Pomona Says Meme Page is “Protected Speech”, Will Not Investigate – The Student Life

 Pomona College will not initiate an investigation into a secret meme group.

After declaring the secret meme group U PC BREAUX a ‘bias-related incident’ last week, Pomona College’s bias Incident Response Team has decided that the posts in the group do not violate Pomona policies and do not merit a disciplinary investigation, Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum announced in an email to the student body Tuesday.

“Reviewing the information received, the IRT found the memes were bias-related and protected speech,” Feldblum wrote in the email on Tuesday. “In addition, the College did not find a basis to initiate an investigation into the Facebook group or individual students for possible violations of the Student Code or our Discrimination and Harassment Policy.”

U PC BREAUX – read “You Political Correct, Bro?” – is a secret Claremont Colleges Facebook group dedicated to sharing memes, many of them highly offensive, which was first reported on in a Claremont Independent opinion article on Sept. 20.

The group’s former administrator, who spoke to TSL on condition of anonymity, praised the IRT’s decision.

This is “a great victory for freedom of speech in a world where it seems to be increasingly attacked and suppressed,” they wrote in a message to TSL. “The whole idea of free speech is to protect people who say things others may take offense to.”

Ross Steinberg PO ’18 — who wrote about the group for Independent and was subsequently fired as the Independent‘s Managing Editor — sees Pomona’s decision to not investigate as an oversight.

“I am very disappointed in the administration’s decision not to formally investigate the hate speech that permeated U PC BREAUX,” he wrote in a message to TSL. “Pomona has lost the opportunity to be a leader in condemning hate speech on college campuses.”

Representatives of Pitzer College, Scripps College, and Claremont McKenna College told TSL last week that they may investigate the group if Pomona provides information that their students may have violated college policies.

Today’s announcement likely means they will not pursue their own investigations. Representatives from the colleges could not immediately be reached for confirmation.

Later in her email, Feldblum disavowed the memes and criticized their contents.

“The memes are an affront to our community values and our expectations of each other as we live, learn and work together,” she wrote. “ They are … deeply offensive, and include misogynistic, racist, Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, and anti-Semitic images and texts.”

Following the IRT’s recommendations, Pomona will be taking steps to educate students about bias and the student code, and will be sharing the IRT’s recommendations with the other 5C administrations.

Steinberg hopes that Pomona’s educational programs can prompt thoughtful discussions on campus.

“I am heartened by Dean Feldblum’s call for thoughtful engagement and hope that the ‘proactive education’ on bias mentioned by Dean Feldblum is carried out in an effective manner,” Steinberg wrote in a message to TSL. “Our community still should open up a dialogue on what the values of our community are, why our peers engaged in such hateful speech, and how we students can decrease the likelihood that these groups will be formed in the future.”

As part of these educational efforts, in cooperation with the Pomona Student Union, Townes will be hosting a discussion entitled “Secret Memes and the Student Code” on Wednesday, Oct. 4 at 5:30 p.m. in the Frank Dining Hall’s Blue Room.

This article was updated on Oct. 3 with comments from Ross Steinberg.

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