Five future sponsors who requested to live in substance-free hallways next year were asked to switch to substance-optional hallways due to an overabundance of sub-free sponsor requests. According to head sponsor Alex Garver PO ’12, of the 58 students picked to be sponsors next year, 23 requested to live in substance-free housing.
The head sponsors are currently planning to have nine substance-free sponsor groups, although that number could change depending on the number of incoming first-years who request to live in substance-free housing.
According to Associate Dean of Students and Dean of Campus Life Ric Townes, although sponsors are asked about their preference regarding housing, it is made clear that they could be placed in either substance-free or substance-optional housing.
“I spoke with Dean [Frank] Bedoya, who indicated there was nothing unusual about this situation,” Townes wrote in an e-mail to The Student Life. “Sponsors are always told to be flexible.”
Townes did not indicate whether the sponsor program has historically had to ask sponsors who request substance-free to live in substance-optional housing, or if it frequently has an abundance of sponsors who request substance-optional.
However, cases from previous years suggest that there has tended to be a lack of sponsors requesting to live in substance-free rather than an overabundance. Amal Karim PO ’11, who was a sponsor during the 2008-2009 academic year, said she was one of eight sponsors that year who were told they would have to be substance-free sponsors even though they requested to live in substance-optional. Ultimately, a lower number of first-years than expected requested to live in substance-free and all eight sponsors ended up in substance-optional.
Karim also said that she was not given an option about the arrangement and was told that in order to be a sponsor she would have to accept whatever arrangement was decided.
This year’s sponsors, on the other hand, were given the option of switching to substance-optional or remaining in substance-free. Howard Lee PO ’14, who originally requested to live in substance-free but decided to switch to substance-optional when asked, said he received an e-mail from Garver that said, “If you're more comfortable in a sub-free hall, that's completely fine.”
Many sponsors did not seem too upset about having to switch to substance-optional. Karen Hou PO ’14, who lives in substance-free this year and requested to be a substance-free sponsor, decided to switch to substance-optional, after being asked to do so.
“I was pretty adamantly sub-free applying, but then they asked me to do sub-opt and they gave me an option to do either one because they said I would fit in wherever, and I chose to do sub-opt,” Hou said. “I never saw myself doing sub-opt and I don’t really know what to expect, but I think it should be fine.”
Bianca Shiu PO’14 currently lives in a substance-optional hall, but requested to be in a substance-free hall because she is personally substance-free and felt she could better relate to sponsees in a substance-free hall. However, she added that she does not feel unprepared to be a sponsor in a substance-optional hall.
“I thought about it and I thought it won't be too different from how I'm living right now,” Shiu said. “I've had a good amount of taking care of friends who were drunk and, ultimately, it doesn't really matter that much.”
Even though the head sponsors asked five sponsors who specifically requested substance free to switch, Garver said there was at least one sponsor who said they would be willing to live in either hallway and will be living in substance free. Garver said this occurred because the head sponsors strove to pick the best sponsor pairs possible.
According to head sponsor Thuy Ly PO ’12, the head sponsors did not consider applicants' housing preferences when picking sponsors.
“When we were picking them, that wasn't one of our criteria at all,” Ly said. “We didn't really pay attention to that as much as whether the person would be a good sponsor.”