Members of the Pomona College Student Affairs Committee (SAC) approved a proposal on Apr. 2 to change the wording of the college’s policy toward drinking games.
The proposed policy change is open to student comment until Apr. 23, at which point SAC will make a final decision regarding the modification.
Currently, page 20 of the Pomona Student Handbook includes the line, “Games that are centered around alcohol or focus on drinking large quantities of alcohol are prohibited.”
SAC is proposing to replace this text with, “Drinking games involving unsafe behavior or resulting in evident intoxication are prohibited and may be subject to a fine.”
ASPC President Jed Cullen PO ’10 said that, under the current policy, Resident Hall Advisors (RAs) are obligated to penalize students for participating in any type of drinking game, even if the students are of legal drinking age, are drinking in moderation, and the RAs do not sense any safety issue.
“The sentiments around the change are for clarity,” said Pomona College Dean of Campus Life Ric Townes. “What exactly does the college want us to do? If an RA was to go into a room with a small group of people who were of age, but were playing a game and there was no behavior that seemed problematic, that wouldn’t exactly be an issue.”
Cullen said the spirit of Pomona’s drinking policy is to promote safety.
However, under the current policy there is a clash between RAs’ obligation to enforce policy and their desire to follow the “spirit” of the policy.
“We wanted to step back and take a broader safety approach,” Cullen said. “We wanted to let the RAs do their job and look at what is going on, whether it is safe, and proceed in a manner that can best promote student safety.”
Since the student comment period began Monday, students have already voiced concerns over the wording of the proposed policy.
Townes said there are questions about how the College will define “evident intoxication” and “unsafe behavior” and how RAs will be asked to enforce the proposed policy.
Cullen said the policy would give RAs more discretion in deciding whether students’ behavior is unsafe and whether they are drinking responsibly.
Although Cullen admitted this could lead to subjective decisions by different RAs, he said SAC felt the change would still be constructive.
“With the change, we wanted the focus to be on the RAs because they are all trained to do their job,” Cullen said. “We’re not just going to change this policy in a vacuum. We’re going to look at how we train RAs and how they should respond to different situations. Obviously, it’s going to be subjective, but we think this is a more productive step than having there be no discretion at all.”
Andrew Halladay, a Pomona senior and RA in Lawry Court, said the proposed change makes sense.
Halladay said students are always going to partake in activities defined as drinking games, and labeling all drinking games as illegal only causes students to conceal their activities when they participate in them.
“The goal of RHS is to promote safety in the residence halls, and if people are just hiding away it makes ensuring their safety difficult,” Halladay said. “Hopefully, this change will make RHS less of the police and more of the mentors, in underclassmen halls particularly.”