The De-sponsoring Debacle

The last two weeks have been my worst at Pomona College. I have slept little and been unable to fully concentrate on my schoolwork, a result of stress greater than that of finals week. The worst part is that the actions of the Office of Campus Life (OCL) exacerbated my problems. As many may know, this all began on Jan. 25, when my friend and fellow sponsor, Andrew Hong, was de-sponsored.

My concerns about the situation could fill an entire edition of TSL. The manner in which Andrew was found to have violated his sponsor contract, which I consider to be an egregious violation of student privacy, and the hastiness and apparent disregard for circumstances or context with which the decision to de-sponsor him was made, are just two of my many worries. The most abhorrent of these events is OCL’s destruction of the sense of community at Pomona which they profess to promote. Many sponsors and other students have felt helpless in the aftermath of this decision. I feel as if my feelings and opinions do not matter to OCL. I have been repeatedly disrespected by certain members of the Office, and felt extreme condescension in a string of meetings following the de-sponsoring.

I understand that some students may not question the decision to de-sponsor Andrew because he violated the contract that all sponsors are required to sign at the beginning of the year. However, I feel that adherence to a contract alone is by no means an adequate measure of a sponsor’s competency. While punishment was necessary, there needed to be a much more holistic examination of the required severity of that punishment. There was a painful lack of any process to determine an appropriate response to the situation as a whole. OCL’s objective should have been to act in the best interests of Andrew’s sponsees, and in this case, denying them the right to a sponsor does not meet that criterion. I concede that if a sponsor violates his contract, he risks being removed, and I would likely not have protested if OCL had conducted a thorough analysis of the costs and benefits of this monumental decision.

Regardless of how one feels about the ultimate decision, the process was unprofessional and below the standards of this college. On Tuesday morning, just hours after he was written up, Andrew was told by Dean Townes that he was de-sponsored and had to vacate his room by the end of the day. Less than twenty-four hours is not nearly an adequate amount of time for OCL to make an informed decision.

In the days since the de-sponsoring, I have met with several Pomona deans to discuss my concerns about the situation. While I had no trouble making appointments with the deans and most of them seemed genuinely concerned about my complaints, I often felt that OCL is attempting to stifle student debate about not only this situation, but also the general approach to the sponsor program and the inconsistent and inane alcohol policy at Pomona. Sponsors were warned that they needed to respect OCL’s decision, and it was insinuated that if the very existence of criticism was not a measure of disrespect, then dissemination of that criticism to the greater student body surely was. I strongly disagree with this assertion, and am offended that sponsors would be shamed or intimidated into allowing OCL’s mistakes to go unnoticed by other students.

Additionally, OCL has stated that this decision will not be reconsidered and insinuated that we are irresponsible sponsors if we spend our energy fighting back rather than tending to our first-years. First, it is anathema to the ideals of Pomona College to say that if a situation seems hopeless, we should capitulate. Second, I reject the notion that I have neglected my duties as a sponsor to deal with this issue. Yes, it is exhausting to fight for what I believe in, but my conscience is clear knowing that I have done all I can to change what must be changed. I care too much about this college and the sponsor program to not speak up about recent events.

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