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Frary Boycott and Liberal Tactics

May 14, 2009

Frary Boycott and Liberal Tactics

Yesterday, I tried to go to Frary for Taco Tuesday. I was very hungry and looking forward to the final Taco Tuesday of the year. I arrived at the entrance to Frary and what did I find? A bunch of Pomona students blocking the entrance and aggressively telling me and my friends to join their imposed boycott of Frary. These students claimed to be boycotting Frary because many of the food service workers will not be hired back next year due to budget cuts. Although I craved my burrito, my liberal conscience got the best of me, and I decided to not enjoy my final Taco Tuesday. Although my liberal guilt deterred me from eating, I have a number of bones to pick with this boycott. First, why did the students think the boycott will be effective at all? The boycott simply transferred traffic to other dining halls for one night and in all likelihood made the jobs of the already overworked employees at other dining halls that much harder. Additionally, Pomona’s food service provider has monopoly power and long-term contracts--do the students really expect substantial change? The economy is still terrible and companies will probably need to make budget cuts no matter what students say. Furthermore, the boycott would have likely been more effective (and less frustrating for me) if it had been properly advertised to students at the other Claremont Colleges. I have been informed that it was well advertised at Pomona, but why was not more of an effort made for 5C outreach? Although the majority of students who eat at Frary are probably Pomona students, it gets substantial traffic from students at the other 5Cs, particularly from CMC.

Additionally, the tactics used by the students blocking the entrance to Frary left a bitter taste in my mouth. Rather than politely explaining their cause and telling me why a boycott was the best way to address their grievances, the students poured on the social pressure and deliberately tried to make me feel guilty for continuing with my normal routine. I don’t doubt that these tactics are effective, but are they worth the cost? Maybe it’s just my aversion to ethical consumerism in general, but I think that guilt tripping students is the best way to conduct a targeted campaign and build allies in the long run. We liberals should make standing up for various causes (including the welfare of food service workers at the 5Cs) fun and inclusive, rather than engage in heavy-handed tactics.

Most importantly, Pomona students are in no position to get on their moral high horse when it comes to handling budget cuts. Pomona students were recently asked for their input on how Pomona College should make budget cuts in order to save money during these hard economic times. The students said they would be willing to make the incredible sacrifice one night of snack a week. Armed with this noble sacrifice, they then suggested Pomona should save money by cutting professor salaries. I am not joking. Pomona students, who attend one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country, believe their college should jeopardize its most important asset: the human capital that professors bring to the institution. You get what you pay for when it comes to professor quality, which means professor pay should be the absolute last thing reduced during budget cuts. I spoke with a recent Pomona alum who was embarrassed that Pomona students would be so short-sighted. When Pomona students are willing to sacrifice more than one night of snack a week to help with budget cuts, I’ll start listening seriously to what they have to say about boycotting dining halls.

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