In an effort to address sexual violence at Pomona College, the Associated Students of Pomona
College (ASPC) Senate voted and approved the creation of a Sexual Violence Task Force on April 14.
South Campus Representative Nico Kass PO ’16 presented the resolution, which stated that the task force is designed to “discuss concrete and appropriate steps to be taken by
student leaders and organizations to address sexual violence on this campus and
the culture of apathy and complicit support for sexual violence in our
Kass will chair the ASPC Sexual Violence Task
Force, which will begin meeting next semester. Members of the task
force include members of the ASPC Senate, Pomona Events Committee, Residence
Hall Staff, Pomona Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault, Kappa
Delta, Sigma Tau, Nu Alpha Phi, Building Leaders on Campus (BLOC), and Title IX Coalition.
In particular, the initiative will bring together the heads of weekly party-hosting organizations to address the party culture on campus.
“Our culture right now needs to improve because it allows
for sexual violence to occur and a creation of rape culture on this campus,” Kass said. “I think there’s a mentality among students to feel the need to get
wasted in order to show up to certain parties and then think, ‘I’m going to get
drunk, I’m going to grind on someone, and then have sex afterwards,’ and I
think when you have that mentality, coupled with getting wasted, you’re very much
asking for a problem, so we hope to change that.”
The Advocates gave Kass feedback on guidelines and terminology for the task force that will shape upcoming discussions.
“We want to make sure that the task force creates a safe
space for everyone, and we have some good definitions that we can use, so I’m pretty
hopeful right now,” Kass said.
Kass said that he thinks this is the first time that various
student leaders will come together to discuss how to change Pomona’s party culture.
“I think it’s a great idea because
it does a disservice to the party culture if one group is trying to make a
change in the party scene, but the remainder of the parties remain the same,” said Reese Gaines PO ’16, a BLOC member and the leader of its consent campaign. “I think there needs to be a cohesive effort as groups come together to change
the atmosphere of parties here on campus.”
The initiative’s resolution also states that if an
organization that is called upon refuses to participate, the ASPC Senate will ask Pomona’s
administration to forbid that organization from reserving spaces on the campus.
“We don’t aim to allow for organizations to opt out because
we think that it is absolutely time for all of these organizations to think
very deeply on how they can change and improve our party culture,” Kass said.
Sigma Tau President Chris Bergeron PO ’14 said that
although he and Sigma Tau are on board with participating in the task force, he thinks it would be productive to
tailor the initiative’s approach toward each organization because each one throws different types of events.
“Our weekly parties at the Boot is really just talking and
hanging out and listening to music, so it’s not as conducive an environment towards
sexual assault,” Bergeron said. Nevertheless, he added, “Sig Tau is really enthusiastic
about implementing any recommendations that we get from them that would make
sexual assault less prevalent.”
Kass said that while the Advocates provide support for survivors, there has not been a collective
effort or organization focused on preventing sexual assaults before.
“We’re looking at what things increase the likelihood [of
sexual assault] while still recognizing that it can happen at any time, and are
hoping to provide an additional safe space for survivors,” Kass said.
Gaines added that he hopes this
initiative will facilitate educating the entire college community about sexual violence, including preventative and bystander measures.
“I think there’s been an effort on a much smaller scale within individual groups, but as far as something that is as big as this, I don’t think it has happened like this,” Gaines said. “I feel that this task force is addressing the problem as a whole.”
Kass noted that he will be working with the Advocates and any other organizations that want to be a part
of the initiative.
“I’m hopeful,” Kass said. “It seems that all organizations
are kind of on board.”