After two months of research and discussion with its lawyers, Pomona College has concluded that sponsors are not mandated reporters of sexual assault. This means that sponsors, should a survivor of sexual assault talk to them, are not legally required to report the incident.
Piya Bose, Associate Dean of Student Life at Pomona, announced the determination in an e-mail to all sponsors Oct. 12.
The question of whether sponsors were mandated reporters arose during sponsor training, but administrators did not have a definitive answer at the time.
“The interpretation had been that sponsors, being part of a formal program at the college, as opposed to an individual student, were required to report,” said Ric Townes, Dean of Campus Life at Pomona. “Having done some research on this, the lawyers have come back and said no, they’re not.”
Townes said that some of the documents the lawyers went through suggested that assistants to resident advisors and people who function like RAs, like the RAs themselves, are mandated reporters. The lawyers debated whether sponsors could be classified as assistants to the RA.
“Based on the research the lawyers did in talking to other legal counsel from colleges and universities, they came to the conclusion that sponsors don’t fall into that assistant category,” Townes said.
“The college really took a lot of time and effort along with the lawyers to do their due diligence in reviewing and researching this topic,” Bose said.
Concerns about the possibility of sponsors being mandated reporters came from those who are both sponsors and Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault. If it had been decided that sponsors were mandated reporters, Advocates who were also sponsors would not have been able to uphold their pledge to be confidential resources for survivors.
Natalie Daifotis PO ’15, who is a sponsor and an Advocate, said that the decision that sponsors are not legally mandated to report will help sponsors and sponsees maintain an open relationship.
“It allows the sponsor-sponsee relationship to still be very egalitarian, which I think is important, and it gives students in general, not just first-years, another person they can go to who can be confidential and can direct them to resources,” she said.
Townes said that although sponsors are not required to report sexual assault, they should actively try to help survivors.
“We would hope that if a survivor were to talk to a sponsor, that the sponsor would then, not taking any agency from the survivor, work with them so that that individual gets support and is aware of the resources available to them,” he said.
He added, “We would hope that anyone, as a part of the college community, getting a report from the survivor would work with the survivor to get them the support they need through that process.”