Request for non-white roommates sparks uproar at Calif. colleges
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Sunday, August 14, 2016, 11:02 AM
A collective of colleges in Los Angeles suburb has been in an uproar for the past week over Facebook posts from students with one request for housing: No white roommates.
A Facebook post from Karé Ureña, a junior at Pitzer College at the Claremont Colleges, asked for fellow students to join an off-campus house for the upcoming school year.
“POC only,” she wrote, using the abbreviation for “people of color.”
Ureña, who is black, added, “I don’t want to live with any white folks.”
The post, first reported by the Claremont Independent student magazine, sparked outrage from the campus and denouncements from school administration.
Karé Ureña, the Pitzer College student who wrote the controversial Facebook post.
Other Pitzer students pushed back on the request, setting off a fierce debate on a private Facebook page.
“POC only?’ Maybe I’m missing something or misunderstanding your post, but how is that not a racist thing to say?” Pitzer student Dalia Zada wrote, according to the Independent.
Another student wrote “housing segregation is illegal.”
Pitzer student Terriyonna Smith later wrote back: “White people always mad when they don’t feel included but at the end of the day y’all are damaging asf (as f—) and if a POC feels they need to protect themselves from that toxic environment THEY CAN! Quick to try to jump on a POC but you won’t call your friends out when they’re being racist asf…I’m not responding to NO comments and NOPE I don’t wanna have a dialogue.”
Students at Claremont Colleges, a group of schools including Pitzer College (pictured), requested non-white roommates for the upcoming school year.
Pitzer President Melvin Oliver —who last year became the college’s first African-American president — said the roomie request was “inconsistent with our Mission and values.”
“This is but another example to us that social media is not an effective platform to engage in complex dialog on seemingly intractable critical issues that have varied histories and contested understandings,” he wrote in a message sent to the campus community.
“They create more heat than light and invite extreme viewpoints that intentionally obfuscate the nuanced context that surrounds these issues.”
Ureña and her roommate, Pomona College student Sajo Jefferson, defended their request in a statement to The Washington Post, which said minority students feel ostracized on campus.
Melvin Oliver, Pitzer College’s first African American president, denounced the request.
“When and if you understand this context, it becomes clear that students of color seeking a living space that is all-POC is not only reasonable, but can be necessary,” the statement said.
“We live in a world where the living circumstances of POC are grounded in racist social structures that we can not opt out of. These conditions threaten the minds, bodies and souls of people of color both within and without the realms of higher education. We are fighting to exist.”
Ureña said her friends have since found their roommate, and she has deleted the post.
Pitzer is part of Claremont Colleges, a group of small liberal arts schools in Claremont, Califorinia, that also comprises Scripps College, Claremont McKenna College, Harvey Mudd College and Pomona College, as well as Claremont Graduate University and Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences.
According to school data, 48% of Pitzer’s 1,067 undergraduates are white; only 5% are African American.
Classes at Pitzer are scheduled to start Aug. 30.