Pomona College’s annual Halloween party, Harwood Halloween, has undergone some major changes this year. The party, which was previously held in the parking lot beneath Pomona’s Information Technology Services (ITS), will take place in the new South Campus Parking Structure on Saturday, Oct. 29. Also, while the full event will run from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., this year the dance portion will end at midnight, and there will be a free “Food Carnival” outside Bridges Auditorium from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m..
According to Leslie Appleton PO ’12, the co-chair of the Pomona Events Committee’s (PEC) Annual Events Committee, the changes were made primarily to mitigate problems with Harwood Halloween that have arisen in recent years, including excessive drinking and concerns with overcapacity. She estimated that last year’s party had between five and eight alcohol transports, where students were transported to the hospital due to alcohol intoxication.
According to administrators involved in organizing the event, these recurring problems have thrown the future of Harwood Halloween into question.
“If there are more security issues and transports, then the future of Harwood Halloween is in jeopardy,” Assistant Director of the Smith Campus Center and advisor to the Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC) Ellie Ash-Bala wrote in an email to TSL. “Harwood Halloween is a fun, long-standing tradition at Pomona, and no one wants to cancel it, but we also have to keep in mind that student safety is a priority as well.”
ASPC Graduate Assistant Kirk Bernal said the school was trying to avoid repeating last year’s outcome.
“We are trying our best to make sure that we mitigate as many safety issues as we can, but if new issues arise, or the moving of the venue doesn’t mitigate any of those safety concerns, then it is very possible that Harwood Halloween could not continue,” he said.
Along with minimizing excessive drinking, the earlier end time for the party aims to address noise complaints. In past years, when Harwood Halloween was hosted in the ITS parking lot, noise complaints were not an issue, but administrators said that could change now that the party has been moved to the South Campus Parking Structure, which is closer to residential areas.
“The goal [of the time change] was to help the party not get shut down for noise issues as well as to potentially lessen the dangers involved with the pre-gaming that happens on that night,” Ash-Bala said.
According to Caroline Rubin PO ’12, Appleton’s co-chair on the PEC Annual Events Committee, noise-canceling blankets will be put up along the fences of the party to minimize noise pollution, and nearby residents and the Claremont Police Department (CPD) have been notified of the party’s new location.
Bernal said some students on the planning committee expressed opposition to the new dance hours before the final times were chosen.
“Compromise is probably the best term,” he said. “The students on the committee had fought seriously to keep [the party] from ten to one, and the administration fought back to actually move it to eight to eleven. Nine to twelve was actually the compromise that we came to.”
Despite student opposition, Rubin said she felt the changes were necessary to ensure the continuation of the party.
“The administration is really worried about this party and willing to take the steps, if it doesn’t go well, to shut it down,” she said. “We had to compromise with them and go with a time in the middle, and I’m fine with it. If this is what it takes to have the party continue, so be it.”
According to Appleton, the Food Carnival—which will feature taco and hamburger trucks, crepes, and ice cream—is also designed to minimize alcohol poisoning. She said that having the food trucks open after the dance party ends will provide a way for intoxicated students to get food and water into their systems. It will also provide a location for students to hang out afterwards, minimizing the number of after-parties.
Appleton blamed last year’s venue for the bulk of the concerns over safety and overcapacity. Since the ITS parking structure can only hold 1,500 people, 400-500 students were excluded from the party last year. Many of these students gathered at the entrance and pushed violently against guards and administrators.
“When you have that many people, especially drunk people, there’s a lot of shoving,” Appleton said. “A lot of our security guards felt really unsafe in the situation. They were worried for the security of themselves and for other students.”
Rubin said that one advantage of the new venue is additional capacity. The area of the South Campus Parking Structure that will be used for the party has a capacity of 10,000 people.
“We absolutely will not have to sell tickets or stop anyone from coming in,” Rubin said. “There’s going to be no wristbands or anything; just show your [school] ID or guest pass and walk in.”
Prior to the party, Pomona’s Office of Campus Life (OCL) is also taking steps to decrease the number of alcohol emergencies. According to OCL Campus Life Coordinator (CLC) Andrew “Froggy” Castro, OCL plans to educate students about safe drinking by distributing door hangers and sending out emails the week before the party.
“There is a blanket message to promote safe drinking, making sure that we watch out for each other, walking in groups, locking your doors after you leave—the usual safety messages,” Castro said. “We just want people to be able to make it back home in one piece.”
Castro also said that the number of Residence Advisor (RA) walk-throughs will increase on the night of Harwood Halloween, which may require having more RAs on duty.
According to Head Sponsor Alex Garver PO ’12, alternative options to Harwood Halloween will include movie screenings at the Smith Campus Center (SCC) and the Women’s Union (WU). Sponsors, the Pomona sophomores who live with and mentor first-years, will also be hosting a trick-or-treat event for first-years in partnership with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, he said. The event will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on the night of the party.
“Different sponsors’ rooms will have candy to distribute, hopefully different things in different rooms, and then freshmen will go get a list of all the rooms…open for trick-or-treating,” Head Sponsor Mindy Hagan PO ’12 said of the trick-or-treat event.