If you didn’t see them, you heard them. Anywhere in the vicinity
of Pomona College’s South Campus on the night of Wednesday, Sept. 10, it was hard to miss the ambulances near Marston Quadrangle, sirens
blaring, with a large crowd gathering around the commotion.
Two days later, Pomona students received an email from Vice
President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum outlining
the events of Wednesday night. According to that email, three students were transported to a
nearby hospital as a result of alcohol consumption but are currently in stable conditions,
with no known lasting harm. In response, the college suspended midweek (Sunday to Wednesday) registered alcohol-serving events indefinitely.
“Three alcohol transports in one night speaks to a larger
substance culture and patterns of binge drinking that we need to address,”
Feldblum wrote in the email.
The transports occurred during Pub, a weekly party hosted by the fraternity Kappa Delta on
Wednesday nights in Doms Lounge at Pomona.
Feldblum said that there has been a
continuous problem with excessive binge drinking at Pomona, especially during the
middle of the week. She cited a study conducted by Everfi, the company that
created the online sexual assault education program Haven, which was used at all five Claremont Colleges for the first time this year. The study found midweek drinking
to be a particular issue at Pomona; Pomona’s rate of binge drinking regularly
eclipsed both the national and Claremont Consortium averages on Wednesdays.
The suspension is not unprecedented, Feldblum said.
“Last fall, because of other issues, we actually had a suspension of Pub,” Feldblum said, referring to a suspension announced in light of a reported incident of sexual assault. “In actuality, there was a decrease in alcohol transports.”
Registered midweek alcohol-serving events will be suspended for the fall semester while
the Social Life Council, a branch of the Associated Students of Pomona College,
works with joint faculty-staff-student committees such as the Alcohol Working
Group to create a long-term plan for addressing binge drinking at Pomona.
Student reactions to the suspension have been varied. President of Pomona Vino Emily Glass PO ’15 said that she supports the administration’s effort to provoke a dialogue about these issues even though Vino, a wine tasting hosted by the wine club every Monday, has been suspended as a midweek registered alcohol event.
“We are surrounded by extremely intelligent people,” Glass said. “I would hope
that in the next eight weeks, all these intelligent minds could take some time
to reflect and just think about how they act when they go out, when they drink
alcohol. And if every one of us did, I think the ban would be
removed. But it’s a communal effort; it has to be a communal effort.”
Senan Hogan Hennessy PO ’18 viewed the decision as futile and
“Is it supposed to be morally wrong for me to drink some alcohol
in the middle of the week?” Hennessy asked. “I think it’s more of a PR move than
anything. The idea is a bit flawed in that if you are under the age of 21, you
are not getting alcohol from these parties anyway.”
Kent Shikama PO ’18, on the other hand, supported the
“If [the suspension] keeps
students safe, then there is only good that can come of it,” Shikama said.
Feldblum, Glass and other students echoed a common refrain that
the ban is not intended to be punitive but rather a step toward improving
Pomona’s social scene.
“If you go into Pub, you’ll see signs on the wall about consent,”
Glass said. “However, on Facebook events, there’ll be a verbose description
that doesn’t align with the signs of creating a safe space. That’s not to say
they say ‘create a dangerous space,’ but these Facebook events enlist a type of
behavior. To change the culture, the signs on the wall in Doms have to match
the event posts on Facebook, have to match our interactions with other people, have to match our interactions with ourselves.”