Pomona's Student Affairs Committee (SAC) proposed three changes to the Pomona Student Handbook last week that would allow students to hold private gatherings and drink alcoholic beverages if they are 21-years-old in the common living room areas of residence hall suites, and which would create a fine of $1000 for students who paint over concrete structures in the north campus residence halls. The proposals were emailed to the student body April 21 by Dean of Students and SAC member Miriam Feldblum, and they are open for a student comment period until May 2 at 5:00pm.
Under the proposed policy change, RAs would still include the common areas of student suites in their routine walk-throughs “for the purposes of safety and general college policy,” according to Feldblum's email. In keeping with the college’s current policy regarding gatherings in individual student rooms, gatherings in suite common areas that “infringe on public space or become a public nuisance” would still be sanctioned under the proposed policy change.
ASPC President Stephanie Almeida PO ’11 said that the proposed changes give of-age students a location where they can hold gatherings that are still private and contained, but which do not restrict them to one private dorm room.
“Pomona doesn’t have spaces on campus where you can have small, intimate private gatherings around safe consumption of alcohol,” Almeida said. “It’s either we’re all going to cram into one dorm room, or we’re going to go to the giant party where there are a million people. We do have these common living room suites in Lawry, and now we’re going to have a whole bunch of them in the new dorms, and we really felt that for people of-age, these spaces should be used to facilitate those kinds of interactions.”
“It’s a living room for the people that live there; it’s not for all of campus,” Almeida added. “To treat it like public space just doesn’t make any sense.”
According to Almeida, the Student Delegation to the Student Affairs Committee (SDSAC) brought the proposed changes to SAC after their original proposal to redefine public and private space in the residence halls did not go through. She said that the college’s legal counsel advised that there would be too many complications to defining common rooms as completely private space, including liability and fire safety issues.
The legal counsel suggested that SDSAC instead either specify the behaviors that would be allowed in common rooms, or limit the spaces where RAs would be permitted to enter.
According to Almeida, when SDSAC proposed extending the language that prevents RAs from entering individual student rooms “without reasonable suspicion that college policies or regulations have been violated” to the common suite areas, Feldblum responded with a counter-proposal that would permit private gatherings with alcohol in the suite common areas, while continuing to include those areas in regular RA walk-throughs.
“If the policy changes, students will be allowed to have small, private gatherings in their living rooms,” Almeida said. “Unfortunately, it does not address the issue of RA walk-throughs.”
“The Student Handbook does not say whether RAs will walk through common rooms,” Almeida added. “The college has decided to enforce policy this way, and many students are upset by it. The proposed change does not alter the way policy is enforced, but it does not set it in stone either.”
SAC, which is comprised of one-half student members and one-half faculty and administrators, will vote on the proposal at their next meeting after reviewing input from the student body.
In addition to the proposals regarding private gatherings and alcohol consumption in suite common rooms, SAC also proposed a change to the Student Handbook that would levy a fine of $1000 against students who paint over the exposed or pre-cast concrete structures in the north campus residence halls. According to the email, this policy specifically refers to the new dorms, where the concrete structures are“an integral part of the design of the buildings.”
“It would be extremely difficult and expensive to remove paint from these areas, and would damage the concrete,” according to the policy rationale in Feldblum’s email.
Almeida explained that removing paint from pre-cast concrete would involve sandblasting, for which the school would have to hire specialized and expensive outside assistance, and so the higher fine was needed as a deterrent. The fine for painting walls in residence halls that are not pre-cast concrete is $100, which will remain unchanged.