In response to complaints that email notifications about sexual assault incidents on campus could have a triggering effect on students, Pomona College changed its sexual assault notification
policy. Under the new system, students will receive an email with a link where they can find details about sexual assaults that occur at the Claremont Colleges, rather than seeing the information in the body of the notification email.
The Claremont University Consortium began a coordinated email notification system in October to share information about reported sexual assaults among the 7Cs. However, Pomona students and
members of the Pomona Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault brought concerns to the administration about the potentially triggering effects of the emails.
Mollie Cowger PO ’16, who is a member of Advocates, agreed with the policy change, although she emphasized that she was speaking as an individual.
She said that Pomona “wouldn’t want to be sending out this information to people who might be triggered by it.”
According to Associate Dean of Students Daren Mooko, who also serves as Pomona’s Title IX coordinator, exceptions to the new policy will be made for sexual assault reports in which
there is an immediate threat to public safety. Such a threat occurs when the identity of the alleged perpetrator is unknown or when the school is unable to act immediately.
In the case of a threat to public safety, details of an alleged sexual assault will be sent out to
the community in the body of the notification email, and in some cases, students may receive
emergency notifications via text message.
“[If] we don’t know the identity of the alleged
perpetrator … we want people to be more attentive to who is around,” Mooko said.
Rachel Neuberg SC ’17 said that Pomona’s new system might be detrimental to students because it shields the immediacy of the potential danger.
“[It] would make it very easy for the students to be unaware of the sexual assault that is going on,” she said. “I think it’s important for people to know about sexual assault so people can work to decrease … the sexual assault that occurs.”
In a case where a student has been identified as an alleged perpetrator, however, he or she is often asked to leave campus while the investigation is being conducted.
say, you’re not even permitted to go to class,” Mooko said. “You are banned from campus.”
When students click on the link embedded in the notification
email, they are directed to a description of the most recent sexual assault. On
the left side of that page, there is another link to a log of recent incidents. Mooko said that he plans to upload previously reported sexual assaults to the
The other colleges have no plans thus far to modify their sexual assault notification policies.
“If the policy works for Pomona, maybe Scripps and the other colleges can adopt it in the future,” Neuberg said.
Brian Carlisle, vice president of student affairs at Pitzer College, wrote in an email to TSL that he expected the other colleges to “monitor [their] notification procedures and adjust them to maximize the avoidance of triggering or re-victimization,” but did not mention any shift to a new notification system.
However, he noted that he was not aware of any Pitzer students objecting to the current sexual assault notification policy.
According to Mooko, there is some uncertainty about whether or not there should be a cross-college policy on sexual assault notification emails.
“Some of [the other administrators] have said, maybe Pomona shouldn’t do this just yet until we all decide to do it,” he said.
However, there is no current plan to unify the policy.
Student affairs deans at
Harvey Mudd College and Scripps College could not be reached for this article.
Claremont McKenna College Dean of Students Mary Spellman declined to comment.