Pomona College is proposing updates to its points system for substance policy violations, including increasing point penalties for alcohol to equal those for marijuana and increasing point penalties for underage drinking.
Associate Dean Christopher Waugh and the alcohol and drug subcommittee of ASPC’s Student Affairs Committee announced the proposal in an email to students April 6. They said it was in response to student feedback, including a student body poll.
The college enacted the point system two years ago after students suggested that the monetary fine system was unfair to low-income students.
The point system is similar, with equitable ratios of points to fines, but the associated penalties are residence life sanctions, including room draw penalties and suspension from on-campus housing.
The major proposed changes to the point system involve increasing the point penalties for underage alcohol use from one point for a first offense and two points for additional offenses to four points for a first offense and five for additional ones. This brings the penalties in line with those for marijuana use.
The committee also proposed decreasing the points penalty for hard alcohol use on South Campus from three and four points to one and two points for first and additional offenses, respectively.
Changes to the punishment levels are also being proposed, including increasing the threshold for a housing suspension from 16 to 20 points.
The proposed changes would also allow students to decrease their point totals more quickly, losing three points per every 100 days without a violation, rather than two.
Waugh emphasized that the increase in points is less impactful than students might think because the amount of points needed for different levels of punishment are also being raised.
“I think a lot of folks are concerned about increasing the alcohol points, and that is leading to more fear and hysteria,” he said.
Waugh also said the college is not proposing lowering penalties for marijuana due to safety concerns.
“One of our concerns about [lowering penalties for marijuana] was that it might imply that we or the college would be saying, ‘you can use cannabis. We are going to lower our warrants with that,’” he said. “Many at the college may think that [marijuana is safe] and many will not, but the fact is we don’t have the science to say that it’s safe.”
After extensive research, the committee determined that marijuana itself is evolving and its effects are too unclear to award fewer points for marijuana use than alcohol use, Waugh said.
“There’s not enough information. The science hasn’t caught up to cannabis right now and that’s because it’s been difficult to study. It’s been illegal in most places. There are ethics involved with that,” he said. “Also, the substance itself has evolved so it’s almost a moving target. The [Food and Drug Administration] hasn’t even regulated it because it’s still illegal.”
Even though the state of California has legalized marijuana use for individuals over 21 years old, Pomona cannot permit its usage on campus; if it did, it would would lose its federal funding.
This raises issues for students who rely on marijuana for medical purposes. One student, who requested to remain anonymous, consumes THC-free edibles for a chronic health condition.
“It is entirely possible to legally consume marijuana products in a way that no one else will notice — edibles — and also in a way that does not intoxicate you,” the student said.
Waugh acknowledged that some students have legitimate medical needs for marijuana products, and said Pomona will address this issue in the fall.
Waugh’s email also acknowledged that many students of color have been concerned that the enforcement of the points system unfairly targets them.
Waugh wrote that well over 60 percent of students who have received points are white — although he added that this does not mean that students of color are not being targeted — and that 30 out of 32 resident assistants are students of color.
“I believe firmly that no RA is targeting any student,” Waugh said. “We train extensively on it. We hire people who are committed to community. We have a terrific group of staff and I admire them.”
Autumn Martin PO ’19, an RA on the committee, said that RAs do not enjoy giving out points to begin with.
“RAs aren’t there to stop fun, we are here to stop egregious behavior and things that aren’t safe,” she said. “We get the job so we can actually be a resource to people and do events and make sure we are supporting our residents.”
She said she wants students to know that the subcommittee is working on addressing the racial targeting complaints.
Waugh also said that he wants to hear from students about this topic.
“I want to make sure that I am open to lived student experience. … I invite students to let us know if they believe there is targeting,” he said.
Pomona is soliciting student comments on this topic for 30 days. Students interested in providing feedback can email SAC@pomona.edu.