A proposed policy change to the Pomona College Student Handbook that would tighten the enforcement of rules governing where bicycles can be parked on campus provoked strong negative responses from some students this week, prompting the Student Affairs Committee (SAC) to send a follow-up e-mail to all Pomona students yesterday to clarify the intent of the proposed change.
Dozens of students sent e-mails to SAC in the past three days, many of them arguing that the committee should not pass a new enforcement policy, at least until Pomona addresses the shortage of bicycle racks in certain locations on campus. Lucas Wrench PO ’13 began organizing a student protest, dubbed ‘Lockupy SCC’ and scheduled for next Friday, to oppose the proposed policy change, under which bicycles could be impounded and have their locks destroyed if they are parked in locations other than bike racks and dorm rooms.
Pomona Vice President and Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum sent an e-mail on behalf of SAC yesterday to clarify that the proposed policy would not be enacted until the school has taken two steps to improve its bike culture: the installation of additional bike racks and the introduction of school-subsidized bike locks for sale at the Coop Store.
“[T]he Student Affairs Committee agreed that before the new policy could be put in place, we needed to address the issues of adding bike racks in places where there are not sufficient spaces,” Feldblum wrote. “Although racks will obviously not be installed in every single location that students suggest, they will reduce overall crowding and provide bike riders with new locations to lock their bikes.”
“We also have heard that some students may be keeping bikes in hallways because they do not own U-Locks,” the e-mail continued. “For this reason, and because of general concerns about bike theft on campus, ASPC and Student Affairs are working together to put in place a subsidized U-Lock purchase program (sold at the Coop Store) for students prior to the new policy going into effect.”
Feldblum also wrote in yesterday’s e-mail that the policy will not necessarily be enacted at the end of the 30-day comment period, a standard practice of SAC policy proposals that is designed to gather student input. The comment period for the proposed bike policy began on Tuesday.
Wrench said that he was pleased to see yesterday’s e-mail from Feldblum.
“We’re still going to do Lockupy, but I’m hoping it’s not going to be a confrontational protest,” he said. “It’ll probably take place in a more open area—probably in the SCC, by the fountain—in a way that’s not going to obstruct anyone’s day-to-day activities or the running of the school.”
Wrench added that the new bicycle racks would probably eliminate the need for a new enforcement policy on bike parking.
“I think if these racks are installed, the policy’s not going to be necessary and it should be avoided if possible,” he said.
Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC) President Nate Brown PO ’12, who sits on SAC, said that Thursday’s e-mail was necessary because displays of student opposition had indicated a “failure of messaging on the part of the Student Affairs Committee.”
Brown said that SAC’s Tuesday e-mail to the student body, which announced the policy proposal, did not sufficiently emphasize the necessity of adding more bike racks and selling subsidized locks. He added that both of these measures are likely to be initiated before the end of the proposal’s comment period.
“I fundamentally do agree with the language of the proposed policy change, except there need to be bike racks that meet students’ needs,” Brown said. “I don’t see this proposed policy change as the final product, and I’m afraid that SAC didn’t show that in our e-mail.”
Brown added that Tuesday’s e-mail, which not only announced the proposal but floated the possibility of introducing a fine for violations of the bicycle policy, may have been introduced to the student body in too sudden a manner. He said that it might have been better to send an e-mail at the beginning of the semester, informing Pomona students that SAC was considering a revision to the bike policy and inviting them to offer input.
Feldblum, who signed the Tuesday e-mail as well as the Thursday follow-up, said that SAC and students who read the announcement should share the blame for the misunderstanding of SAC’s plan.
“I think that the fact is that we weren’t as clear as we could be, and that people didn’t actually read carefully,” she said.
ASPC Vice President for Finance Leslie Appleton PO ’12, a member of SAC, said that she thought the e-mail announcing the policy proposal had made it clear that new enforcement measures would not come before new bike racks and subsidized bike locks.
“My understanding, based on the comments [sent to SAC], is that people did not read the e-mail in its entirety,” she said. “I did not expect students to react to this e-mail the way they did.”
Appleton added that although she does not ignore student input, she did not react as strongly to student criticism of the policy proposal as Brown did.
“He is willing to view things more from the student perspective, whereas I tend to view things more from the administrative perspective,” Appleton said. “I think he is significantly more concerned with these things being implemented prior to the policy going into effect, whereas for me that was never really a question.”