Dear CMC: Stop Treating Our Social Scene like a Case Competition

On August 30, the CMC administration and ASCMC announced their “new strategy of responsible moderation” that will be implemented this year. In this strategy, students are given tactical guidelines for how, when, and where to socialize on campus. Framed as a way to support a “healthy, inclusive, and respectful residential culture,” this new strategy is the heaviest set of rules and regulations enacted at CMC to control student behavior and social interactions.

First, I want to fully acknowledge the real and serious concerns that CMC is trying to address. No one disagrees with the administration’s basic premise: all students should feel safe and act responsibly when they go out. And there is no doubt that in these past few years, high-risk alcohol and drug consumption has been a problem that has put students at risk and caused harm to our community. However, the individuals that engage in such dangerous behavior constitute a small minority of us, and the latest policy changes are a classic example of administrative overreach that infringes on CMC’s most cherished freedoms.

There are a lot of things that make CMC special, but our vibrant and inclusive social scene is a point of pride that distinguishes us from every other college in the country. Unlike other schools, all of our parties are planned by our student government, rather than through an exclusive Greek system. From 6:01 to Pirate Party, everyone is invited and welcomed with open arms—no matter your class year, background, or whether or not you choose to drink. It is not just our high-caliber academics and engaging courses that make us a strong community; it is our unparalleled social scene that makes everyone feel included and comfortable to be themselves.

The administration’s new guidelines are highly inconsistent with CMC’s character in this respect. The guidelines are divided into two parts: formal and informal activities. If students are in groups of more than 15 people and alcohol is present, they must register with the Student Activities Office at least two business days in advance. The event is limited to 30 people and must comply with the “Guidelines for the Use of Alcohol at Formal Activities or Events.”

The “Informal Activity Guidelines” focus on the day-to-day activities of students, such as gatherings in dorm rooms and residential lounges. These “gatherings” are limited to 15 students who are allowed to drink alcohol, as long as they are not being disruptive. Students were told that if their informal gathering grows to 16 people, they must “reduce the number of people at the gathering to 15 or less or the gathering will be shut down.”

The problem with this policy, in particular, is that it promotes exclusivity. A gathering of 15 people or more could easily form by accident from students just hanging out in their dorm hall, friends inviting their friends, and others who walk by and feel welcomed to join. Instead of encouraging these students to intermix and mingle, the 15-person limit forces students to kick other students out of their gatherings and bar anyone new from coming in. In effect, these policies encourage negative, cliquey behavior—which is antithetical to CMC’s traditionally open culture.

Furthermore, these “informal gatherings” can only occur at designated times and spaces. They are permitted between 5:00 PM to midnight on Sunday through Thursday, and from noon to 1:00 AM on Friday and Saturday. They may only take place in residential areas, such as dorm halls, designated lounges, BBQ areas, and the Senior Apartments. (The Dean of Students created a map to clarify these parameters.) In these “designated areas,” you can carry an open, single use serving of alcohol. Outside of these areas, such as in North Quad and Parent’s Field, you can carry alcohol, but only “if you are headed somewhere.”

As for activity regulations, beer pong is permitted in six designated spaces (north side of Beckett, Green BBQ area, Wohlford BBQ area, Claremont Hall amphitheater, Apt. 681 BBQ area, and the Wagner BBQ area south of Kramer Walkway). Other drinking games, high frequency shots, loud music, and discourteous behavior that infringe on others’ right to use those spaces are violations. By designating the times, spaces, and activities for student interaction, the administration can more easily manage CMC’s social scene.

This comprehensive strategy sounds like the most optimal method to minimize CMC’s legal liabilities. CMC is now given full control over almost every aspect of how students interact in public spaces. The problem is that it hurts students more than it helps them by setting the most unnatural, unrealistic guidelines for students to follow.

These policies do little, if anything, to mitigate the high-risk alcohol and drug problems on campus that this strategy was intended to address. The administration has not shown any positive correlation between group sizes and levels of alcohol or drug consumption. The drinking problem is a cultural problem: if people want to drink, then they are going to drink, whether they are with 15, 30, or 100 people. These restrictive policies are more likely to encourage students to privately binge drink in their rooms and go out heavily intoxicated, so they can avoid breaking any new guidelines for carrying alcohol or drinking at unregistered events. Instead of cultivating an open, safe environment for students, or addressing the root cause of these problems, these guidelines incentivize students to engage in more dangerous behavior.

The worst part is that the administration and ASCMC are acting as if these new guidelines are actually in the best interest of students. How is it in our best interest to limit how many people we can interact with? How is it in our best interest to create exclusive guest lists? How is it in our best interest to be treated like walking liabilities, rather than human beings?

We do not need a “strategy” to interact with our friends. We are not just another component of what seems like CMC’s ongoing case competition to find various ways to minimize as much legal risk as possible for our institution. 

It is clear that we are never going to have the same open culture and social freedoms afforded to us in years past. I, along with many other students, have come to terms with that. But for the administration to say that it is trying to create a “healthy, inclusive, and respectful residential culture” through its new policy is naïve at best, and disingenuous at worst.

So cut to the chase, CMC. What are you actually trying to achieve through this policy? We want your honest answers, not your calculated strategies.

_______________________________

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13 thoughts on “Dear CMC: Stop Treating Our Social Scene like a Case Competition”

  1. As a current student at CMC who doesn’t drink, I’ve found that the super inclusive culture is inclusive for those who drink. Although I may be allowed into the parties, being the only sober one there is awfully ostracizing. Although people are being polite by offering drinks, as someone who chooses not to do so, I find myself constantly having to say no and then justify that reason. And to be clear, not drinking at CMC is a huge minority. In fact, when I told a friend that I didn’t drink s/he said “then why would you even come to CMC?” This was on one of the very first days at CMC. That, doesn’t seem like a very “inclusive” or “free” environment. Although we are allowed to drink as much as we’d like and anywhere we’d like, freedom should also allow us the choice to drink or not. When those questions are being asked (and that was just 1 striking example), I don’t think that not drinking is really even a viable option. In a perfect world, the decision to drink or not should be like being an Econ or gov major. I’m unsure if these new practices will help but I, for one, am encouraged by the fact that they are at least attempting to be more friendly to those of us who don’t drink without seeming to severely hinder those who would like to drink.

    1. Great Scott! Such a tough life. Having to turn down drink after drink because everyone is so friendly. You have some big problems don’t you? I despised people like you when I was there at the colleges.

    2. Maybe you should just drink and not be lame. There’s a reason a majority of people do it: because it’s a great way to meet people and have a good time. You’ll thank me later

    3. I respect your decision to remain sober, however, I think the problem you are describing is one that you would encounter at parties in general, not just ones at CMC. If you feel that you shouldn’t have to justify your reasoning, that is up to you, but you shouldn’t chastise your peers for trying to include you in something they are doing at the party.. drinking. Furthermore, when I am asked what my major is, it is often followed by questions regarding why I like it or what I want to do with it after I graduate. I don’t think that people asking why you don’t drink is necessarily them trying to make you feel uncomfortable, rather them taking an interest in your choice. You were chosen to go to CMC because you are a leader. I would hope that my leaders have the confidence stick to their decisions, especially in the face of your peers making unimportant comments.

      To be clear, you are definitely not “allowed to drink as much as you’d like anywhere you’d like”, that is the point of the new policies. Under these new rules, you as a non-drinker would not only feel ostracized for not partaking in the drinking, but now you won’t even be invited to the 15-30 person event. If anything, this policy will make the division between “drinkers” and “non-drinkers” even wider because there will be little common ground.

      Hannah, great article. You raise some great points that I hope the administration addresses.

    4. Abe – I, like you and many others, chose CMC based on its academic merits, not its lax alcohol policies. I engaged in a level of (underage) drinking that I was comfortable with, but I respected others’ choices not to, and if I did ask them why, it was purely because I was interested, not because I was judging. I think (and hope) you’ll find that most CMCers could care less whether you drink or not. As with everything in life, stay true to what you believe and ignore any asshole who tries to make you feel bad about your choices, to your face or from behind a keyboard.

    5. The people responding to your comment haven’t been very friendly, Abe, so I just wanted to let you know that some of absolutely empathize with your situation. Also, remember that you can always go outside CMC to socialize—it’s much easier to be a non-drinker at Pomona or elsewhere in the non-CMC 5C’s.

  2. Yes, there could be something lost by the new rules, but I also wonder if there have actually been lawsuit threats before. We are legal liabilities as students (some underage) living on a campus, and I don’t think that there is much that the administration can do to change that fact. Last year at 6:01 two people were hospitalized. I am all for minimal “social gathering” regulation, but I also understand that the school can’t just let that happen with any kind of consistency.

    All that sympathizing with the administration said, I absolutely agree that inclusivity is one of the best things to have on a campus, and I disagree that limiting the size of a gathering or instituting “designated areas” is the most effective way to make a campus a safer place to party. It does feel like micro-management, nearly babysitting us, which is the worst kind of way of build a social scene. CMC is a small campus, a small student body, and there is plenty of room to have conversations between the students and the administration. Having a close community should allow for more freedom rather than less.

    I guess I’m coming more from an angle of understanding for what possible reasons that administration could have released the new regulations at this point in time and those reasons need to be addressed before we get self-righteous about our party freedoms getting taken away.

  3. I am an alumn of the Claremont Colleges. I was an RA, not at CMC, but at another 5 C. From my experience in my years as an RA, I found that I encountered more incidents with excessive alcohol and drug usage within the dorms. When students are restricted to spaces I have seen, first hand, the binge drinking that occurs behind closed doors, “pre-gaming”, before a group of students leaves to go to the actual designated party area. As an RA, I witnessed more alcohol poisoning incidents, leading to an ambulance ride to the hospital, before the student ever made it to the designated party location.

    I always appreciated the open-ness of CMC. I felt safer having the freedom their campus provided. If someone had consumed to much, it was visible to many more people than if they are hidden behind closed doors. People who want to drink are going to find a way to drink. If CMC sincerely wants to make its campus safer, they should be educating their students/giving them the tools to handle unsafe/crisis situations, or make their students feel safe enough to ask for help.

    I feel very privileged to have been an RA and to have received the training to handle crisis situations, including incidents that surround alcohol and drug consumption.

  4. The first time I toured campus, our student guide was put in the very awkward position of defending CMC’s open alcohol policies to a group of concerned parents. I’ll never forget her response, and I used it many times when my non-CMC friends asked me similar questions about our “wet campus” culture.

    Not only did she explain that the lax policies spoke volumes about the level of trust and responsibility that administrators placed with students, but that they were actually the result of more restrictive policies in the past that pushed students to drink off-campus, which was a much more dangerous position for students to be in. The administration at that time believed that condoning these activities in a safe environment was a better alternative to having students drink off-campus and drive back. In that context, the 3 drinking guidelines she mentioned (no glass bottles outside, no drinking alone with your door shut, and always carry a red cup) seemed to really focus on students’ safety first.

    I agree that a handful of students are choosing to engage in risky behavior that violates this trust and should be addressed. But I can’t help but think that these new policies are just going to encourage drinking in areas that aren’t monitored, like behind closed doors and off campus, which will only make these problems worse. This article hit the nail on the head; from a liability standpoint, these policies are in the college’s best interest, but not it’s students’.

    Great article. Keep pressuring administration to solve the real problems rather than creating new ones.

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  7. My son had a full ride to CMC. I was so proud of his hard work and character and supported him in everything he did. He came home for his first summer break. Gaunt, face sunken in, tired and depressed. I didn’t understand how his freshman year could leave him so exhausted. He seemed to recover and then we drove him back to CMC. He dropped out in his first week of sophomore year. No explanation. Fast forward one year. He is a heroin addict. I never saw it coming. The hiding, the lies, the erratic sleep schedule, soaking sheets, wearing long sleeves on hot days , face sores he said were pimples that he picked. Slurred speech he wasn’t even. Aware of. And then the hidden tatoos that he made on himself that are worse than bad prison tatoos. Wtf! He started all of this at CMC. His life, health and future died at CMC. My only son an invalid. I regret many things. One of them was convincing myself that my son would test his limits but learn and know them. We all forget how powerful and deceiving drugs can be. Even the brightest and toughest cannot outrun heroin.

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