CW: sexual assault
Harvey Mudd College mentors — older students who live in dorms with first-years to support them and plan events — are now required to report to administrators any incidents of sexual assault and suicidal ideation about which they’re told, officials said.
The move, which re-classifies the mentors as “responsible employees,” was made because they started leading first-year orientation trips this year, according to Leslie Hughes, HMC assistant vice president for student affairs and interim title IX coordinator.
Previously, the mentors weren’t responsible employees and could choose whether to report the aforementioned situations, Hughes said.
“Because our mentors now go on overnight trips with our first-year students in lieu of orientation leaders, and because they serve in year-long roles that students may reasonably assume hold the authority to address prohibited conduct, it was important for us to follow the law related to who is classified as responsible employees on our campus,” she said.
Title IX defines a “responsible employee” as those who have “the authority to take action to redress sexual violence … or whom a student could reasonably believe has this authority or duty,” according to a Department of Education information packet.
Mentors are student leaders within dorms who put on events, create community and serve as peer advisors to freshmen and sophomores, according to Mudd’s residential life webpage.
Unlike proctors — Mudd’s equivalent of other schools’ residential advisors — mentors do not have disciplinary obligations, and the position is voluntary, according to mentor Marzieh Barnes HM ’22.
Proctors have always been responsible employees, she said.
Barnes was initially concerned that being a responsible employee would discourage her first-years from reaching out to her.
“It’s something that definitely worried me a lot initially … [my freshmen] might not think I’m approachable, they won’t want to come to me with things, this might be really bad,” she said.
But being a responsible employee hasn’t affected her role much so far, according to Barnes.
“I still get a good amount of my freshmen coming to me with things that are more personal,” she said.
Part of mentors’ training this year concerned their new role as responsible employees, according to Hughes. This included acting out what to say to freshmen who seemed like they might be on the verge of disclosing information that mentors would have to report, Barnes said.
Mentors can also point students toward other confidential resources, like the HMC Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault, who Barnes said might be better equipped to handle disclosures of sexual assault.
“If it’s something related to sexual assault, in my opinion, it’s probably better to point them to the Advocates anyway,” she said.
Lily Friedberg HM ’20, an HMC Advocate, said this places an unexpected burden on Advocates in the beginning of the semester.
“There are three Advocates this year and [over] 30 mentors who used to share the work with us,” she said.
Orientation trip leaders at Pitzer College and Pomona College, which also have overnight trips, are also required to report sexual assault, as are RAs at Claremont McKenna College, Pitzer and Pomona and Resident Coordinators, according to students in each of these positions and previous TSL reporting.
Claremont McKenna College’s First Year Guides “are not designated as responsible employees, but they do send reports to the Title IX or Dean of Students offices,” CMC vice president of student affairs Sharon Basso said via email.