Opinion Poll: 5C Party Culture

By Taylor Galla ‘18
Opinion Poll Columnist

A couple of weeks ago, I asked about the 5C party culture. However, due to recent news of new regulations in addition to the already-transforming policies at all the schools, I thought I would inquire about the schools’ responses to our weekend shenanigans. Each school is different, some more lenient than others. How these discrepancies came to be is interesting to me, as you would think that they would all want some sort of consistency amongst them, because there is immense overlap between the schools on weekend nights. Instead, the students are asked to simultaneously abide by the rules set by their own college as well as the college they are visiting for the party.  

Currently the policy at Scripps is that it is a dry campus — drinking in any public spaces is off limits even if you are 21. The only time when this is allowed is at a school-sponsored event where IDs have been checked. The punishment for being written up for unlawful alcohol possession or consumption (for lack of a better description) is a meeting with an area coordinator to talk about safe habits for the future and a mark on your record.

At Harvey Mudd their policy is centered around the prevention of binge-drinking, and the health of students first and foremost — secondary is whether an infraction has been committed. The college does not allow unlawful consumption and/or possession of drugs or alcohol. However, punishments for these infractions range from participating in a substance-abuse program to expulsion and referral to government authorities. In theory, this is how the situation is handled at HMC. However, based upon my own experience with the school and sense of its environment I would say it handles its party scene the best of any of the schools. Although its party culture is a bit different from other schools due to the baseline personality type of its student body, the college’s prioritization of students’ safety and wellbeing — and the evident action played out in accordance with that value — creates an atmosphere of trust and safety. 

At Pitzer College the policy is very similar to Scripps, where drinking is allowed by those of legal age and in their rooms or at registered events. For everyone else, consumption and possession of alcohol and drugs as well as any related paraphernalia is not allowed. Punishment for this behavior is not explicitly stated within the alcohol and drug policy, which is strange, however I can imagine this is similar to the other schools. Pitzer’s policy also mentions that the containers themselves can’t be obvious in public, alluding to the ever-elusive “red cup policy,” where if a substance is in a red cup, nobody can get you in trouble for it. More on that later. 

CMC’s approach, a policy that has received the most publicity since I’ve been at these schools, has been loosely thrown around amongst student discussions as something that is changing or becoming more strict. This is not the case, CMC’s policies have not shifted that much, they have just become more enforced recently. As to why this is the case, I’m not entirely sure. Pressure from alums? Fear amongst the administration that things are all of a sudden getting too out of hand? All we know is that the big masses of people standing around in North Quad or at the senior apartments are becoming less tolerable by the administration, and are getting shut down more often. 

Lastly, Pomona’s new policy is why I decided to write this article in the first place. Recently, Pomona has issued a new “point” policy, where various infractions award students with point that count towards a total that amounts to punishments of varying degrees. 16 points gets you thrown off campus, 12 points means you can’t go abroad, etc. Now this policy may sound reasonable, like 12 points would be hard to acquire- but one night and one suite party can easily amount to this many. A keg, having too many people in your room, noise, etc., all amount to one point. All of these things put together and you’re racking up the points quickly. 

Now, the fact of the matter is is that no matter what restrictions these schools put on their students, they are going to engage in this behavior one way or another. The delicate balance that a school must set is between enabling its students to do whatever they want in a laissez-faire policy, while also making sure that their policies don’t pigeonhole them into dangerous situations. A closed-door drinking policy is not safe — it actually promotes binge drinking behind closed doors rather than in an open environment where someone can get help if he/she goes overboard. 

CMC’s policy does the best with what it’s given. The parties at CMC are the biggest and rowdiest of those at any of the schools, and having campus security there to not necessarily intervene, but rather make sure no one is in serious danger, is the prime response in my opinion. If students feel that they have to hide or sneak around, their decisions will be less safe and more detrimental to themselves and others. This is also why I feel that Pomona’s policy is incredibly misguided and clearly driven by some outside source, possibly an alum or board member, rather than someone who knows these schools and the students who attend them. Having such strict ramifications for illegal behavior is pointless as students are just going to engage in it anyway — but on other campuses with people and in an environment that they are less comfortable with. 

While I understand that the ultimate underlying goal of these policies is to protect students, there has to be a balance between acceptance of a campus culture and enablement of students’ healthy growth and choices, while also restrictions that keep everything from falling apart. As to whether any of these schools, or schools in the country, have struck this balance, the jury is still out.