Pomona cited more students for alcohol policy violations in 2018 than other 5Cs combined

Despite cutting the number of students cited for alcohol policy violations in half last year, Pomona College still took disciplinary action against more students than all the other 5Cs combined, according to 5C crime and disciplinary data released Oct. 1.

The school referred 60 students to campus judicial authorities for incidents involving alcohol, according to its Annual Clery Fire Safety and Security Report for the 2018 calendar year. Every other undergraduate Claremont college referred a combined total of 45 students during the same period.

In 2017, Pomona cited 131 students for alcohol violations, its report said. The Clery Act requires colleges to release such reports annually.

Claremont McKenna College reported the lowest number referred, citing only a single student. Pitzer College reported 29, Scripps College reported eight and Harvey Mudd College reported seven.

ASPC President Miguel Delgado-Garcia PO ’20 said the statistic demonstrates a failure in Pomona’s handling of on-campus drinking and partying.

“That number is not super convincing that the college is moving towards a place of healthy drinking culture,” he said.

“We have to do it in secret, and so we have to do it as much as possible before we go out, because once we go out, we can’t [drink].”

Isabella Cayetano PO ’23

Delgado-Garcia speculated that Pomona’s restrictive attitudes toward substance use could motivate students to develop unhealthy habits of consuming substances in private.

“If we’re taught from day one that drinking is not allowed on this campus … forcing it behind closed doors doesn’t create a healthy culture on campus,” he said. “I think that’s one of the main reasons that other colleges adopt open-door policies.” 
Pomona’s student handbook states that “open containers of alcohol or cups containing alcoholic drinks may not be carried around campus or in public spaces in the residence halls.” 

It also states that hard alcohol is “viewed with special disfavor by the college” and banned from South Campus residence halls, where first-years and most sophomores live.

Other students agreed with Delgado-Garcia, saying they saw the “closed-door” policy as conducive to unhealthy habits like pregaming.

We have to do it in secret,” Isabella Cayetano PO ’23 said. “And so we have to do it as much as possible before we go out, because once we go out, we can’t [drink].”

But Dean of Campus Life Josh Eisenberg said he didn’t see forcing students to drink behind closed doors as an intrinsic safety issue.

“I don’t think there’s inherently a risk,” he said. “I think there are risks behind closed doors based on the behavior you’re choosing. Like, if you’re behind closed doors and playing beer pong, yes, there’s inherently a risk.”

Judicial Board chair Isaac Cui PO ’20 said via message that the consequences of closed-door drinking need to be better understood.

“[The Student Affairs Committee] and the community generally need to think about whether our policies do incentivize such behaviors and, if so, how to address that concern,” he said. 

CMC’s policy allows for “responsible, moderate consumption of alcohol … in residential areas, including residence hall rooms, apartments and apartment balconies.” Carrying an “open single use serving” is permitted, as is playing beer pong if registered with the Student Activities Office.

I think that the best policies encourage accountability and safety, not punishment,” ASCMC President Dina Rosin CM ’20 said in an email.

Pomona experienced eight alcohol-related transport incidents during the fall 2018 semester,  TSL previously reported. That was the highest in the consortium, although the number for each school was roughly proportional to school size, and no data is available for Harvey Mudd.

Delgado-Garcia said a more public drinking environment could help students learn to consume alcohol in a safer manner.

“Promoting events with casual drinking, I think, is a step in the right direction,” he said. “How are we preparing students for the real world? Because that’s what we’re doing here, right?”

Students also raised concerns that their perception of Pomona’s strict attitudes toward alcohol makes them less likely to get assistance in emergency situations.

“I think if the administration’s very anti-substance policy was a little less intense, then people would not be as afraid to call for help,” Cayetano said.

Eisenberg emphasized that students should feel confident that the school’s Good Samaritan policy will protect them if they seek medical attention for themselves or another student. The policy states that inebriated students in need of assistance will not be penalized for drinking if they seek help from Campus Safety or administrators.

“We want students to be safe, that actually is our priority,” he said. “If people are making the wrong choice based on fear, the end result is it’s not inconvenient — it’s tragedy. No one wants that.”

But the policy could be better advertised or made clearer to begin with, students said.

“We should have a community-wide dialogue about the Good Samaritan policy, especially as SAC debates changes,” Cui said. “The public will have the chance to weigh in — and they should.”

In the past, students raised concerns that transports outside of their control left them facing the substantial and potentially unaffordable costs of an ambulance and medical treatment.

Eisenberg noted that students can have some fees reimbursed through the Student Health Insurance Program. SHIP reimburses 80 percent of ambulance costs, according to an Aetna benefits summary, but only 25 percent of students across the 5Cs were enrolled in SHIP as of last year.

“If you are getting to the point where an ambulance had to show up at the curb, we should no longer be discussing whether or not there is a financial cost to that,” Eisenberg said. ”Because let me tell you what the financial cost is if we don’t get that human being out.”

Campus Safety declined to release data about emergencies involving student alcohol consumption. 

“We as students joke around a lot with our friends, ‘Never transport me because I can’t afford it.’ And I think that’s a conversation that the college can have, because there should not be a tradeoff between financial security and health,” Delgado-Garcia said.

Overall, Eisenberg said, the administration is not in denial about students’ choices around drinking or attempting to create a dry campus.

“We don’t allow underage drinking, but we don’t forbid drinking on campus,” he said. “We also, obviously, as an institution, don’t believe alcohol [is] inherently evil, because we sponsor events that have alcohol. What we believe in is responsible and moderated drinking. And we try to create policies that recognize that 18-to-22-year-olds don’t often know how to moderate or responsibly drink.”

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