In Pomona College’s sexual assault audit report, released via e-mail to students Thursday, a main recommendation included solidifying a cross-campus policy on sexual assault, providing cohesiveness in the system for survivors.
Sexual assault consultant and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Tiombe Preston SC ’95 prepared the report. Preston collected student input through small group sessions as well as through an anonymous SurveyMonkey.
“What we tried to do were small, cohort groups so that people had a chance to actually give their input and feel comfortable in a closed space, having a discussion with me about the reality that their experience is of sexual assault, what they think about it, what they see on campus, what they know about reporting, how they feel about the policy, what does it need. All of those things were part of the discussion,” Preston said.
Daren Mooko, Associate Dean of Students for Student Development and Leadership, stressed the importance of creating a coherent policy for the campuses.
“My impression is that the underlying tension and anxiety around this issue around a five- or seven-college policy is the sense of a student from one campus not really sure how they’re going to be treated by another campus’s procedure and dean,” Mooko said. “One of the things that we’re looking at is if there’s a case where it’s a cross-campus complaint, one dean from the complainant’s campus and one dean from the respondent’s campus will do the investigation together.”
The audit evolved out of an ongoing process to overhaul the college’s policy on sexual assault, violence, misconduct, and harassment discrimination that Pomona has been working on for the last 16 months, according to Mooko. The audit analyzed weaknesses and strengths of the standing Pomona policy.
“A discussion came out of what we want to do in training and where I thought we could go with continued training of the specific groups that would respond to sexual assault and that led into ‘Well, let’s look at a larger idea of an audit to really measure what the climate is like,’” Preston said.
The report mentions strengths of the existing policy in the Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault program, especially its involvement in the first-year orientation program, as well as the availability of campus deans, Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services, and the Sponsor program.
The report also outlined several areas in which Pomona could improve, including the college’s definition of consent and a more streamlined and obvious reporting procedure for complainants and reporters. A resounding recommendation was for the creation of a center for sexual assault resources.
“Most of the stakeholders really spoke to that they wished for a larger 7C policy with consistent policy and response … also that they really looked to a sexual assault center, something that could be a place, a safe space to respond and to help move all of the colleges forward in terms of being leaders in responses to sexual violence on campus,” Preston said.
According to Mooko, this center is a priority, but one that most likely will not be pursued for several years.
“If we wanted to create a five- or seven-college office of sexual violence or a sexual violence resource center, that’s staffing, that’s operational budget, that’s space. That takes time to really get involved in,” Mooko said.
Despite the time that it will take to put changes in place, Preston is optimistic about the college’s progress.
“I think what we can see is that we’re definitely not at step one. There’s a lot that’s already there that’s solid, and we want to continue to improve that, and I think there’s momentum and support for that on campus,” she said.
Students and Advocates expressed gratitude to Preston for investigating an issue that they feel needed to be addressed on campus.
“I think that it’s really good that they had an actual … professional to look at the school and say things are messed up, because we as students have been saying it for so long. But in that limited capacity, we don’t have that much power. Our voice isn’t that loud,” said Advocate Anna Bax PO ’13.
Zach Schudson PO ’13, an Advocate of three years who collaborated on the report, agreed that the audit was a progressive step forward.
“It was nice to see the administration take this step for itself to kind of have an external perspective on what’s going on on campus and what the gaps are, because there are gaps,” he said.
Preston noted the importance of an open sexual assault policy in creating an open campus community, creating a positive atmosphere for students.
“What we know is that across the nation, we hear a lot of horror stories of places that turn away from or ignore sexual violence, and whenever it’s taken seriously enough and these discussion are opened up, that in and of itself is extremely positive and speaks to continuing to look at how access and equity to education begins with safe, fair response so that every student can feel that they’re safe,” she said.
Pomona announced two public presentations by Preston on her recommendations for the college to be held Tuesday March 12 at 7 p.m. at the Women’s Union and Wednesday March 13 at 2:15 p.m. in Rose Hills Theatre.