Pomona College’s Student Affairs Committee (SAC) is currently discussing a proposal to replace fines for policy violations with alternative forms of punishment. Currently, most violations of policies in Pomona’s Student Handbook are penalized in the form of $100 to $200 fines along with regulatory sanctions, but SAC representatives familiar with the matter said there is a proposal on the table to replace financial sanctions with other punishments such as school or community service hours.
According to Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC) President Nate Brown PO ’12, who sits on SAC along with four other student representatives and five faculty and administration representatives, the issue has only recently been put on SAC’s agenda, and no policy change regarding the issue will be made in the immediate future.
“It’s in the very early stages,” Brown said. “Right now, we’re thinking of some possibilities and we are going to do some research and look at what other small liberal arts colleges do.”
Although the debate over eliminating financial penalties for policy violations has been discussed in past years, Joseph Reynolds PO ’15 played a crucial role in spurring interest in the topic again this year. While running for political office earlier this semester, Reynolds advocated a redesign of the school penal system that would give students a chance to give back to the Pomona community when they violate policy violations, rather than paying a fee.
“My main goal was to change the fine system so that the ‘punishment’ for breaking different rules of different caliber was focused more towards reinvesting time into the community through community service, work hours, tutoring, etc.,” he said.
Reynolds expressed concern with the current manner in which punishments are dealt with, arguing that it creates a bias in the system that places a heavier burden on less-wealthy students.
“With fining, those students who can afford it can easily pay for it and go about their business, but for those who aren’t in as fortunate of a situation, it’s more of a struggle,” he said.
According to Reynolds, he informed North Campus Representative and fellow ITS employee Anna Gibson PO ’12 about his interest in reforming the fine policy, and Gibson brought it to the attention of SAC.
Brown acknowledged that the current fine system is flawed, but he expressed concerns with changing the policy in the Student Handbook.
“I definitely think that the system that we have in place right now has problems,” he said. “The thing I worry about is that any system in place will have problems. For example, if community service is a ‘punishment,’ then it kind of destroys the value of community service.”
South Campus Representative Nick Lawson PO ’12 agreed with Brown, and mentioned that SAC has yet to propose a definite alternative to the fine system.
“I feel that mandatory community service definitely devalues the concept, but right now we’re thinking about making it school service,” Lawson said. “Essentially, that would be working for the school uncompensated, but we’re not entirely sure what else that would entail.”
After researching, comparing, and discussing the merits of other forms of sanctions, Brown said any policy change would still have to go through the same procedures as other changes; namely, there would be a proposal, an approval by the student body, and eventual ratification by Senate.
“If we do decide to propose a possible change, then we would send out the e-mail telling students about a 30-day ‘comment period’ when students could let their opinions be known,” Brown said. “Then we would come back and look at the comments and hopefully come to an agreement.”
“Even now SAC is very open to any suggestions from students, from faculty, staff, etc.,” Brown added.
He directs all questions and comments about the policy to firstname.lastname@example.org.