Critics of affirmative action who charge that racial and gender preferences are "reverse discrimination" and that white males are its chief victims must not be referring to life at Pomona College. Scanning the pages of the college's 1994-95 faculty handbook, I counted 53 white male full professors, nine women and two minorities. And it is this group of 64 professors who makes the final decisions on promotion and tenure.
It should thus surprise no one that minorities and women have a difficult time joining "the club." A prime example of this is Gilbert Cadena, a professor of sociology and Chicano studies.
Cadena's bid for tenure at Pomona was recently denied, and he has not, so far, received any written statement explaining why. He has been informally told that one reason for denial is that he has not been published in "mainstream" journals. The tenure subcommittee, apparently, did not consider articles and chapters that Cadena has published in Chicano studies journals and anthologies academically worthy.
In the academy, the requirement for publication in "mainstream" journals often serves to keep the scholarship of professors who have been marginalized because of race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation on the academic sidelines. When Cadena submitted articles to these journals, their editors told him that their readers would not be interested in the subject matter.
Pomona College has chosen to take a similar exclusionary path in denying Cadena tenure--even though he has received two positive reviews in the past five years. A Chicano who questions the boundaries of "mainstream" academia is a threat to the stability and power of the white male professors who run faculty affairs.
In response, students have joined together to support Cadena. There have been silent protests, informational flyers and articles published in campus papers. Individual and group letters have been sent to college President Peter Stanley.
In our struggle, we wonder if perhaps Pomona College has forgotten that two years ago, students occupied the school's main administration building for three days to protest their lack of involvement in the faculty-selection process. Another of their concerns was the small number of faculty of color throughout the Claremont Colleges. The college has not upheld the contract it made with the students to address these concerns.
The Claremont Colleges claim to foster a multicultural environment. They have won awards for leadership in multicultural education. But all this masks a harsh reality: a half-hearted attempt at diversification that is best described as tokenism and discrimination in the garb of civility.
Pomona College must realize that a reputation for diversity and multiculturalism is not enough. Rather, people of color, women, gays, lesbians and bisexuals must be allowed to reshape the "mainstream," which has long been defined by a white male normative experience. Such an undertaking must begin by moving away from the idea that we are all playing on an equal field.
As long as there are glaring inequalities, such as the racial makeup of the Pomona College faculty, we cannot even begin to discuss the dismantling of affirmative action, as many in the academic community are calling for.
The fact remains that white males continue to control the institutions in this country. There have been and will continue to be many like Cadena as long as we dissuade ourselves from believing that colleges such as Pomona discriminate against anyone who is different from the white male norm.*