Pub Returns Amid Increased Sensitivity to Consent Culture

Following its suspension last semester due to a sexual assault investigation, the Wednesday night party Pub was back at Pomona College Jan. 22, returning to campus amid an ongoing conversation about how nightlife and consent culture interact across the Claremont Colleges.

An email notification sent out Oct.
10 reported that the college would suspend Pub while it investigated a sexual assault that was reported to have occurred at the party Sept. 18. Pub remained suspended until the end of last semester
when the investigation was closed.

Reese Gaines PO ’16 said that he did not think that the atmosphere of Wednesday’s party did enough to encourage consent. 

“It felt like the same Pub,” he said. “The atmosphere didn’t change.” 

Gaines is a member of Building Leaders on Campus (BLOC), which also hosts 5C parties, and is a leader of the group’s Consent Campaign.

Nick Sbardellati, President of Kappa Delta (KD), the Pomona
fraternity that hosts Pub, said that KD is continuing to work on promoting consent and preventing sexual violence.

“Undoubtedly we will do whatever it takes for people to
finally realize Pub is not a place where we will stand idly by and allow sexual
violence to take place,” he said. 

Chris Waugh, Director of the Smith
Campus Center and Associate Dean of Students, said that although investigations have
been focused on Pub, “Pub isn’t the only party of its nature on the 5Cs. From
what I hear from students, they will often say Pub is one of a number of events
like this.”

Three Pub parties have taken place this semester, and Sbardellati
said that no concerns have been brought forward.

“Everybody in our fraternity has heard positive things,” he said. “More
people are coming to Pub than normally would have come. It reassures us that we
are headed in the right direction with Pub.”

Associate Dean of Students Daren Mooko, one of Pomona’s Title IX coordinators, said in an email to TSL that the college has investigated reports of sexual assault occurring during the Harwood Halloween event. 

While there are no open investigations, he wrote, “we are taking a look into Harwood Halloween the same way we took a look at Pub.” 

Mooko said that the college is not trying to target Pub or the Kappa Delta fraternity, which holds
the event. Rather, he said, the focus is on building an
environment conducive to consent, communication, and safety.

“It’s really not the college trying
to treat one event unfairly, we’re trying to deal with reports as they come
in,” Mooko said.

Gaines believes that much of the confusion around
consent stems from a lack of education.

“How can you ask somebody to
practice consent when they don’t know what it is?” Gaines said. “Pub, with the lack of education on consent, is a ground
where something nonconsensual can happen.” 

The reemergence of Pub comes at a
time of increasing activism by organizations looking to educate 5C students about sexual violence and consent.

“From my vantage point, I have not
seen this level of attention placed on consent culture,” Mooko said. “For the last five
years, as an institution we’ve really been working hard at addressing the issue
of sexual assault.” 

During the spring of 2013, Pomona contracted with sexual assault responder and educator Tiombe Preston SC ’95 to conduct an audit of the college’s policies and programs pertaining to sexual assault. 

think Dean Feldblum and the college’s choice to do a proactive audit like they
did was really a great idea, and I think that it really has spring-boarded us
into some really important conversations,” Waugh said.

Following the audit, Kappa Delta
made several changes to Pub, such as raising lighting levels and posting signs in Doms Lounge, where the party is held. 

“We are trying to work with the Women’s Union and the Advocates
to see what it is that we can be doing ourselves, basically looking to them for
guidance,” Sbardellati said.

“I think Kappa Delta has an elevated
sensitivity at this point to their event in wanting to make it as safe and as fun
as possible,” Waugh said.

Groups besides KD have also been working to initiate awareness and change.

Gaines is working through BLOC to
promote consent through the sale of tank tops that read, “Consent More Than
Sexy, It’s … Mandatory!”

“My reasoning behind that was people
always say consent is sexy, and I just want to go beyond that … I want to
emphasize that it’s mandatory,” Gaines said.

The Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault worked with other 5C organizations to bring football player and motivational speaker Don McPherson to speak Jan. 20 at Pomona, where he discussed the role of masculinity in sexual violence.

In addition, Harvey Mudd College is hosting a discussion Feb. 11 entitled “Through Another Lens: Is Consent Sexy?” as part of their “Chew on This!” lecture series.

With the increased scrutiny of the
consent culture on the 5C campuses, Waugh sees potential for changes across all
events, not only Pub.

“I hope that the conversations that
are happening will continue to happen, and that students will take the lead on
this and do what they need to do for every event to make it as safe and
responsible as possible,” Waugh added.

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