Pomona College’s Judicial Board is pushing for policies that focus on transparency and restorative justice. On Feb. 23, the student-run judicial council hosted a student roundtable discussion regarding the proposed changes to the student handbook’s amnesty policy.
JBoard chairs Vera Berger PO ’23, Charlotte Tapp PO ’23 and Rya Jetha PO ’23 facilitated a collaborative discussion about the policy in an attempt to “serve an educational role on campus, increase student awareness of the disciplinary system and the philosophies underpinning it and to incorporate student voices and values into the Code,” according to a Feb. 21 email advertising the event to students.
The amnesty policy is the 15th provision under the school’s alcohol policy. According to the policy, when a student “in need of immediate medical assistance to prevent their own death or serious injury or that of another person” contacts entities such as Campus Safety or 911 for help, neither the reporter nor the student in danger will be punished for intoxication or possession of alcohol or drugs.
The chairs and five student attendees at the roundtable identified their qualms with the clause, including its vague language and the subjectivity of what constitutes a life-threatening emergency. The students also discussed the difficulty of the decision to call a transport vehicle for a friend.
“I don’t think an alcohol violation should stop someone from getting help from an RA or campus safety when a situation isn’t life threatening or related to a medical issue,” JBoard panelist Devlin Orlin PO ’25 said in a post-roundtable interview. “An expanded amnesty policy would create a more supportive campus as students respond more readily to their peers’ comfort and safety.”
The policy also states that “the incident may also result in notification of parent(s) or guardian(s).” Roundtable participants said this clause makes the dangerous assumption that every student has supportive parental relationships.
By the end of the hour-long discussion, the general consensus among the attendees was that the amnesty policy should be rewritten to clarify its terms and conditions, and that procedural advertising is necessary to demystify the process of calling for help.
“We want to give students who are going through the contact process [of calling for help] more agency,” Berger said.
In the past few years, JBoard has been making strides to be a more equitable and accessible resource on campus. Revisions enacted in January included the removal of punitive fines and a “larger emphasis on educational and restorative measures over punitive sanctions,” according to JBoard’s 2021 fall semester report.
Additionally, one long-term goal is the implementation of a mediation program to “create restorative resolutions and responses to interpersonal and community conflict and harm,” Berger said.
“I’m hoping that we’re making the institution a little bit more approachable and connected to the broader student community,” Berger said. “We’re becoming more of a restorative institution. We’ve been putting a lot of focus on prioritizing community safety and restoration throughout our conduct process.”
Last March, JBoard released a file of redacted case write-ups in an effort to increase transparency surrounding its decision making process. In the Feb. 21 email, JBoard announced the file was up to date with case histories from 2018 through 2021.
In another effort to increase restorative justice at Pomona, JBoard finalized a plan to replace the points system, which was established in 2016 to replace fine-based penalties, with a non-punitive conversation-based conduct system, according to a TSL article from April 2021.
JBoard will host three more roundtables over the course of the semester to discuss other policy shifts: Restorative Hearing Outcomes on March 9, Compensation and Restitution on March 30 and Mediation on April 13. JBoard hopes these events will increase participation and accessibility for students as they interact with the school’s judicial system.
JBoard is also currently hiring a new chair for the 2022-2023 academic year. Applicants must be a rising junior or senior at Pomona, with the application due March 27.
Editor’s note: JBoard Chair Rya Jetha PO ’23 is a TSL news writer, but was not involved in the reporting or editing of this piece.