Some residents of Pomona College’s North Campus have complained about what they see as invasions of privacy in the name of policy enforcement, but Office of Campus Life (OCL) employees say the enforcement tactics are consistent with Pomona’s Student Handbook.
Piya Bose, Associate Dean of Campus Life and Director of Residence Life at Pomona, said that OCL could not comment on specific incidents because they are still under investigation.
OCL has received several reports of plans for a student sit-in, Bose said. An e-mail sent under the pseudonym “pomona panopticon” to many Pomona upperclassmen called for such a protest, but the demonstration was postponed.
“Our privacy has been encroached, our rooms invaded, our possessions taken,” the e-mail states. “Fight, friends, for our privacy, our rooms. Let us gather for a sit-in, for resistance, for the chance to voice, collectively, an objection to Pomona Power.”
Bose said that OCL did not form a plan to respond to the sit-in because the message lacked clarity.
“We don’t even know who organized the protest, so we don’t know who to approach,” Bose said. “We don’t know what the requests are, or what the questions are, or what the needs are of the group.”
Some students living on North Campus, including some who were not involved in planning the sit-in, said that they remain frustrated with the manner in which resident advisers enforce campus rules.
“The RAs need to understand the difference between the actual procedures in place and the functional ways in which those procedures should be used,” said Sam Levy PO ’13, a Sontag Hall resident.
Bose said that students should be aware of the rules in the college’s handbook.
The handbook states: “For health, safety or security reasons or to determine compliance with Pomona College policies, access to student rooms by college staff (including RAs) may occur without notice. The College reserves the right to remove items (for example, weapons, or drug paraphernalia including bongs and pipes) that violate residence hall regulations when they are found in student rooms.”
“I think that the way that they go about searching for a keg or searching for smoking devices has been absolutely ridiculous,” Levy said. “There’s a very fine line between policing something when it’s intruding into the Pomona College public realm and having a kind of police state mentality of RAs.”
Levy said that an administrator and an RA entered his suite on a Sunday after breaking up his party the previous night at approximately 12:20 a.m. On Sunday, a keg was removed from the suite common room.
“We listened to [the RA] in the sense that the party was shut down,” Levy said. “We don’t understand the pretense for why she decided to come in the next day searching.”
Emma Wolfarth PO ’14 said that students need to be more informed about college policies.
“There’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what the actual rules are and what our rights are as Pomona students to do within the dorms,” Wolfarth said. “The entire basis of the problem is that there’s no communication between administration and students as to what you’re actually allowed to do and the result is that students get up in arms about these things.”
Martin Barrera PO ’13, an RA in Mudd-Blaisdell on Pomona’s South Campus, said that it would make sense for an RA to return the morning after seeing a banned item, such as a keg, if it was physically difficult to remove.
“If a party was large and there was one person, I don’t think it’s fair to assume that that person could remove the keg at that moment,” Barrera said.
Levy said that some RAs on North Campus have become too strict, and that they should interfere only when major issues arise.
“As long as it’s a party of upperclassmen just drinking beer, to go after them and invade their privacy is a clear overstepping of the boundaries,” Levy said.
Barrera said that privacy is a difficult word to define, and that while RAs are present in order to maintain a safe living and learning environment, they can only do so by upholding the rules put forth in the Student Handbook.
“If you don’t have an understanding of what privacy is, reading the handbook is the first place to start,” Barrera said. “Your concept of what privacy is is definitely not what’s in the book.”
According to Levy, many students take issue with the policy banning student possession of kegs at Pomona, but Bose said that many college campuses uphold the same rule, and it has not been challenged at Pomona for at least eight years.
A Lawry Court resident, Dylan O’Connell PO ’14, said that he had an item removed from his suite. He said that he is unsure of the reasons why an RA came to his suite.
“The RA system shouldn’t be based on assumptions,” O’Connell said. “If you don’t know I’m doing this, if you don’t see me doing this, then I shouldn’t get in trouble for that.”
He added, “It’s hard because the rules clearly state that they’re allowed to be doing everything that they’re doing. But being 20 to 21 years old and an adult, it just feels like an invasion of privacy for them to come in and just take what they please.”