To: Dr. Melvin Oliver, President of Pitzer College, Judy Chu, State Representative, Dr. Laverne Cox, and Sandra Vasquez, Dean of Students Pitzer College
Drop Investigation, Protect Black Trans Youth
Victor Ultra Omni (They/Them) deserves a safe environment to learn, graduate, and continue their academic career at some of the top Ph.D. programs in the world. Victor may actually lose these opportunities because Dean of Students Sandra Vasquez and the Claremont Colleges are actively retaliating against Victor for exercising their first amendment rights. Victor needs community support to graduate and begin a process of accountability for first-generation students, low-income students, undocumented students, students from mixed-status families, and Black and brown students who have been criminalized on Pitzer's campus.
Why is this important?
We, concerned community members of Victor Ultra Omni, write in full support of Victor UltraOmni, a 21-year-old educator, organizer, thinker, and friend. As of March, Victor received multiple fully-funded graduate admissions from top Universities to pursue their Ph.D. This time, however, has been anything but celebratory. Pitzer College’s students, Campus Safety Officers, and especially their Dean of Students’ have subjected Victor to homo/transphobic and anti-Black violence. Victor came to study at the Claremont Colleges seeking refuge from such abuse, after first experiencing a litany of hate crimes at Hamilton College, where they began their undergraduate career.
During their tenure at Pitzer, Victor has overcome recurring and nearly lethal institutional violence. Most recently, on March 8th, 2019, Victor received anonymous hate mail riddled with anti-black, xenophobic, homophobic and transphobic slurs from an account named “Trans Slayer.” Just the evening before, a Claremont Colleges Inc. unmarked Campus Safety officer, who was impersonating a police officer, followed and harassed Victor.
The Dean of Students’ Office in collaboration with Corinne Vorenkamp, Pitzer College’s anti-Black part-time Title IX Coordinator, refused to investigate student retaliation against Victor. Mrs. Vorenkamp also further violated Victor’s Title IX rights by refusing to begin an investigation into Dean Sandra Vasquez’s institutional history of bias, particularly around anti-Blackness and anti-trans sentiment. Despite nearly a month of harassment, Victor is now under investigation by Pitzer College. The Pitzer Latinx Student Union fears retaliation for publicly supporting Victor, and has still not published a statement condemning the violent death threats and campus climate. Dean Sandra Vasquez’s retaliation has resulted in Victor being homeless, vulnerable to food insecurity, fired from both work-study jobs--effectively leaving them without income--and open to slander from students working in admissions, residence life, and Student Senate.
We charge, The Claremont Colleges, Inc., especially Pitzer College, lead by the abuse of the current Dean of Students Sandra Vasquez, with failing to protect Victor and other Black and Brown trans students. In this political moment, we must be visible in standing unapologetically in solidarity with Black trans homeless youth-- often the most vulnerable members of the queer community. We write this with three concrete actions in mind.
First: We demand a formal statement from Pitzer College condemning the anti-Black and trans-antagonistic acts their students have committed against Victor. By choosing to remain silent, Pitzer College officials and the larger community have made themselves complicit in the various forms of intimidation that Victor has faced. We ask that the Black Student Union and Office of Black Student Affairs receive a trans inclusivity training from the hosts of podcast Marsha’s Plate alongside the Transgender Law Center. We ask that the Diversity Committee, The Civil Rights’ Fund, and Student Senate’s Reserve Fund allocate parts of their budget for this training.
Second: We call for the resignation of Pitzer’s Dean of Students, Sandra Vasquez. Not only has Dean Vasquez abdicated her responsibilities by ignoring Victor in their obvious time of need, she has violated Title IX and the California Safe Schools Act. Her career speaks to a lack of compassion, criminalization, dishonesty, and a lack of commitment to student life. Fueled by abuses of power and anti-Blackness, Dean Vasquez has sought to protect students actively retaliating against Victor Ultra Omni.
Third: We ask that Laverne Cox cancel her commencement speech. Ms. Cox was selected as speaker largely due to Victor's work as Senate Diversity Chair. Pitzer has shown total apathy to the real needs of their Black trans students. We ask Dr. Laverne Cox, a pioneering community member, to stand in solidarity with Victor in holding Dean Vasquez accountable. We ask for Pitzer to implement Student Senate Bill R-55-03 to begin redress for trans students.
We refuse to be silent when Black trans lives are threatened. We support the rights of all students to learn free from fear. We honor and support Victor in the face of anti-Blackness, anti-Latinx sentiments, and anti-TQLGB+ violence. We refuse to accept a world where some lives are deemed more worthy than others. Black trans lives matter and we demand Pitzer College hold its community accountable for this harassment and gross historical pattern of a failure to keep their Black students safe.
Receipts of campus climate: