Claremont Insider: Pomona Song Police

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pomona Song Police

The Claremont Conservative had a post last Friday about Pomona College's decision to not sing Pomona's Alma Mater at this year's commencement. The post included an image and the text of an email from Pomona College President David Oxtoby explaining the decision. The song, "Hail, Pomona, Hail," has is origins as part of a 1910 student minstrel show.

The Daily Bulletin's Will Bigham also wrote an article about the Alma Mater issue, and the Bulletin's website includes an excerpt of the song. Bigham's article said:

CLAREMONT - Responding to concerns about the potentially racist origins of its alma mater, Pomona College has suspended performance of the song for next month's graduation ceremony.

Information surfaced in February that "Hail, Pomona, Hail," was originally written nearly 100 years ago to be performed at the conclusion of a blackface minstrel show.

For some on campus, that revelation "generated great distress that the alma mater would be sung" at graduation, said Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum.

"(Administrators) had a choice between causing distress and performing a song that, certainly, gives great joy," Feldblum said. "They did not want to be in a position to cause distress."

We originally covered the issue in February after an email from Pomona Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum was circulated. Now comes another email from the Pomona College administration. As with so many things academic, Oxtoby's email concludes with the news that a committee is needed to study (or over-study) the "issue of college songs." (Is there such a thing?)

Oxtoby may need another committee to study the origins of neuroses in acadamia. We saw one familiar name on the committee list: Pomona alum and current Director of Alumni Relations Nancy Treser-Osgood who occasionally runs letters in the Claremont Courier.

Treser-Osgood certainly has no problems having her opinions imposed on the larger community as public policy, so she seems to have found a place on campus. Offensive Song Committee - is "song" a noun or an modifier here? - is a fitting assignment for Treser-Osgood and makes a lot of sense: Over-educated, under-thoughtful Caucasian woman deciding what is or isn't offensive to people of color.

It's tempting to poke fun at these sorts of things, and the best comedy has been done by the professionals.

From Song Nazis to Thought Police isn't too large a step. Is it really any wonder that the First Amendment is out the window at the 5-C's? Here's the Alma Mater:

Hail! Pomona, hail!
We, thy sons and daughters, sing
Praises of thy name,
Praises of thy fame.
Til the heav'ns above shall ring:
To the name of Pomona
Alma Mater hail to thee!
To the spirit true of the White and Blue.
All hail! Pomona hail!

We here at the Insider are always thinking ahead and have already made our proposal for a replacement Alma Mater.