Drug and Alcohol Policies Across 5Cs Draw Scrutiny

Every Friday and Saturday night, students from the Claremont Colleges get to choose between parties at the five different campuses. But, this also means that they are potentially subject to five different drug and alcohol policies. While all 5C policies adhere to federal laws regarding controlled substances, there are minor deviations in drug and alcohol policies that can complicate Claremont’s social scene.

Drug and alcohol policy alterations have been receiving attention recently across the consortium. On Aug. 30, Claremont McKenna College introduced new regulations stipulating that any event with over 15 attendees must be registered, regardless of whether the hosts are serving alcohol. On Sept. 12, Pomona College's Student Affairs Committee proposed formalizing a policy to ban midweek parties serving alcohol. Additionally, Pitzer College has begun the process of completing the online curriculum developer EverFi’s Alcohol Diagnostic Inventory to assess the effectiveness of the campus' alcohol prevention policy.

Moya Carter, dean of students at Pitzer, said that the program “will help us pinpoint areas of strength and limitation and set goals for improvement.”

Neither Harvey Mudd College nor Scripps College are actively discussing implementing major changes to their drug and alcohol policies.

All five colleges open the fall semester with a substance-free period known as Dry Week that prohibits alcohol from being consumed or served on campus.

Pomona College Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum said that “sub-free opening is really about being able to ensure an atmosphere where incoming students don't have to worry about the pressure of alcohol or other substances.”

Though the 5Cs start the school year with a uniform policy, each school has its own specific set of rules governing parties on campus. For instance, Pitzer's student handbook states that “all student-sponsored events approved to serve alcohol must also provide high-quality non-alcoholic beverages (e.g. water, juice, soda, etc.) and high-quality food (e.g. veggies and dip, fruit platters, cheese and crackers, etc.) throughout the duration of the event.”

According to the student handbook for HMC, “party hosts must have previously attended a party-planning seminar, which is administered by Social Committee Chairs.”

The Scripps Guide to Student Life says that students over the age of 21 may have or consume alcohol as long as the door to where drinking is taking place is closed, there are fewer than nine people in the room, and the individual alcohol server does not drink alcohol.

Both Pomona and Scripps have medical amnesty policies, also known as Good Samaritan policies, that ensure that no disciplinary action will be taken against students who seek medical attention for themselves or a fellow student in an emergency situation involving drugs or alcohol.

“We prioritize the safety of an individual student over disciplinary action,” said Charlotte Johnson, vice president for student affairs at Scripps. “The primary thing for us is if a student engages in high-risk drinking behavior and becomes ill or needs to be hospitalized, we don’t want the student or their peers to not seek help because they think they will get in trouble.”

Chris Sundberg, HMC associate dean for student activities, said that the Harvey Mudd Honor Code establishes an overarching culture of integrity and community life that unofficially enacts a medical amnesty policy.

“The Good Samaritan policy is already in place,” he said. “It’s not necessary to codify it.”

Similarly, Carter wrote in an email to TSL that although Pitzer does not have a medical amnesty policy, it is unlikely that students who seek medical attention for themselves or others would be punished for underage drinking.

For all colleges in the consortium, sanctions are assigned according to the severity of the violations.

“The sanctions take into account the person’s disciplinary history: if is this a first offense, second offense, if there seems to be a continuing problem,” Johnson said. “I would say in instances where we see a pattern of harmful drinking behavior with respect to the student, our primary goal would be to get the student help, like mandatory treatment.”

According to campus administrators, all the colleges share the goal of promoting student health.

“We want to take a therapeutic, non-judgmental approach, which is to ensure that students are treated in terms of their own wellness,” Feldblum said. “For example, a student who has been in an alcohol transport, or who has clearly some issues around alcohol, our primary response is to have that student engage in BASICS [Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students].”

In 2012, Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services completed staff training in the BASICS, a motivational interview program designed to help at-risk students to drink responsibly and safely. The Monsour Counseling Center, Health Education Outreach of the Claremont consortium, and Student Health Services are also all resources available to 5C students seeking help with substance abuse.

“Each school has its own policies regarding alcohol, but the basic tenets of those policies are the same,” Johnson said. “One is to emphasize responsible drinking behavior, and the other is to prioritize the safety and health of the students on each campus. So, there are idiosyncrasies here and there with respect to how a student registers a party on each campus, but with respect to the main objective I think we’re really all walking hand-in-hand.”

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