Dear Dr. Miriam Feldblum and Dr. Jan Collins- Eaglin:
We are writing this letter to express our outrage with the firing of Dr. Jonathan Higgins as the Director of Claremont College’s Queer Resource Center. We, a collective of Student Affairs professionals from across the nation and with a multitude of identities, are united against the actions you’ve taken and the impact that they’ll have across our field. We understand your choice to end Dr. Higgins’ employment to be a form of gatekeeping that keeps Black queer professionals out of key positions to create change in higher education.
The College Fix, a right leaning student written news website published a piece about tweets from Dr. Higgins reflecting on his lived experiences as a queer Black man. The website chose to focus on an April tweet in which Higgins replied to the question “who are you automatically wary of/keep at a distance because of your past experiences?” - “White gays and well-meaning white women,”. If history has taught us anything, we know that Dr. Higgins’ experiences and caution are valid. White gay men have become the primary enactors of violence toward queer people of color. Recently in Philadelphia, white gay men were angered because the city introduced a new pride flag with added black and brown stripes. The colors, according to the Philadelphia Office of LGBT Affairs’ More Color More Pride campaign, represent inclusion of people of color in the LGBTQ community. Dr. Mamta Motwani Accapadi has written about and presented on the ways white women have enacted violence on people of color and served to perpetuate and benefit from white supremacy.
Dr. Higgins’ work has always centered queer students of color and has spoken out about the harm of heteronormativity, homonegativity, White fragility and White supremacy in relation to queer students. As quoted from the QRC website, “The Dean of Students staff is committed to building and maintaining a vibrant community which is inclusive and open to new and differing experiences and viewpoints.” As a public serving institution, Claremont has the obligation to serve a broad constituency to ensure it fosters an inclusive and supportive campus environment where its members feel valued, respected, are able to flourish, and continue to be unobstructed in their pursuit of their fullest potential. The commitment to diversity has to acknowledge that there are differences that make a difference, with the idea that historical inequities, legalities, and legacies negatively impact marginalized students and their ability to thrive in many campus environments. With that in mind, when we aim to create an equitable space, we should strive to center those who have historically and contemporarily been marginalized and ignored by our institutions of higher education. Specifically, these spaces should value and celebrate the voices and lived experiences of those historically marginalized by systems of oppression as catalysts for institutional equity and social change, we can’t uphold the systems we seek to dismantle.
We would like to state in no uncertain terms that the firing of Dr. Higgins is a gross injustice and serves as an act of violence and silencing of queer black voices. The actions of Dr. Feldblum and the Dean of Students office at Pomona College goes directly against its stated mission of “[p]rioritizing lived experiences and centering voices of those who have multiple marginalized identities” It seems clear that this statement isn’t enforced through action. This is an example of representational diversity without a structure to support the lived experiences of those with multiple marginalized identities.. Our lived experiences as Student Affairs professionals inform and support our work with students with multiple marginalized identities.
The firing of Dr. Higgins sets a dangerous precedent for the field of student affairs--that those who directly and unapologetically challenge white supremacy, white fragility, and the multitude of problematic aspects of higher education and the dominant culture, will simply be discarded in favor of someone who will perpetuate the status quo. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated, "...large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility & the status quo than about justice & humanity.” This has proven, time and again, to be true.
We refuse to sit idly by as Dr. Higgins, and by extension, countless black and brown queer and trans students, faculty, and staff, is denied his humanity and publicly shamed. To that end, we demand the following things as a response from Dr. Feldblum, Dr. Collins-Eaglin, Pomona College, and the Claremont Colleges:
1. The resignation of Dr. Feldblum for the gross missteps of both firing Dr. Higgins and continuously refusing to support marginalized students. For context, please visit https://goo.gl/2Rqn3V. 2. A public apology to Dr. Higgins from all involved parties that acknowledges the harm done.3. A fully transparent search process while searching for Dr. Higgins’ replacement to ensure that queer and trans students of color will be supported and their perspectives will be actively included and valued. 4. A carefully thought out plan for supporting queer and trans students of color and queer and trans faculty and staff of color. This is crucial in minimizing the suffering of queer and trans students of color that is inevitable now that their advocate has been ousted.5. A carefully thought out plan for addressing White fragility and White supremacy in the Claremont Colleges.
Moving forward, we, and those who join us through their signature refuse to apply to positions within the Claremont Colleges, as this environment is clearly not safe for anyone who fights for, promotes, or supports social justice.
Celeste DembyCaley Logsdon, Arizona State UniversityNicole J. Johnson, Virginia TechCJ VenableKayla Tyson, Emory UniversityS.R. Gibson, Gonzaga UniversityMeghan Dooley, University of Missouri - Kansas CityAlden Jones, University of Texas-AustinRobert Alberts, Arizona State UniversityTim DufresneBradley Brooks, Northern Virginia Community CollegeAmanda Baker, University of MarylandDawn Morgan, African American Cultural Center, NC State UniversityGayatri Sethi, (Former) Agnes Scott CollegeSimone Medley, MA, University of San Francisco School of Education Alum 16Brittany Harris, Med, Washington University in St. LouisNick Thuot, Iowa State UniversitySteven Kendrick, Berkeley CollegeEmily HolubRamona GuptaJLP Prince, Agnes Scott CollegeLona Davenport, University of Missouri - Kansas CityLena Tenney, The Ohio State UniversityDr. Michael D. Hoffshire, University of New OrleansAshley Rizzotto, Nova Southeastern UniversityAmanda Vasi, Agnes Scott CollegeAriel OwensErich Pitcher, Oregon State University, Diversity & Cultural EngagementNina M. Sichterman, University of North TexasT.J. JourianVanessa Johnson, University of UtahAtiya McGhee, Area Coordinator for Multicultural and Identity Based Communities, Oberlin CollegeCameron Breither, Suffolk UniversityMark Chung Kwan FanFelicia Walker, UWRFChelsea Fullerton, Lehigh UniversityRowen Thomas, University of Northern ColoradoScott Burden, Lehigh UniversitySarah Watkins, Independent ScholarTyler Fultz, Colorado State UniversityWashieka Torres, Bowling Green State UniversityStephen John Quaye, Miami UniversitySean Smallwood, University of Minnesota - Twin CitiesWashieka Torres, Bowling Green State UniversitySara Mata, NASPA LKC Co-chairTristan Morton, Edgewood CollegeMariah DeguzmanJessica Newman, Cal State Monterey BayMark Smiley, Muhlenberg CollegeEmelyne Woessner, Oregon State UniversityBritt Semenow, Eastman School of Music at University of RochesterDavid PolizziAshley Maitland, Assistant Director of Residential Life at Amherst CollegeJessica Boor, Columbus State Community CollegeAntonio Duran, The Ohio State UniversityR.B. Brooks. 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Garay, Virginia TechShonté Thomas, University of California, Santa CruzJacob Velasquez, UC Santa CruzMyra McPhee, Sarah Lawrence CollegeJulia Golden-Battle, Co-Chair of NASPA's Gender&Sexuality KCScarlet Bowen, University of Colorado at BoulderBret Koch, College of CharlestonAnnie Greaney, Vanderbilt UniversityJonathan Gonzales, California Lutheran University Appy Frykenberg, The Ohio State UniversityMegan KroneDawn R. 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Hale, Co-Chair Elect, NASPA Gender & Sexuality KCMaria-Victoria Perez, CalArtsMarcela Ramirez, UC RiversideDr. Saby Labor, Resilient CampusGabriella Blanchard, University of UtahChris Linder, University of GeorgiaLissa Stapleton, California State University NorthridgeBenjamin Mendoza, University of California, San DiegoDaniel Tillapaugh, California Lutheran UniversityJay Wilson, Mary L. BankheadMichael Akeem Riley, DePaul UniversitySteve Ross, Cal Poly, San Luis ObispoXiong Xy, University of MinnesotaSteve Ross, Membership Chair for Indigenous People Knowledge Committee (NASPA)David Wright, University of ConnecticutLuz Burgos Lopez, University of Minnesota - Twin CitiesOwen Marciano, Oregon State UniversityBrandi Douglas, DePaul UniversityHannah Retzkin, Chapman UniversityMichael Gamez, University of Minnesota Twin CitiesSatugarn LimthongviratnBrian BoughtonRachael Johnson, Colorado State UniversityRussell NelsonTyrell AllenColleen Seeber Vanessa BustamanteLuke HarnessAmanda Beardall, University of OregonRobbie WillifordOlivia McNeill, Brown UniversityMatt Nazario-Miller, UC DavisJoliana Yee, Loyola University ChicagoJordan DixonTiffany Leschke, Mount Mercy UniversitySheltreese McCoy, Radical Higher education Innovations, LLCAlex C. 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Henderson State UniversityBlake Redding, University of California Santa CruzTiara WairKerri Musick, Christopher Newport UniversityVictor Bene, Pitzer CollegeGinny Jones Boss, Kennesaw State UniversityMichael Denton, University of South FloridaJessi HitchinsJohn Paul RobinsonFloyd Pouncil, Michigan State UniversityLatoya OduniyiAlexandra Rivera, Scripps CollegeSusana Muñoz, Colorado State University--Fort CollinsAmber Barnett, Goucher CollegeRachel Jones, UA Little RockLauren Shulman, Colorado State UniversityMonique Gore, NACAReggie Shaw, University of California Santa CruzFarrah Bruny BrownElliot Ruggles, Brown UniversityLo DenmknAmber Barnett, Goucher CollegeVictoria Spencer, Indiana-Purdue Ft.WayneMartecus Dotson, Florida State University (Panama City, FL)Jessica Manzano-Valdez, Pomona College Terri lunaGenice Sarcedo-Magruder, CSULBTemple Jordan, Rowan Andrew Cinoman, Florida Gulf Coast University Elizabeth Webb, Texas A&M University-Commerce Elisabeth M. 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GuyettLauren Irwin, California Polytechnic State UniversityLatesha FussellHeather Brothers, Michigan State UniversityDiane Cooper Darlene Alugbue, California State University, San BernardinoJordan JacksonTabitha Wiggins, The University of IowaRoger Becker, Residence Life Coordinator, UC IrvineTyler Hargis, College Access Advisor In RIJianna Mader, Roxie PattonJill Pecoraro, Ohio State University / Kent State UniversityJordan S. West, Pan African Network ChairKhalia Ii, University of Southern CaliforniaAndrew Perkins, University of KentuckyTravis Tucker, Washington University in St. LouisLatesha Fussell, Director of Campus Life for Diversity & InclusionAmanda GilliamDolan, UC Santa BarbaraCourtney Jones, Syracuse UniversityCharlie J. LoGiudice, Wright State UniversityCherrish RobinsonWinona LaDuke, Honor the Earth directorBeserat KelatiNicholas Taylor, Anoka-Ramsey Community CollegeTara Sonali Miller, Reed College, (Pomona College Alum)Nu'Rodney Prad, Temple UniversityMonique Atherley Elicia Epstein, Pomona College AlumClare Lemke, Iowa State UniversityMarygrace Swarts, Sonoma StateCoty Behanna, University of MarylandJustin Hua, Georgia State UniversitySaraí Jiménez, Pomona College '14Kristen Reynolds, Oberlin CollegeM. Vitek Matthew BlankersAmber Barnett Margy FrazierBri Serrano, NASPA Gender and Sexiality KC & Latinx/a/o KC Latinx Inclusion Co-Chair, Consortium of Higher Education: LGBT Resource Professionals People of Color Co-ChairValerie lopezCurtis Kimberlin, University of North TexasStaci D. Gunner, Stanford University/San José State UniversityVictoria Dickman-Burnett, Graduate Student, Education and Community-Based Action Research, University of CincinnatiAlfonso Ruiz Travis S. Becker, Director, Lionel Cantú Queer Resource CenterJulie A. GormanPhoenicia Herring, University of Southern CaliforniaAllie Triglianos, Arizona State UniversityDesiré Campusano, Outreach Specialist, Adult Education- GWC community collegeKevin Pajaro, Michigan State UniversityStephanie BlairDerron Borders, Cornell UniversityTara Partow, Scripps College '17Elijah Balogh, Michigan State UniversityAnthony UngaroSonia Fang, Pomona College '08Ashley DesLauriers, California Lutheran UniversityAlexander Rudy, Pomona College ‘11Ignacio Alarcón, The Evergreen State CollegeTommy Fenster, Pomona College ‘11Carlton SmithAndres Elvira, California Lutheran UniversityTaylor Briggs, Graduate Student, Seattle UniversityJustin Muzzi, Fordham UniversityJoshua GuffeyMaya Ixel CardenasShane Long, University of New EnglandRoman ChristiaensTim Maggio, Shepherd UniversityVeratta Pegram-Floyd, Seattle University, SDA '13Saida Bonifield, University of KansasBeth Little, Northwest Missouri State UniversityColleen SonnentagLaura Casaregola, Scripps CollegeSonya Satinsky, Princeton UniversityTyler Treptow-Bowman, North Hennepin Community CollegeIrene Toro Martínez, UW-Madison (doctoral candidate), Pomona College '09Abby Fite, Syracuse UniversityTiffany Gray, In SolidarityMitchell Holston, Colorado State UniversityLiliana Delman, Colorado CollegeChris TanakaKrithika Rao, Scripps College '19Connie North, CU BoulderKatherine Scarritt, Pitzer College graduateXenia Rangaswami, Scripps CollegeHeather Johnson, San Bernardino Valley CollegeDillon Dong, Pomona College '15Nike Roman, Scripps College '16Sarah Keene, University of Minnesotakarla m. zabaleta hinojosa, University of California San DiegoLaura Kent, Scripps College, Former student staff member at the Queer Resource CenterJessica Rahim, Community College of Allegheny CountyNancy Jean Tubbs, UC RiversideEfe Kabba, Pomona College '13Haley Gibbs, Scripps CollegeChrysanthe Oltmann, Benjamin Pollard, University of Colorado Boulder, Pomona College '11Tevin Noel, PRCCRachel Weber, Tulane UniversityTrina TanJustin Toliver, Ball State UniversityEthan GrossmabRosalie McGurk, Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Carnegie ObservatoryEvan Friedenberg, Scripps CollegeClaudia Hernandez, Scripps CollegeSophie Wolbert, Scripps CollegeTaylor Silvestri, Binghamton UniversityAaron ParaynoDimitri R. Dounas-Frazer, University of Colorado BoulderJoan Gabriele, University of ColoradoShauna Mulvihill, Pomona College '91Heather Johnson, San Bernardino Valley CollegeJordan Howard-Jennings, BLAM (Black Lives at Mudd) Co-President, Harvey Mudd College '19Bri Berrios, Pomona CollegeLiat Kaplan, Claremont McKenna College '17Heather Johnson, San Bernardino Valley CollegeCesar Orellana, HMC '17Amy Oden, Pomona CollegeCasey Dworzynski, Iowa state universityKaity Prieto, The Ohio State UniversityCarmen Abbe, Scripps College ‘18Leya Solomon, Pomona CollegeEkram Jiru, Pomona CollegeGuneet Kaur, Scripps CollegeDevin Mercier, Pomona College Jennifer MurrayJulia KarpiczSarah Kinicki, Pomona College '12Raja G BhattarBritany (BCash) Cashatt, Syracuse UniversityKeith D. Garcia, University of MinnesotaRoberto OrozcoCrystal HamiltonJenna Swartz, University of Wisconsin - MadisonJay MacDuffieIan MorrowRonak Bhatia, Harvey Mudd CollegeIjeoma Nwaogu Hillary Montague-Asp, UMass AmherstJules Pashall, Pitzer Alum 2012, California Institute of Integral StudiesCody Newman, Harvey Mudd CollegeSteph Kaneen, CSU-NorthridgeWanda TylerMatt Soto, California State University, NorthridgeArnold Lane, Clemson UniversityAaron Marcuse-Kubitza, Harvey Mudd CollegeBradley BrooksHiba Baghdadi, University of MichiganCleda WangGregory Victory, Tufts UniversityMatt BanksDemetrius GaryMelissa Bader, University of DelawareMegan Hurley, Misericordia UniversityJen Fry, Duke UniversityRussell Morrow, Ohio State UniversityJessica MiglerBritt Hudson, University of Northern IowaGardy Guiteau, Rowan UniversityTifaney Millwood, Kennesaw State UniversityRelius Johnson, University of Central ArkansasM. McFaddenCarly CalbreathNatalie Nguyen, Western Michigan University