PUB Suspended; KD and Advocates to Discuss Event-Related Sexual Assault

The weekly Wednesday party PUB has been suspended in light of results from an audit of Pomona College's sexual assault policies, which was sent to the student body March 7. In place of today’s PUB, Kappa Delta, the fraternity that sponsors the event, is working with the Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault to hold a discussion about how PUB can be made safer.

Tiombe Preston SC ’95, who conducted the audit for the school, identified PUB as a place where sexual violence is "pervasive" in a slideshow presentation that was also made available to students via the Dean of Students tab on Sakai. The written report of the audit suggested changes in training during orientation to educate students and party planners about issues surrounding alcohol, party norms such as grinding, and sexual assault, but it did not refer specifically to PUB. 

“One of the things that came out from all the student groups that [Preston] met was the sense of pervasive sexual violence taking place at PUB,” Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum said. “There was a well-known common sense that the students talked about that there was unwanted sexual touching and groping that took place at PUB and that if you did want that, then you should go, and that if you did go, well, then in some ways you were saying, ‘I know what takes place at PUB.’”

On Sunday, Feldblum e-mailed Kappa Delta to notify the group that PUB would be suspended until the problem is resolved, said Yoshi Rothman PO '13, who was president of Kappa Delta last year. 

Rothman said, “This was pretty surprising and alarming news to us as well, because we promote PUB as a safe environment for anyone who wants to be there.”

He added, “What we realized was that this is not necessarily just a PUB thing, but any other dance party at the 5Cs is similar, and so it’s in our best interests to work with the Deans and the Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault about spreading awareness of what’s going on."

He said that after holding today’s discussion, Kappa Delta plans to hold a PUB event without dancing next week and to restore PUB with dancing the following week.

“I like their idea of a gradual rebuilding to PUB,” Feldblum said. “The goal is not to shut down PUB. The goal is to have PUB be a safe space on campus.”

She said that a main goal is “[getting] the message across to students who are coming to PUB that sexual violence will not be tolerated.”

“You need that in order to make sure that when PUB gets back up, that students have a different understanding and a different experience of PUB,” she said. “This should be a safe campus, so that students don’t feel, ‘Oh, if I go into that space, I can expect to be groped.’”

Today’s discussion will be held at 9 p.m. in Doms Lounge, where PUB is usually held.

Sarah Devereaux Hardimon PO ’16, an Advocate who is working with Kappa Delta to plan the discussion, said that the Advocates are helping the fraternity come up with questions and topics, as well as set ground rules for the discussion so that everyone who attends feels safe.

Hardimon said, “I don’t think anyone in Advocates was the least bit surprised” that the audit report identified PUB as contributing to sexual violence.

“At the beginning of first semester, it was very clear with all the sorts of people that I talk to that PUB was a place where this was happening regularly,” she said.

“I’m really glad that the suspension of PUB is forcing people to take this seriously,” Hardimon said. “I think it’s really good that this has been brought to light, and that people are being forced to take a step back and re-evaluate what our priorities as a college are.”

She said that she did not think the problem was unique to PUB.

“I do think that there is a culture of sex violence at 5C parties in general, and I think it is difficult when you have a lot of alcohol, a really crowded room with people who don’t necessarily know each other, and really loud music,” she said.

Feldblum agreed that the problem is not unique to PUB. Still, she said, “the fact of the matter is that PUB was what was called out by students” in the audit.

Smith Campus Center Assistant Director John Lopes, who oversees fraternities on campus, said that “from what Ms. Tiombe Preston said from her audit, almost every group that she talked with, somebody from the group mentioned the fact that there was sexual misconduct/violence that occurs at PUB.”

He said he thought that students specifically named PUB because it is a popular weekly party.

He added, “This is in no way a reflection of Kappa Delta as a fraternity, or those young men as individuals, it was just reported that this type of behavior happens at PUB, so we’re looking at the event, not problems with the fraternity.”

Rothman and Kappa Delta Secretary Zack Kraushar PO '13 are confident that the fraternity can make PUB safe enough to ensure its return.

“We want to take the sexual assault and violence thing head-on,” Rothman said. “We want to improve the safety and comfort of all the students at our parties ... We want to be seen as a partner on campus rather than an adversary.”

“[KD] realized that this was an area that needed to be addressed, and PUB being a weekly event and being mentioned in the audit, it was something that they take seriously,” Lopes said.

Kraushar emphasized the role PUB plays on campus.

“I just think it’s important to stress that PUB is also a positive thing in the sense that we work with other organizations to promote charity events and stuff like that,” Kraushar said.

For example, he said, the club Nourish International held fundraisers at PUB last semester.

“PUB is seen as a venue where many people come, and organizations that maybe don’t have as big of a name can get their name out,” he said.

Rothman said, “We encourage the community, including the people that try to raise awareness for their own clubs, to come to our meeting on Wednesday, the open discussion about what PUB means to them, and whether they think PUB is a positive presence on campus.”

However, Hardimon said, “Because Doms is the location for PUB, and it is a place where sexual violence frequently occurs ... if anybody who feels that that’s not a safe space or environment for them, I wouldn’t want them in any way to feel that they have an obligation or a responsibility to be there.”

“At the same time,” she said, “I think anybody that feels that they have something to contribute to the conversation or are just interested in listening should definitely come.”

Feldblum said that she hopes to see more conversations about the results of the audit and about sexual violence.

“I also think that if more people are aware of the conversation, that maybe when things that do happen that are not appropriate or not right, that people will say something, whether to us, whether to the Kappa Deltas, whether to the Advocates,” she said.