Committees from Claremont McKenna College and Pomona College met Mar. 5 to discuss the schools’ ongoing alcohol policy assessments.
The two schools are undertaking their reviews simultaneously only by chance. Pomona is reviewing its policy in compliance with the Board of Trustees’ Student Affairs Committee, which scheduled a regular alcohol policy review for the first time in five years. The task force, known as the Trustee Review Committee on Alcohol Policy, includes faculty, students and trustees.
CMC assembled its task force of faculty, staff and students in response to a request from CMC President Pamela Gann.
“It just made sense for the two committees to come together to see what we’ve identified as top concerns and to hear about how each of the committees saw alcohol policies on different campuses affecting one another,” said Pomona Vice President and Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum.
The meeting was primarily informational, with each committee educating the other on the current alcohol policies and their advantages and disadvantages.
Seth Winterroth CM ’12, a student on CMC’s review committee, said his main goal was to “try to understand why it was that our two schools don’t have more of a harmonious social interaction.”
Pomona committee member Greg Carter PO ’10 said that although the task forces talked about making their policies more similar, he thought this was unlikely due to the dissimilarities in the schools’ drinking cultures.
“For instance, they can play beer pong outside, whereas we think that would especially make students that don’t engage in alcohol feel uncomfortable,” he said. “They don’t have the same percentage of students that don’t drink.”
Many of the attendees said the conversation was particularly helpful in highlighting some of the conflicts between the two campuses.
“[It} was [surprising] that some of the student representatives from CMC seemed to feel that they were always in the position of welcoming Pomona students to CMC, but they didn’t feel as welcome at our events,” said geology professor Robert Gaines, a faculty member on the Pomona task force. “It seemed like there was a bit of tension there. I found that disturbing and I hope that we can work towards that goal of ameliorating those tensions. It seemed like, to some extent, their perspective from CMC was very much that the differences in our policies were responsible for setting up that underlying tension.”
Winterroth said the discussion was also valuable because helpful suggestions for improvement were made by both sides.
“There were definitely some pretty good ideas thrown out about how to develop more of a harmonious social relationship between the two campuses,” he said.
As of now, there will be no further meetings between the two schools, but Feldblum and CMC Vice President of Student Affairs Jeffrey Huang will continue to stay in touch as each school reviews its alcohol policy.
As the next step in Pomona’s review policy, the task force met Saturday with several substance-free and non-substance-free sponsor groups to gather more student perspectives.
“That’s a conversation that was really, really fascinating,” Carter said. “Very, very different cultures of what they do on weekends. Very different understandings of what the alcohol policy looks like. Very different views on each other. It was interesting to see the juxtaposition so starkly.”
The discussion with the non-substance-free sponsor group centered on the drinking game policy and the lack of clarity in the handbook that leads to consequences being handed down at the discretion of resident assistants. Discussion with the substance-free sponsor group focused less on alcohol policy and more on the importance of options for substance-free housing.
“From all three meetings, there was a focus on the type of social events that student government can foster,” Feldblum said. “[There were] good discussions that really highlighted a topic we hadn’t been discussing before.”
Pomona’s full review committee will not convene until May.
Until then, available members will meet several times to create a set of recommendations to be approved by the Board of Trustees. After they are approved by the trustees, the recommendations will be sent to the Student Affairs Committee, which will decide whether to add any suggested changes to the student handbook.Changes will most likely not take place until the 2011-12 handbooks are published.