Survivors Speak Out About 5C Title IX Sexual Violence Policies

CW: Sexual violence, sexual assault

Editor’s note: In this article, asterisks indicate that names have been changed to protect the privacy of students discussing their experiences with sexual violence.

Claire* said she was sexually assaulted and threatened by a Pomona College student last October. About seven weeks after she reported the assault to her college, Claire, who attended one of the other 5Cs, said she was asked to leave campus because of the perceived threat to her safety.

Rebecca*, a Claremont McKenna College student, told CMC a stranger exposed himself to her on Platt Boulevard near Harvey Mudd College. Mudd investigated the incident, and soon after, the police arrested her alleged assailant, Rebecca said.

Madeline Hauenstein PZ ’18 reported a sexual assault to Pitzer College, and said her respondent was found responsible for sexual assault but stayed in her class after the investigation concluded.

Nicole Zwiener SC ’16 said she was sexually assaulted by an acquaintance in her junior year. The police arrested her alleged assailant, and the college began an investigation that led to his expulsion.

All these students went through investigation procedures governed by Title IX, a federal law that prohibits gender-based discrimination and harassment at institutions that receive federal funding, including The Claremont Colleges.

Under federal guidance initiated by the 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter, colleges are obligated to respond promptly to reports of sexual misconduct, which can include sexual violence, dating/domestic violence, and stalking.

Nationally, Title IX policies have been widely criticized, both for failing to uphold the rights of complainants — the Title IX term for individuals who report sexual misconduct — and for violating the due process rights of respondents — individuals accused of sexual misconduct.

In interviews with TSL, students said the wide disparity in Title IX practices across The Claremont Colleges can lead to confusion and dissuade students from reporting Title IX violations to the colleges.

All the colleges’ policies share definitions for terms like affirmative consent, non-consensual sexual contact, and sexual assault, but their procedures for Title IX investigations vary considerably.

At Pitzer, a panel of students and faculty determines responsibility in cases of sexual assault or misconduct, while a two-step administrative review process is used to determine consequences for less severe Title IX violations.

At CMCScripps CollegePomona, and Mudd, external investigators contracted from outside firms conduct investigations and present their findings to a decision-making body.

At CMC, the decision-maker who determines responsibility and consequences for respondents is Vice President of Student Affairs Sharon Basso for student respondents, and Director of Human Resources Andrea Gale for staff or third-party respondents. Pomona uses an external adjudicator, typically a former judge or justice. A panel of faculty and staff make the call at Scripps, while at HMC, the decision-maker is Dean of Students Leslie Hughes or a three-person panel to which Hughes delegates responsibility.

Emily Coffin PO ’19, a member of the Pomona Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault — a group dedicated to helping students heal from sexual assault — said she frequently gets confused about 7C Title IX procedures.

“Even as an advocate, I find myself constantly having to go back to the books of like, ‘okay, what are these policies, and what are people really entitled to,’” Coffin said.

The situation is complicated by the fact that investigations frequently involve students from more than one college. In cases where the complainant and respondent are from different colleges, the investigation is conducted by the respondent’s college.

Maria*, a Scripps student who said she was sexually assaulted by a CMC student as a first-year, chose not to report the assault through Title IX partially because she didn’t want to go through the Title IX process at CMC.

“I think the fear is there that the school would try to protect its own student if I were a student from another campus,” she said. “I feel like the lack of a unified code or a way of dealing with things really makes things a lot more confusing for students who have been assaulted by a student from another college.”

Nine percent of 5C students who responded to the 2015 Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium Sexual Assault Climate Survey said that they had experienced sexual assault. Only 13.1 percent of the 5C students who said they had been assaulted reported the assault to their college’s Title IX Coordinator, according to the survey.

Title IX Process Difficult For All, Flawed For Many

For survivors who do choose to report, the Title IX process can be challenging — and in some cases, retraumatizing.

“Your narrative is being put on trial, essentially, and you’re going to have to relive it and tell it and hope that whatever systems are put in place, it’s going to turn out in your favor, and you’re going to tell it in a way that’s believable, and you’re going to tell it in a way that’s punishable,” Coffin said. “There’s not an easy part of it, I would say.”

Some students who went through the Pomona and CMC Title IX processes described the second interview with external investigators as the most trying part of the process. In this interview, the external investigator goes over the respondent’s testimony with the complainant, asking them to comment on it and resolve discrepancies between the respondent’s version of events and their own.

Zwiener, who reported an assault by a CMC student in fall 2014, said her interview was “almost as horrible as the assault, because you have this woman interviewing you, and she’s coming at you with all of these weird questions, like, ‘Oh, did you scream his name? Oh, did he touch you here? Did you like it when he did this?’ … So you get defensive, you cry.”

Nonetheless, Zwiener said there was nothing the college could have done to improve her experience of the interview; she saw it as a necessary part of the process. And Rebecca, who went through the HMC Title IX process in summer 2017, said the external investigators who interviewed her were professional and respectful.

However, Sarah*, a Pomona student, said that when she was a witness in a Pomona Title IX investigation, she felt uncomfortable sharing “harrowing details” about “something that’s really traumatic” with an external investigator who is unfamiliar with campus culture.

“I think in some ways, these external investigators don’t really know [about] the situation they’re assessing, and that makes me uncomfortable,” Sarah said.

Coffin agreed that external adjudicators do not always “understand Pomona’s dedication to individualism and identity.

“For a school that’s so diverse in sort of every single way, I think that bringing someone in who doesn’t really understand that … can definitely play a role in how some of these cases are tried,” Coffin said.

Pomona Title IX Coordinator Sue McCarthy said external adjudicators “have training on Title IX, on the impact of trauma.

“In terms of selection of external adjudicators and external investigators, we’re looking at their experience, we’re looking at what kind of things they’ve handled before, we’re looking at what kind of training they’ve had,” McCarthy said.

Claire, who published an open letter in December about her experience with Pomona Title IX, wrote in an email to TSL that McCarthy has little power to protect or support students during the Title IX process.

“The IX coordinator is just that — a coordinator — administering a policybook, and in order to appear fair, they can only watch as survivors fall down the policy’s systemic chasms,” Claire wrote. “In my case, I was given no advance notice for the process of the hearing. This was because Pomona itself did not know the process of the hearing; according to the policy, it is up to the external adjudicator hired by Pomona to run the hearing how they would like.”

Claire wrote that she was “not told ahead of my hearing that I would be questioning the witnesses myself, that I would need an opening and closing statement, nor that I would be made to answer written questions from the respondent.

“I was also forced to answer questions about my sexual history from the respondent, something that is illegal in the United States court system under the [Violence Against Women Act] of 1994,” she wrote. “My heart starts pounding today just thinking about the adrenaline and anxiety I felt for the total duration of the seven-hour hearing due to poor protocol.”

McCarthy said respondents and complainants can participate in Title IX hearings by phone or Skype. Additionally, “parties can ask questions through the external adjudicator, and if there are questions that are deemed not appropriate by the adjudicator they won’t be asked.”

Pitzer’s Title IX process does not use an external adjudicator, but the involvement of students on Pitzer’s decision-making panel raises concerns for some survivors about confidentiality and potential conflicts of interest.

“I am so happy that my perpetrator was from [CMC] and not from Pitzer, because thinking about going through Pitzer’s process scares the shit out of me,” Zwiener said.

Pitzer Title IX Coordinator Corinne Vorenkamp wrote in an email to TSL that “Pitzer students who’ve been through a Judicial Council process have expressed their support for having their peers on hearing panels.

“Sometimes cases may involve issues that students understand and assess better due to contemporary norms, language, or practices,” Vorenkamp wrote. “Although nationally many schools have moved away from having students on Title IX hearing panels, there is not a uniform ‘best practice’ in this area.”

Hauenstein said that when she reported through Pitzer Title IX in February 2016, Marni Bobich, the Title IX coordinator at the time, failed to adequately inform her about the availability of academic accommodations and emotional support.

“I don’t think that there was enough follow-up institutional support until it got to the point where I was completely melting down, having a hysterical crying fit at the end of my sophomore year,” Hauenstein said. “There weren’t enough preventative steps to try and catch someone before they completely spiraled out of control.”

Bobich could not be reached for comment.

Claire wrote that she thinks the colleges should cooperate more with police in Title IX cases to protect the safety of students.

“I strongly believe it must be written into Title IX policy that the school must work with the police and support students reporting to the police. This means helping survivors obtain restraining orders, speak with officers, and ultimately hold respondents accountable under the law,” Claire wrote.

Claire wrote that her advice to students experiencing violence is to “not be afraid to report to the police, whether you report to Title IX or not.”

“I was told by Title IX that the process of reporting is hard in both Title IX and the legal system but that the Title IX system requires a lower evidence standard than the legal system. From this context, I felt that I did not have enough evidence to report to the police,” Claire wrote. “But this is incorrect. The police take threats of violence seriously. They take rape seriously … If The Claremont Colleges are fine with violent students attending their schools they have that right, but the state of California has higher standards than that and will pursue your case without bias.”

Zwiener said that while she was very disappointed with the California District Attorney’s handling of her rape case, she found the Claremont Police Department to be helpful after reporting her assault.

However, she wishes she had known to call Project Sister Family Services, a local organization dedicated to supporting survivors of sexual assault, so that a Project Sister advocate could have accompanied her to obtain a forensic exam at Pomona Valley Health Center after her assault.

At Pomona Valley, hospital workers refused to let Zwiener’s friend accompany her to the exam room, and police officers pressured her to launch an official report and give them the name of her assailant, Zwiener said.

She later learned that she should have been allowed a support person during the exam and that under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), she had the right to obtain a forensic exam without reporting to law enforcement.

Survivors Often Dissatisfied With Title IX Results, Delays

For many students, waiting for results can be a challenging part of the Title IX process, especially when investigations take longer than expected.

Federal guidance from the “Dear Colleague” letter recommends colleges complete Title IX investigations within 60 days, but they often take longer.

“[Sixty days is] our policy baseline as well,” McCarthy said of Pomona. “It’s not a hard, rigid requirement because of the fact that we need to allow for a lot of variance. So a case might take longer to investigate if there are, for example, a lot of witnesses.”

Claire said her Pomona investigation took six months. She ended up transferring because she could “no longer trust the administration,” she wrote.

Zwiener, whose CMC investigation took about four months, said “the hardest part was waiting to hear the next step.

“Those business days, it takes a long fuckin’ time. You have weekends, you’re anxious, and you’re just waiting for these things to come out,” she said.

Erica*, a Pomona student who reported an assault by a Pomona professor in fall 2016, said the investigation took about four months and was a time-intensive process.

“I was trying to graduate, and this shit kept happening,” Erica said. “Also there were times when it was like another class: the lawyer would email me five times a week, like, ‘can you send me more text messages with Alan*, [your] and Alan’s text messages don’t match at this point.’”

Survivors must also consider the possibility that the investigation won’t result in the outcome they desire.

Hauenstein said that although the respondent in her Pitzer Title IX case was found responsible for sexual assault, his only punishment was housing probation, which Hauenstein said was “a slap on the wrist.”

In the months after the investigation concluded, Hauenstein remained in the same class as the respondent, despite the no-contact order that was part of her case’s resolution.

Hauenstein said the assailant sat behind her in class and attempted to contact her friends, an experience she said wreaked havoc on her physical and mental health, causing her to lose 10 percent of her body weight and experience panic attacks.

“It’s a danger to the campuses that you have people who are found responsible … and it’s not bad enough for them to leave campus,” Hauenstein said. “When you have someone who has been found responsible of predatory behavior and just allow them with no real disciplinary action back on campus, what do you expect to happen?”

Coffin said Pomona has granted conditional expulsions and suspensions to respondents found responsible for Title IX violations, allowing them to return to campus after the survivor graduates.

“There’s something that just sits so wrong with me about that,” Coffin said. “It makes it feel like the reason that they can’t be on campus is because of one person, instead of recognizing this is an act of violence against the community, and there is a communal loss when we are allowing students to be harmed in this way.”

McCarthy, who became Pomona’s Title IX coordinator in October 2017, said she was not aware of conditional expulsions at Pomona.

Claire said the colleges failed to provide for her safety during her Title IX investigation in fall 2017.

“Domestic violence and assault cases have urgency involved, and the Title IX system is unequipped to handle this urgency safely,” Claire wrote.

Pomona needs to institute “a zero tolerance policy for violence” if it wants Title IX to be effective, Claire wrote.

“Even if the respondent is found guilty after a thorough investigation and hearing, there is still a range of sanctions, with expulsion being rare and extreme,” she wrote. “This simply confuses me. What would be the college’s interest in having a violent student return to their campus?”

However, the Title IX process can also yield desired results for survivors. The respondent in Zwiener’s case was expelled from CMC.

Zwiener encouraged survivors to report through Title IX, which is “really hard, it’s really long, but it’s worth it, because the school’s on your side. No matter what.”

Sam* CM ’17 is more skeptical of CMC’s approach to survivors of sexual assault.

“I basically learned on day one that the school doesn’t give a fuck about anyone that’s been sexually assaulted, and they’d rather that you shut up or leave than ever even slap a perpetrator on the wrist,” Sam said.

“I don’t know a single person who went through the Title IX process who was at all happy about the outcome or felt the outcome was just,” she added. “I don’t even know someone who knows someone who felt satisfied with the outcome of their Title IX process. And I’ll say, having been sexually assaulted, honestly multiple times, during my time at CMC, it never even occurred to me that I would report it.”

CMC spokesperson Peter Hong wrote in an email to TSL that “CMC is deeply committed to preventing sexual misconduct.

“Our Title IX representatives and Dean of Students staff are actively engaged with student efforts to prevent sexual violence and misconduct and are always available to respond to any specific concerns or needs of individuals or groups,” Hong wrote.

Social Support, Resources Impact Survivors’ Experiences

The perceived challenges of reporting through Title IX may dissuade some students from doing so in the first place.

“It’s been very, very heartbreaking, discouraging to hear all these stories [at the No More Violence rally last semester],” said Maria, who chose not to report her sexual assault. “I think it definitely adds to the general mistrust of administration on campus.”

Another student, Laura*, said that after reporting a sexual assault through Pitzer Title IX her sophomore year, she decided not to report a rape her junior year because she didn’t think the stresses of the process were worth the potential outcomes.

Survivors’ decisions about reporting through Title IX often depend on their perceptions of the costs and benefits of reporting, Coffin said.

The process “takes a lot out of you — it’s long and its uncertain.” Coffin said. “I think that people need to be in a place where they have an incredible support network, where they have a capacity of mental health, of emotional health, and stamina to endure it, because I think it really is a game of endurance.”

Sarah said students from disadvantaged communities may have less access to the social support needed to report sexual violence or seek out resources.

Students from wealthier socioeconomic backgrounds may have parents who are “heavily involved with every aspect of their college experience” and able to be advocates for their students in college processes, Sarah said.

Zwiener said she didn’t want to go to the hospital or report her assault, but her friends pushed her to visit the hospital for a forensic exam and her parents encouraged her to go to the police.

“When I told my mom, I was like, ‘It’s fine, I went to the hospital, we’ll forget about it, it’s okay, I’m sorry that I had to go to the hospital, I don’t know if it was my fault, I invited him back to my room,’” Zwiener said. “But my parents were really the ones to push me to go to the police.”

Erica said her parents’ support and legal resources also played a role in her decision to report through Title IX.

Both respondents and complainants can hire lawyers to represent them in Title IX investigations, and some law firms specialize in defending students accused of sexual misconduct.

Coffin said she proposed to the Pomona administration last year that Pomona offer pro bono legal counsel to complainants in Title IX cases, but the administration was “not super excited” about the idea.

McCarthy was not aware of the previous discussion about providing pro bono legal counsel, she said.

Sexual assault can be an isolating experience for many students, especially those who do not receive validation or support from peers, friends, and family.

Hauenstein said she had a strong support network, but some of her friends and family members assumed that her experience was “less bad” because she only experienced sexual assault, not penetrative rape.

“I think there’s really this narrative that there’s this hierarchy of sexual assault, where rape is the worst, and then sexual assault, and then verbal harassment and other things, when each instance can have different impacts on a survivor,” Hauenstein said. “You’re constantly made to doubt yourself [in the Title IX process], and I had a lot of people who supported me and supported my conviction, but if you don’t, you always are second-guessing yourself.”

When alcohol or other substances are involved in an assault, survivors may encounter more doubts about the validity of their experience, Maria said.

“I feel like a lot of people see that as kind of making a situation more hazy or ambiguous,” Maria said. “But I think it’s important for us to acknowledge that consent is very much about power dynamics and about how capable you are of giving consent in that very moment.”

Vorenkamp wrote in an email to TSL that “there are a multitude of reasons why a student may not want to report having experienced sexual assault, dating violence, or stalking.”

“Some key factors are often the feeling of shame or embarrassment, or fear of being judged and blamed,” Vorenkamp wrote. “Another reason why someone may not report right away may include the time it can take for someone to process a traumatic event.”

Erica said she might have been more hesitant to report her assault if the people in her life did not clearly perceive it as “wrong.”

“I knew that my parents and my faculty and any of my friends who found out about it would also think that it was wrong,” she said. “If [my assaulter] had been a student, and it was one of those things that people might doubt more, or that might have harmed me socially or something, I might have been reluctant also.”

Rebecca said her friends’ reactions when she told them about her assault motivated her to report.

“They were like, ‘oh my god, you should totally report this, this is definitely an incident worth reporting. You shouldn’t feel like no one’s going to believe you, we all believe you, you should definitely talk to your Title IX coordinator about it,’” she said. “It took me a little while, but then I ended up doing it.”

Campus Culture Puts Students At Risk, They Say

It can be difficult for people to believe that someone they know personally is a perpetrator of sexual violence, students say.

“I feel like there’s a lot of silencing, because it just doesn’t seem like there’s like a safe space for victims to talk about their experiences or to warn other people [about assaulters],” Maria said.

Maria said the day after she was assaulted, she saw messages on Yik Yak, an anonymous messaging app that has since shut down, accusing her assailant of assault and harassment.

The messages discouraged her from reporting her assault, Maria said, because she saw that Yik Yak seemed to be the only place where victims like her were able to speak about their experiences.

“I wish there was a place, a platform for me to warn other people and let other people know, ‘Hey this is happening, and this person’s walking around the campus,’” she added.

Some students have found ways to share information about alleged perpetrators. In fall 2016, Pitzer students wrote the names of alleged perpetrators on abathroom wall.

During her time in Claremont, Sam compiled a list of alleged perpetrators and circulated it on social media and among friends.

“I thought if the school’s not gonna keep us safe, and other women aren’t gonna keep me safe, I’m gonna keep everyone safe,” Sam said.

Sam said she initially started the list to keep track of individuals who had assaulted her and two or three of her friends, but soon other individuals were asking to add to the list and see it, and it “snowballed from there.”

Even though she no longer lives in Claremont, Sam said people still ask her for access to the list.

Maria said she thinks the dynamic between Scripps first-years and CMC upperclassmen makes students vulnerable to assault.

“I think Scripps first-years especially feel a lot of pressure to kind of party hard and live up to their reputation, whether it’s good or bad,” Maria said. “And then, on CMC’s side, having that stereotype in their mind also might make it easier for certain people to take advantage of other people.

“I don’t want to overgeneralize or point to stereotypes, but I feel like there is a shared knowledge at Scripps that CMC is not a safe place to be,” she added.

Sam said that when she was a first-year in 2013, CMC’s first-year orientation leaders had an “unofficial motto.”

“I forget if it was ‘first come, first serve’ or ‘first dibs,’ but the idea was that they were basically entitled to the freshmen,” she said.

Sam thinks hookup culture contributes to rape culture.

“I remember arriving at CMC … and going to my first party and just being overwhelmed with the sense that if you didn’t go home with someone, you had failed,” Sam said. “And that led to … [my friends and I] going home with guys, not that it was our fault that we did this, but basically getting into situations that predators knew to take advantage of.”

Hong wrote that CMC has a number of educational and training programs aimed at preventing sexual assault and supporting survivors.

“We are committed to a fair and equitable grievance process for all parties,” he wrote. “Since 2014, our First Year Guides receive eight days of training, including sessions on Title IX, interpersonal violence, sexual relationships, health services, bystander intervention, ally training, diversity and inclusion training, and personal and social responsibility.”

Coffin said rape culture can also be more insidious, especially on a campus like Pomona where “it isn’t necessarily always the fraternity scene, we don’t really have the … media-perpetuated representations of rape culture.

“I think that’s what makes it a little more dangerous, in the ways that [rape culture] performs in a much more nuanced way that administration, or even students on campus, aren’t as willing or as quick to acknowledge and really see,” Coffin said.

In a Dec. 5 email to students, former Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum wrote that Pomona “is fully committed to preventing and intervening in all forms of sexual harassment and violence and ensuring prompt and equitable resolution of complaints.”

Students Call For Unified 7C Policy, Reform

Many survivors said they would like to see improved transparency and accountability from their colleges, as well as greater clarity and consistency in policies across the 5Cs.

Rebecca had a relatively positive experience as a CMC student going through the HMC process, but still thinks the colleges should unify their policies and procedures.

“It feels super strange that I would have to report to my Title IX coordinator first and then have my entire case thrown to another campus without necessarily being informed before that about the process,” Rebecca said.

Zwiener agreed the colleges should unify Title IX policies. “We have one campus security, we should have one Title IX,” Zwiener said.

Claire said miscommunication between the colleges complicated her cross-campus case.

“In my case, the two colleges both hired separate risk assessors. So when the professional hired by my college found it too unsafe for me to be on campus and I was evacuated to a safe house, Pomona was able to disagree with this assessment using their own professional,” Claire wrote.

Feldblum wrote in a Dec. 3 email that the respondent in Claire’s case would “not be coming onto the campus” for the remainder of the fall semester.

“Since the time the complaint was made to the Title IX Coordinator, safety considerations have been regularly and consistently under review,” Feldblum wrote.

Coffin said she and another Pomona student pushed the administration to consider a unified Title IX policy across the 7Cs last year.

“[Sexual assault is] a consortium issue at the end of the day,” Coffin said. “So I felt strongly that there has to be some sort of policy, procedure, transparency, that is clear to all Claremont Consortium students.”

Pomona Acting Dean of Students Janet Smith Dickerson wrote in an email to TSL that although she did not know about past conversations, “the Pomona administration is open to this proposal and the members of the Student Deans Committee (7C) have actively discussed it.”

Scripps Title IX Coordinator Sally Steffen wrote in an email to TSL that 7C Title IX Coordinators “are working to expand existing protocols for managing cross-campus cases.” This is one of the goals under the grant that The Claremont Colleges received from the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women in 2016, according to Steffen.

Vorenkamp said there are “ongoing conversations” about whether a unified policy is feasible. Although Title IX processes do vary between colleges, the “nuts and bolts” of the policies are the same, she said.

“There’s an intake, there’s an assessment, there’s an investigation, there’s a decision-making process, and the rights of each student along the way are pretty much identical in all of that,” Vorenkamp wrote.

Hauenstein said she thinks Pitzer has improved its support for survivors of sexual assault since she reported to Title IX two years ago.

Pitzer made two major changes to Title IX policy earlier this year, following the internal Title IX climate audit Pitzer conducted last spring, Vorenkamp said. One of the changes is that expulsion is no longer a mandatory sentence in cases of non-consensual sexual intercourse at Pitzer.

“It doesn’t mean that expulsion isn’t ever going to be appropriate, but there were a lot of concerns that having that as a mandatory sanction was really a deterrent to students reporting where they wanted something to happen but felt that [expulsion] was more than what was appropriate,” Vorenkamp said. “It was also a concern among Judicial Council that it could impact decision-making; there were situations where they might want to make a decision but expulsion seemed not to really be the most appropriate resolution.”

Pitzer also changed the appeal structure for Title IX investigations involving students. As of this year, the president of the college no longer has the power to grant or deny appeals of Judicial Council decisions. Instead, appeals of Title IX decisions are decided by the vice president of student affairs, in consultation with the associate dean of the faculty responsible for diversity.

“There are ongoing conversations about how to improve policies and procedures to ensure that they are really responsive to student needs, and still maintain a process with integrity and fairness and equity for everybody involved,” Vorenkamp said.

But students at Pomona have called for more mandatory sanctions, not fewer. In the No Red Tape Demands published in spring 2017, a group of Pomona students demanded the college “clarify enforcement mechanisms to ensure the policy works as written, including minimum sanctions for interpersonal violence.”

The demands also told the college to revise policy language to make it more accessible, “respect and respond to complaints and issues with external adjudicators” and stop “encouraging survivors to take leaves of absence during Title IX processes.”

Pomona President G. Gabrielle Starr recently announced the creation of a Sexual Assault Task Force that will make recommendations for improving Title IX policy.

“I do feel that Pomona heard our voices at the protest [last December], and will be changing policy moving forward,” Claire wrote.

Coffin said she is cautiously optimistic that the working group will be able to effect change, but has been disappointed in the past by what she perceives as the administration’s focus on preserving the college’s reputation.

Rather than pretending that sexual assault isn’t happening on their campuses, colleges should acknowledge the problem and take steps to solve it, Coffin said.

Coffin served on the Pomona Title IX Advisory Committee for two years, and said the committee focused more on improving perceptions of Title IX policy than substantially improving it.

“Colleges should start having this transparency and being like, ‘look, this is how many cases we’re trying currently, and this is how seriously we’re taking it,’” Coffin said. “Not, ‘we’re sweeping it under the rug and really trying to avoid that it’s happening, trying to deny that its happening on our campuses.’”

Julia Thomas and Erin Slichter contributed reporting.

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