Construction will begin Monday, Sept. 19, to convert the Pomona College Smith Campus Center’s Social Room into four smaller rooms. The Social Room will be converted into a new KSPC poster lab and several storage rooms for the Pomona Events Committee (PEC) and other student groups.
Students will no longer be able to reserve this space for events or parties.
This change occurred after Pomona's administration recognized the need for a new space on campus for the International Student Mentorship Program (ISMP) and Improving Dreams, Equality, Access, and Success (IDEAS) to meet.
These student groups will now have access to the Clark V basement and the Claremont Colleges Ballroom Dance Company storage area will move from Clark V to one of the new small rooms under the Smith Campus Center, Ellie Ash-Bala, Director of the Smith Campus Center and Student Programs, wrote in an email to TSL.
Head ISMP mentor Haruka Sano PO ‘18 spoke to the importance of having a physical space on campus for identity-based student organizations.
“Specifically for ISMP, a physical space will be a home away from home where international students can find a community and a safe space to share dialogues about events in our home countries as well as about the campus culture and political climate,” Sano wrote in an email to TSL.
The Social Room has been home to several weekly Pomona events, including the Tuesday night social event Table Manners. According to Vice President for Campus Events Aldair Arriola PO ’17, this event traditionally does not cater to mainstream party culture and is meant to be a safe and free party space with a loud subwoofer and, occasionally, themed events. The PEC Table Manners Committee organizes this event, which will be moved to Doms Lounge.
According to Table Manners committee member Ethan Fukuto PO ’17, the committee was not formally made aware of plans to convert the Social Room.
“As we were trying to book the Social Room space around late July, early August, we were told … that the space was no longer available, and we never had a clear explanation about that,” Table Manners Committee member Grace Lamdin PO ’17 said.
Lamdin expressed concerns that the student body had not been informed of this change, since the change affects many students groups and clubs which have historically hosted events in the Social Room, like Building Leaders on Campus (BLOC) and Posse.
Sano agrees that there is a need for greater administrative transparency.
“We head mentors of ISMP and other mentor groups feel frustrated that this decision about the social room in SCC was made without the input of student groups such as PEC,” she said. “We would like to address that we certainly do not intend nor want a space to be taken away from students in order for it to be given to students for another purpose.”
Some students have voiced the conern that the move of Table Manners to Doms Lounge would change the atmosphere of the event.
Ethen Lund PO ’19, a member of the Table Manners committee, said that the Social Room has a few thousand dollars’ worth of sound system equipment, while Doms has a lower-quality sound system and is “just sort of a different space with a different vibe.”
“Part of the appeal of Table Manners is that you have these massive subwoofers that are blasting and shaking the room, and it’s a much different experience when you’re at Doms Lounge,” Lund said. “The [Doms] sound system cannot accommodate subwoofer frequencies, so we have had to turn our volume down.”
Arriola said that the removal of the space for parties and social events might lead to more dorm parties, which could could create a more dangerous campus party culture in terms of sexual assault and binge drinking.
“How do you expect us to host these events away from the dorms when [the administration is] taking away these spaces from us?” Arriola said.
In protest, a petition has been started via Facebook demanding a halt to construction plans until more discussion occurs between the administration and the student body. As of Thursday, Sept. 15th, two days after the petition was started, it had already garnered 97 signatures.
Octave Duclos PO ’18, a member of the Table Manners Committee, said that last year he enjoyed stopping by the party on Tuesdays with friends in between doing homework. People went to Table Manners to “feel” the music, and Doms would change the identity of the event, said Duclos.
Ash-Bala said, “I am fully in support of the student resource rooms that this change will enable us to make. For those groups of students who really need safe spaces to gather on campus, I think it’s well worth the sacrifice of a party space.”
However, the petition claims that there were several nights last year when both Doms and the Social Room were booked the same night and that “there has, and always will be, demand for social spaces on Pomona’s campus.”
Ash-Bala said that it was difficult to balance every group's needs and that she hopes Table Manners can continue to thrive in a new space.