5C Deans Call for Uniformity in “Dry Weeks”


“Dry Week” or “Sub-Free” week, a transitional alcohol-free period at the beginning of the year, has historically been quite wet at the Claremont Colleges. 

Dry Week was implemented to provide a period of time (which is not actually a week-long and varies for each college) for incoming first years to acclimate to college life without the complications of alcohol. But for the past two years, Claremont McKenna College (CMC) had ended its dry period five days early in an effort to curb traditional post-Dry Week celebrations. This year, CMC’s dry week came to a close at 8:01 a.m. on Tuesday, August 30, the same time that fall semester classes officially began.

Former editor of the CMC Forum Kevin Burke CMC ’11 said that CMC administrators, in collaboration with an alcohol “Task Force” set up to evaluate CMC’s drinking culture, made the change after determining that “the Dry Week prohibition led students to focus on subverting the rules.”

According to CMC student Ching Tung ’12, CMC’s Dean of Students Mary Spellman’s actions towards alcohol policy at CMC have come under close scrutiny from students. In Spring 2009, she threatened the longstanding Senior Thesis Fountain party but relented when students expressed strong opposition. Spellman declined to comment for this story. Some students speculated that the CMC administration may be acting in response to concerns over the school’s recent climb in the “Lots of Beer” category in The Princeton Review college rankings. This year the school ranked #3.

One CMC senior, who wished to remain anonymous, argued that CMC’s elimination of its traditional Dry Week may be based equally on a concern with public image as on the comfort and safety of its incoming first year class. The argument goes that by eliminating the traditional Dry Week period at CMC, students will not be issued as many Dry Week alcohol violations. By reducing the number of alcohol violations, CMC effectively lowers the number of incidents reported by Campus Safety in their annual report, which is published every October. Under a federal statute known as the Clery Act, this report is required to be made available to the public.

While the motives for the change remain unclear, alcohol abuse at CMC appears to be lower than in previous years. CMC Resident Advisor (RA) Mark Munro ’12 reported that the school has had zero alcohol transports, which occur when a student is intoxicated enough to warrant emergency transport to a medical facility, since the beginning of the academic year. 

Despite its reputation, CMC’s zero transports places it at the low end of the 5Cs. According to Pomona’s Associate Dean of Students and Dean of Campus Life Ric Townes, Pomona had four transports through Sept. 9. While Townes declined to speculate about the possible changes in transports that might occur if there was a synchronized schedule across the 5C’s, he did express a desire for a uniform Dry Week schedule in the future. This year, Pomona’s Dry Week ended on Monday, Sept. 5, almost a full week after CMC’s campus was “wet.” Townes also noted that for every year he has been at Pomona, CMC has had a different Dry Week schedule. 

The call for Dry Week synchronization was shared by Pitzer Dean of Students Moya Carter and Pitzer Vice President for Student Affairs Chris Brunelle, who both added that despite CMC’s efforts to maintain a CMC-only environment during their campus parties, non-CMC students inevitably find their way into CMC parties during Dry Week. Pomona and Pitzer have always held the same Dry Week schedule because of their shared sports teams. 

Carter also reported zero transports of any kind since the beginning of the academic year, but did mention that marijuana violations have been prevalent on Pitzer’s campus. Although Carter was not sure of the exact numbers, one Pitzer RA reported 13 marijuana-related violations being issued in the first week of school.

Scripps Dean of Students and Vice President for Student Affairs Rebecca “Bekki” Lee also reported zero transports at her school during Dry Week.

Harvey Mudd Dean of Students Maggie Browning declined to take a position on CMC’s choice to end Dry Week early, stating, “It’s up to each college to decide what’s best for them.” Browning reported one alcohol transport and one alcohol-related violation since the beginning of the academic calendar. Proctor Mary Van Vleet HMC ’12 said that it is unusual for students at Mudd to break Dry Week and that she was “saddened and perplexed by the event.” When asked about a rumor that the number of reported alcohol transports at HMC was artificially deflated, Browning stated that “this has definitely not been the case since I arrived in June 2009.”

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