Pomona Sponsor Dismissed for Policy Violations

The Office of Campus Life decided to remove Harry Harris PO ’12 from the sponsor program on Oct. 6, after he broke school policy while already on probation. The Lyon One East sponsor received a policy violation for property theft when he was caught on camera taking a keyboard from the dorm’s computer lab.Harris was put on probation in April when he and three other sponsors were caught smoking marijuana. Harris was also written up this semester when another student was found smoking marijuana in his room.Under the sponsor contract, sponsors who do not comply with the student code can be stripped of their position. Eight out of the 15 agreements in the sponsor contract directly address drug use, stating that sponsors cannot use or distribute drugs in their rooms and must abide by the Pomona College drug policy.“Each sponsor signs, at the time of their offer, a contract that outlines some very specific guidelines and expectations that we have of them as sponsors,” said Senior Associate Dean of Campus Life Frank Bedoya. “There were violations of that contract that led to this decision.”Following the keyboard incident, Harris met with John Lopes, associate director of the Smith Campus Center and student programs, who, according to Harris, said it seemed like a misunderstanding.On his way to the meeting, Harris was approached by Bedoya, who informed Harris he would probably lose his sponsorship. Harris then arranged a meeting with Bedoya and the four head sponsors in which Harris explained that he borrowed the Lyon keyboard for about two weeks when his own keyboard broke.“I explained my position and my circumstances and how this clearly wasn’t an act of theft and that I resented Frank calling me a thief,” Harris said. “If anything, they shouldn’t have de-sponsored me for borrowing a keyboard. I think most people hear that and are shocked because it really is that ridiculous.”Because of Harris’s two previous drug-related incidents, there are allegations the administration used the keyboard incident as an excuse to remove him from the program.Bedoya refused to comment directly on the details of the situation, maintaining that it is a personnel issue.“I will say that oftentimes personnel matters such as this are difficult for people to understand because they may only have bits and pieces of the full picture,” Bedoya said. “Being a student leader on campus, regardless of whether you’re a sponsor or not, carries with it a certain set of expectations by the college. I think we acted fairly and consistent[ly] in terms of reaching a decision.”Harris said he and the three other sponsors should not have been put on probation last year because they were not under the sponsor contract until the 2009-10 school year. He said he believed his expressions of discontent during the probation meeting upset the administration.“From Frank’s behavior and from what I’ve heard from the head sponsors, it’s become clear that at least Frank and possibly others have a personal vendetta toward me,” Harris said.Harris’s sponsee Luke Willert PO ’13 wrote a letter to the editor in last week’s issue of

The Student Life

issue about his frustration with the administration’s decision and its lack of communication with the sponsor group.“I’m mystified because none of us know the circumstances, and it just kind of happened,” Willert said. “I don’t necessarily know that they owe us an explanation, but no explanation has been given.”Another one of Harris’s sponsees, Trevor Flynn PO ’13, said he also felt confused by the administration’s actions.“I felt like overall we’ve kind of been left out of this whole process,” Flynn said. “Pulling him away from the sponsor group, which affects the whole hall, is an unusual and unfit punishment. The keyboard incident seems not appropriate for this kind of punishment and if [Harris’s substance use] was the reason, childish is what I would call it.”Bedoya plans to offer Harris’s sponsees the opportunity to speak with him. The next steps, he said, are choosing one of the two sponsor alternates to replace Harris and meeting with Harris’s co-sponsor, Debbie Colantuoni PO ‘12, about whether to meet with the sponsees.“I won’t force myself into a situation where people don’t want to have a discussion, but there is clearly a need to talk with them and allow them to engage in conversation with the head sponsors and [administrators from] Campus Life,” Bedoya said. “Wanting to have a meeting and actually having a meeting are two different things if people are not open. It’s a matter of opening communication and establishing a dialogue in terms of what their needs are.”Harris thinks that Campus Life needs to reevaluate the sponsor program as a whole.“There’s no transparency,” Harris said. “There’s no one to keep them in check. They’re operating to maintain an image. What they need to do is look at other schools’ programs and actually do some sort of research into all this. It’s a really tough program to get right, and in a lot of ways they can’t get it right, but they should at least strive for that.”Harris worries this might affect how his sponsees interact with the administration in the future.“In the long term, what would affect them most is not any personal relationship they have with me, but a personal relationship they have with the school,” Harris said. “Students view the college as home. Administrators view the college as a paycheck. You can’t reconcile those two. [The administrators] just need to get the politics out of this and begin caring about the students.”

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