Sponsor Program Should Take Time for Self-Reflection

As reported on the front page of this issue, next year some sponsor groups may find themselves with two female sponsors as opposed to the typical male-female pair. While OCL administrators and student-employees have attempted to glorify this as an effort to do away with the gender binaries and heternormativity of the sponsor program—a separate issue that this editorial staff will not comment on at this time—the facts simply do not tell the same story.

As reported in the article, only 92 current first-year students applied for the position of sponsor next year—a significant drop from the average 150. Of these 92 students, only about 30 were male. The selection committee was thus forced to choose between hiring less qualified applicants and changing the construct of the program; they understandably chose the latter. It is not this decision that upsets this staff as much as the way the school has refused to admit the obvious: Pomona students no longer want to be sponsors.

Indeed, when faced with this harsh reality, and the opportunity for self-reflection, OCL simply found a more convenient way to view the situation. However, had they instead taken the time to assess the program and ask the important question—why are 60 fewer students interested in participating in this program?—here is what they may have discovered:

Students no longer feel adequately involved in the program. With the shifting of OCL personnel and the undeniable absorption of the sponsor program by RHS, the role of the sponsor in shaping the direction of both the program and their individual halls has all but disappeared. Now, the program is less of a collaborative and self-reflective process, and more of a top-down structure, with the administration holding a tight grip on the reigns.

Students are fed up with OCL’s frequent disregard for students’ privacy. From RHS policies such as “Gotcha” to the proposed security cameras, students have become uncertain of the school’s intentions and of what kind of autonomy students have on campus. These policies have tainted the reputation of OCL and transformed the once collaborative community into an “us” versus “them” environment, disillusioning many would-be sponsors in the process.

Sadly, substance policies have become the number one priority of RHS, and this has had a regrettable effect on the sponsor program. While OCL still claims that sponsors are not rule enforcers in the way that RAs are, they are not practicing what they preach. Instead, sponsor training has focused more and more on the ramifications of violating policy, and the college has shown its willingness to de-sponsor individuals for violating this policy despite loud outcries by their sponsees. This perpetually puts sponsors in a difficult and ambiguous position.

This is, of course, not a comprehensive list. The individuals who run the sponsor program are in a much better position to critique it than we are, and had they gone through this critiquing process, they would have presumably discovered many more issues that led to the significant drop off in applicants. However, instead of addressing these important and myriad issues, OCL has decided to pat itself on the back and masquerade its decision as a “continuation of [a degendering] policy,” as one head sponsor put it. Whether or not this policy is in existence, the fact remains that the switch to same-sex sponsor pairing was not a deliberate choice, but a last resort. If it is the intention of OCL to move toward a degendered sponsor program, it should have made that clear before sponsor applications were solicited. However, making this claim after the fact seriously calls into question the administration’s sincerity. More importantly, it ignores the obvious fact that support of the program is steadily declining, and if nothing is done, there will be no redress.