A small liberal arts college in Claremont, California has made a public statement against a Facebook post made by a black student at the school who had been looking for a non-white roommate.
Written by Pitzer College student Kare Urena, the Facebook post sought a fourth roommate to join a group of three students in their off-campus apartment for the summer months. In parentheses, the post added “POC only,” using an abbreviation meant to stand for people of color. Urena added that she didn’t “want to live with any white folks,” reports Rachel Dicker for US News.
The past year has seen a debate ensue over safe spaces for students of color at the five colleges located within Claremont. When reporting the story, the school’s newspaper, the Claremont Independent, posted a photo alongside the article of a black man drinking from a water fountain labeled “For Colored Only.” Meanwhile, other news outlets published the story, saying that the students refused to live with white students.
“The conversation that the public is having is focused on white people and their exclusion in this housing ad,” Karé Ureña, who identifies as Afro-Caribbean told the Guardian. “We want to reframe it so that it becomes a matter of students of color simply prioritizing their need for survival in the face of historical oppression in higher education.”
Isaac Tucker-Rasbury, one of Urena’s roommates, said he was looking to share his college experience with someone of color after he had lived with other white students this year. He stated that he felt it was important to have a space where he felt comfortable.
Chance Kawar, who is both white and senior class president, noted his surprise at the attention the post had received, calling it “a relatively innocent” post.
Pitzer President Melvin Oliver said the post was “inconsistent with our mission and values.” He went on to say that the college seeks to attract “complex intercultural issues, not to isolate individuals on the basis of any protected status.”
Oliver recently became the first African-American president to lead the Claremont undergraduate campus.
According to the website for Pitzer College, lists “intercultural understanding” as one of the school’s five core values within the Mission and Values section.
“Individual perspective and approach to the world are informed by the culture in which one resides. Intercultural Understanding enables Pitzer students to comprehend issues and events from cultural lenses beyond their own,” the website states.
Black students currently account for 5% of the student body at Pitzer, causing some students to see why students of color may want to come together and support one another. Jessica Saint-Fleur, who attends the school and is a member of the black student union, said the students were looking to live with people who look similar to themselves and can possibly understand where they are coming from.
Nick Anderson writes for The Washington Post that a roommate has been found and the post has been removed. Urena and another roommate continue to defend the post, saying that living with a person of color “can be necessary.”