SAC Revises Sexual Misconduct Policy

Later this week, Pomona’s Student Affairs Committee (SAC) will vote on proposed changes to the current sexual misconduct policy in the student handbook.

The changes were drafted by an SAC subcommittee that consists of ASPC Vice President of Finance Kelly Schwartz PO ’11, Dean of Campus Life Ric Townes, Oldenborg Center Director Rita Bashaw, Advocate for Survivors of Sexual Assault member Isaac Jenkins, and Ann Zhao PO ‘09, a J-Board chair at the time.

The proposed changes include removing the numerical categorization of offenses listed in the student handbook and replacing them with roman numerals as well as changing the hearing procedures so that the jury members receive “specific training regarding sexual assault” and allow both the respondent and the complainant to challenge two members of the panel. In addition, J-Board members will receive “specific training regarding sexual assault.”

In addition, the proposal asks for the creation of a committee for continuing education on sexual misconduct, based on the Sexual harassment and Resource Education Committee at Carleton College. According to the recommendations, this committee “would meet at least twice a semester to review any reports regarding action taken in response to complaints of sexual assault or misconduct…[and] plan one educational campaign per year regarding sexual assault or misconduct for both faculty and students.”

Schwartz, who drafted the proposed changes, explained that these recommendations are intended to encourage students who have been affected by sexual misconduct to come forward.

“Incidents of sexual assault or misconduct are grossly under-reported at Pomona,” she said. “Since Dean Townes has been at the college, there have been zero official reports to the college about these types of incidents. Students and other members of the college community believe that these types of incidents do in fact occur at Pomona, but something about our culture or judicial procedures keeps survivors from coming forward.”

After the recommendations were presented to the SAC, they were sent out to the student body for comments and questions on February 25. According to Schwartz, most of the responses were very supportive of the changes. However, one concern that some students had involved the suggestion that members of the Judiciary Board receive specialized training in cases of sexual misconduct.

“Some concerns were that training the panelists might somehow bias the process and move it away from the juror model, where anyone is eligible to hear a case,” Schwartz said.

Although Schwartz said the committee intends to address these concerns, she added that the college intentionally tries not to model the legal world. In addition, Schwartz said current J-Board panelists already receive training and this would just be a slight addition.

Schwartz and the other members of the subcommittee are presently reviewing the student responses to these proposed changes. Once this is completed, they will present a final draft to the Student Affairs Committee for approval hopefully at their April 23 meeting. If they are approved, they will be implemented before the start of Fall 2010.

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