Pomona Proposes Revisions to Alcohol Policy

Pomona College Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum announced a proposed revision to Pomona’s alcohol policy in a Sept. 20 email to students that would formalize the restrictions on midweek parties that were temporarily in effect during the 2014-15 school year.

The policy revision is being overseen by the Student Affairs Committee of the Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC).

“This policy is not new,” said Nico Kass PO '16, ASPC president and a member of the Student Affiars Committee. “This is a formalization of action taken by the dean of students last year. This is just putting it in writing for the future as a result of students’ not vocally opposing the policy.”

The proposed policy revision states that if any student organization wishes to serve alcohol at an event occuring between Sunday night and Wednesday night, it must meet the following standards to register: “1) The entity hosting the event is an academic or administrative department or is an open-membership, registered student organization. 2) The event is not a party, nor is it connected to a party. 3) The event ends by 9:30 p.m. 4) All attendees to the event must RSVP in advance of the event, and there are 35 participants or less.”

The administration originally implemented the ban on alcohol-registered midweek parties on Sept. 12, 2014, in direct response to a week of five alcohol transports, three of which occurred on the night of Wednesday, Sept. 10, as reported by TSL.

“At that point, I said we can’t continue with business as usual,” Feldblum said. “We need to actually discuss this. We need to come to some concrete actions.”

However, according to Feldblum, Pomona's alcohol policy was a topic of discussion even before September 2014.

“In 2011 and 2012, we looked up substance use trends and identified high-risk drinking as an issue that we really wanted to focus on, because we saw Pomona had more high-risk drinking in the middle of the week than the national average,” Feldblum said. “One of the issues the alcohol researchers who came in 2011 said was that midweek parties aren’t the issue themselves, because that’s not where students are getting drunk. It’s that you’re fostering this substance culture, so people are pregaming for those parties that are happening during the midweek.”  

Feldblum said that she was initially skeptical of the research, believing a ban on midweek parties would just drive student drinking underground. However, the suspension of PUB (a weekly Wednesday night party serving alcohol) during the 2013-14 school year as part of an investigation saw high-risk drinking decrease during the week.

“This occurrence proved national research, which shows that less availability of alcohol diminishes a substance culture environment,” Feldblum said. “Alcohol restrictions driving drinking underground turned out to be more myth than fact.”

Kass said that not having parties certain nights could help foster a healthier substance culture.

“If there is no rager on a certain night, nobody’s going to be getting wasted, because what do you have to get wasted for?” he said

According to Feldblum, the policy revision aligns with Pomona's “therapeutic, non-judgmental” approach to alcohol abuse.

“The research says that enforcement is important. That doesn’t mean our primary approach is punitive. Rather, we try to take a therapeutic approach, and that means actually that having strong, consistent, clear enforcement is part of helping to reduce high-risk drinking.”

Some students have expressed concerns about the effects of the proposed revision on midweek events, however.

“I feel like many events, such as wine tastings or department events, should be allowed to happen past 9:30 p.m. and should not be limited in size to fewer than 35 people with RSVPs,” Adam Starr PO ‘18 said. “It seems as though the administration takes issue with midweek parties with alcohol, yet this new policy seems to limit much more while not providing a satisfactory definition of party.”

Ultimately, the proposed revision aims to engage students in a dialogue regarding alcohol’s role in shaping their college experience, according to Feldblum and Chris Waugh, dean of campus life and chair of the Standing Alcohol Working Group.

“A non-dry campus environment acknowledges alcohol is part of the fabric of American society,” Waugh said. “I would encourage all students to read the policy and to think about it in terms of what is the best possible scenario for the policy in terms of creating an environment where students are able to engage socially and grow academically. I think that this proposal moves us in that direction, and I’m excited about it.”

The 30-day comment period for the proposed policy revision is open until Oct. 21, and students are encouraged to email their thoughts to SAC@pomona.edu.

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