Claremont Insider: This is Pomona College the New York Times Magazine is Talking About

Monday, August 11, 2008

This is Pomona College the New York Times Magazine is Talking About

(click on image to enlarge)

Sunday's New York Times Magazine contained a column by Randy Cohen (The Ethicist) on the subject of the Pomona College Alma Mater, though Pomona was not named in the column:

Julia DeIuliis, of Philadelphia, writes: "A college with which I am affiliated discovered that its alma mater was written for a blackface minstrel show in the 1900s. Although the lyrics are innocuous, the school banned the song from this year's graduation and formed a group to discuss its future use, part of a campaign to make students aware of things they take for granted. Is this a good response, or should the school focus on more important issues? Is it unethical to sing the song?"

Cohen replies: "Sing out--full-throated, clear-conscienced..." He then goes on to give cover to Pomona College President David Oxtoby, who made the decision to ban the singing of the song: "The school's response is not only ethical but also admirable. It did what a college should... This particular project may be evaluated for its efficacy...but should still be praised for its intent. "

He does not address the very real collateral damage inflicted on alumni and the wider college community by the somewhat draconian measure of banning the song, perhaps because this was not raised in the question. As we are learning from the Los Angeles Times and the Inland Empire Weekly, you can't count on the print media for the full story.