty attempt to provide a space for Black students as promised in a contractual agreement in 2021 that guarantees the administration find a permanent space for BSU by December 2023,” reads the statement.

“The contract was a result of student organizing that started years ago but was revamped in 2020 in alignment with the BLM movement and the urgent need to center the needs of Black students. The agreement also promised to conduct a “space study to determine the holistic needs of the campus,” —a promise which has yet to be fulfilled,” it continued.

Photo: “Pomona College Space and Solidarity Statement “from the Students of Color Alliance

The Student Life reported that Pomona has opted to halt construction of the wall for now, according to a statement from university president Gabrielle Starr.

“I appreciate that so many students came to share their views and experiences,” Starr said. “Whenever any of us feel hurt in our community, it is a collective concern and we need to stop and hear the issue out. I’m sorry for that, and I extend my love and respect to you all.”

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