Consortium-wide parties are back — but Mudders are mixed about being left out

Empty cups sit on a table outside North Dorm at Harvey Mudd College.
Some students at Harvey Mudd College reacted negatively to a new policy that left them out of consortium-wide parties. (Nanako Noda • The Student Life)

Several weeks of low COVID-19 case counts are allowing the 5Cs to roll back restrictions on cross-campus gatherings — but the consortium’s new regulations will leave one campus out of the loop.

In emails to students on Sept. 24, campus deans said “5C club-sponsored activities” are now permitted, in addition to programs offered through consortial organizations. Consortium-wide parties, a staple of the pre-pandemic social scene, will also return, hosted by each school except for Harvey Mudd College.

HMC will neither host nor allow its students to participate in these ‘4C’ parties, a decision made “in consultation with [Mudd] students,” the emails read. 

“This decision will be re-evaluated the week after the first 4C party (expected to be held at CMC in mid-October), as we continue to monitor the cases in the consortium, as well as the comfort levels of our students,” Interim Dean of Students Marco Antonio Valenzuela said in an Oct. 1 follow-up.

Soon after Valenzuela’s email was sent out, an email thread voicing student responses ballooned with opinions. Some students expressed dismay about Mudd’s exclusion from campus-wide gatherings, while others specifically questioned the necessity of 4C parties as a whole.

The Student COVID-19 Advisory Board (SCAB) was created to assist in the creation and modification of pandemic-related regulations. In conjunction with ASHMC, these two student bodies have been voicing the student perspective in the decision-making process.

Valenzuela told TSL in an email that guidelines for fall residential life were developed over the summer by SCAB, the Division of Student Affairs (DSA) and members of the President’s Cabinet. SCAB developed a tiered system in which conditions could be evaluated, and regulations were adjusted accordingly by those same groups. HMC was in the most restrictive Tier 1 of residential guidelines at the beginning of the semester, but moved into Tier 2 on Oct. 1.

“Our Student COVID-19 Advisory Board created the tiered system to address the comfort level of students who want more socialization as well as those who remain uncomfortable with that level of activity,” Valenzuela said. “We have not excluded students from the decision-making process; quite the opposite, we have taken into consideration both groups’ comfort levels around social activities.”

Catherine Phillips HM ’23 said she’s skeptical of 4C parties’ approval, since she was under the impression that large COVID-19 related decisions would be applied universally to each of the 5Cs.

“I think that the student leadership is trying their best … I really think it’s a thing where the admin needs to step up a lot. I would also like more information from the other colleges’ admin since we’re supposed to be making these decisions together,” Phillips said.

ASHMC President and SCAB member Mariesa Teo HM ’22 said she thought DSA was fairly open in communicating to student leadership, but agreed that there could have been more transparency with the general student body in the process of rolling out regulations.

“I think there were steps that we could have done as a COVID-19 advisory board to make that process more open to students, like publishing minutes, which now we do, and making the list of COVID advisory board members more open in general to the entire student body,” Teo said.

In a post-announcement survey to which 716 students responded, 47 percent of respondents said they would be comfortable or very comfortable attending 5C parties, while 38 percent said they would be somewhat or very uncomfortable.

But 55 percent said they’d be comfortable with other Mudders attending 5C parties, and 59 percent expressed support for allowing Mudders to participate in the parties.

SCAB has made efforts to increase transparency, such as publishing minutes, sending out surveys and polls and making SCAB members more accessible to the public, Teo said.

And DSA is holding virtual town halls for each class as it continues to re-evaluate policy, according to Valenzuela.

Savanah Diaz HM ’22 echoed Phillips’ concerns about the safety of holding large consortium-wide parties, but said she valued students’ participation in the dialogue and hoped future changes would reflect student voice.

“Being here at Mudd, we very much take self governance pretty seriously, we like having to have input in the policies and rules here,” Diaz said. “We’re not going to adhere to rules or follow rules that don’t make sense to us. We need to have those in place that we agree on.”

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