September came and went, and now, just a few weeks before Thanksgiving, Pomona College students may be wondering why first-years did not experience the annual tradition of “Screw Your Roommate” (SYR). The Pomona Events Committee (PEC) chose not to host the event this year due to complaints about the event’s heteronormative nature.
SYR is usually held mid-September and is hosted by PEC, a subcommittee of the Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC) in charge of sponsoring and organizing student events. SYR involves students setting their roommates up on blind dates and aims to operate as an icebreaker. One student will typically find his or her roommate a date and collaborate with that date’s roommate to come up with a couple’s costume and funny pickup line to help their roommates find each other amidst the mass of first-years at Frank Dining Hall. The event has been a long-standing tradition as a part of the orientation process for Pomona first-years.
Several students had issues with this event, asserting that SYR pushed students either to make assumptions about their roommates by pairing them with a student of the opposite sex or to pry for additional personal details.
“It brings up a lot of questions that people might not want to talk about so early in the semester. People should be able to choose when they give out personal information such as their sexual orientation,” Rachel Jackson PO ’15 said.
Jackson participated in the event last year and was concerned about its personal impact on individuals.
“I thought that it excluded a lot of people and identities, and I personally didn’t enjoy that aspect,” Jackson said.
Joseph Reynolds PO ’15, ASPC Vice President for Campus Activities, was in charge of planning the event this year. He said he understood these needed to be addressed.
“If they feel comfortable telling you their sexual orientation, then you can go ahead and find the appropriate match for them, but no one needs to be forced into that situation,” Reynolds said of the potentially harmful effects of SYR.
“After hearing more about the issues with the program, I’d been trying to brainstorm how to keep the event but change that heteronormative aspect of it,” Reynolds said.
He explored ways to restructure the event and consulted members of PEC, as well as many members of Pomona’s student body, in early September. Some of the possible alternatives that Reynolds considered included making the event more explicitly voluntary or randomly pairing students of one sponsor group with students of another. However, Reynolds said that these alternatives brought up difficult, more logistical issues.
Tina Solvik PO ’15, who participated in the event last year, still sees the value of an icebreaking event like SYR.
“I saw the event as a good opportunity to pair up freshmen who hadn’t yet met through Orientation or class, regardless of sexual preference. Unfortunately, despite the fact that Screw isn’t a true, romantic date, the nature of the event will always bring sexual orientation into the picture, so I hope we can come up with a new tradition for future classes,” Solvik said.
King-Edqux Robinson PO ’15 said that cancelling the event was not the only option.
“I feel like [students] should take it for what it’s worth. It is meant to be a fun little ice-breaker type of activity, not a speed dating event,” Robinson wrote in an e-mail to TSL. “Instead of cancelling the event, it could have simply been revamped and explicitly explained as an event to promote new friendships.”
Reynolds acknowledged that many students enjoyed the event in the past but still made the executive decision to call it off this year.
“Knowing that this event put people in uncomfortable positions and could possibly really hurt someone was definitely more important to me compared to appeasing a bunch of people who enjoyed it,” Reynolds said.