The members of this Editorial Board were all drawn to the Claremont Colleges in part by the consortium structure, and we’d guess that many students across our campuses feel similarly. But living within a multi-campus community has its problems, too.
Over the last few years, it became evident to students and administrators alike that the consortium was ill-equipped to deal with the problem of sexual assault. Separate complaint systems, a lack of inter-campus communication, and unclear procedures presented discouraging obstacles to survivors of sexual assault.
To the consortium’s great credit, we have noted significant improvements. Students now receive more frequent reports of sexual assault, policies have been revisited and clarified at all of the 5Cs, and our deans are clearly making an effort to improve the flow of critical safety information between schools. We applaud all of the students and administrators who have cooperated to achieve these changes.
There are gaps in our system, however. This week, our News section includes three articles centered on the issue of sexual assault reporting at the 5Cs. Julia Comnes examines the experiences of students who were sexually assaulted on campus, Wes Haas covers the advent of a Scripps College peer-to-peer sexual assault hotline, and Kate Dolgenos reports on recent modifications to Pomona College’s notification policy. In our coverage, we note that there are no consortium-wide resources for survivors. Additionally, notification policies are not uniform, and cross-campus complaints are not handled identically at every school—students note that these difficulties make them reluctant to report.
As campus administrators work to improve responses to sexual assaults, we suggest they seek the advice of the student leaders who have been trained in these issues. The Pomona Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault have proven for years that students can effectively provide compassionate support and training to their peers, and the recent founding of the Scripps Advocates demonstrates that the model is transferable to other campuses. These students are passionate and well-educated about the issues surrounding sexual assault, from best practices in supporting survivors to crisis counseling and the nuances of Title IX laws.
But sexual assault transcends campus boundaries, and therefore we suggest that Advocates and other students join together to unify support survivors of sexual assault across the campuses—and we press the 5C administrations to support this endeavor financially. A 5C group—with the capability to function independently of the administrations—would ensure that survivors on all the campuses are able to find reliable support. Administrative efforts to streamline and centralize the reporting and investigative processes are essential, but it is equally important to provide students with sufficient mental and emotional support as they navigate those processes. Right now, we believe the Advocates are best qualified for the latter role.
The progress that has already been made toward preventing sexual assault and supporting survivors is encouraging. We urge the administrations to continue and to recognize the importance of cooperation with each other, and with the student groups who have displayed exemplary leadership on this issue. We’re proud of our consortium, and we look forward to seeing it continue to evolve and change to meet the needs of the student body.