CW: mentions of sexual assault
Survivors of sexual assault and allies gathered on Pomona College’s Walker Beach Thursday afternoon to discuss their experiences across the 5Cs, as well as to voice the changes they would like to see regarding campus culture and the role administrators play when responding to Title IX reports.
The town hall was organized by the Pomona Campus Advocates on the heels of a TSL opinion piece by Nanea Haynes PO ’22 which raised concerns about the way the college handled the Title IX process after she filed a report. As of Wednesday, a petition created by Haynes to hire only trauma-informed judges for Title IX cases has gathered more than 1,100 signatures.
“After Nanea Haynes released her TSL article detailing her experience, we felt both disappointed in the Title IX office’s handling of her case and compelled to do something that could help support her and other survivors on campus,” campus advocate Hannah Peeples PO ’24 said in a statement.
The advocates responded to the piece by releasing a public statement in support of Haynes, followed by the town hall, which aimed to create a safe space for conversation that could enable the advocates to take specific concerns, questions or experiences to administration.
“A survivor’s behavior or character should never be brought into question following an experience of sexual violence,” the Advocates said. “We are deeply disappointed to be part of an institution that has harmed survivors.
Citing how the Title IX process can feel convoluted, campus advocate Mandisa Keswa PO ’22 said one of the many aims of hosting the town hall was to answer questions and add clarity to a technical process that can deter students from seeking support following sexual assault or harassment.
“There seems to be a lot of mystification surrounding TIX policy, and part of that stems from how nuanced and extensive the clauses are,” Keswa said via email. “It’s difficult for students to understand the full scope of the TIX process because of how much information is presented, and for this reason, it is harder to anticipate things like timeliness, the involvement of external investigators, and the possibility of alternative resolutions.”
Looking forward, Keswa and the other advocates plan to consolidate and clarify much of the jargon surrounding Title IX, one of many action items that were presented during the town hall.
In addition, the Pomona advocates are seeking to provide trauma-informed training for judges and investigators on sexual misconduct cases while ensuring that every survivor has access to a lawyer provided by their institution, Maddie Asch PO ’23 said.
But students said that there needs to be greater institutional change to address the problem, including the creation of new support systems for students.
“It is important for survivors to feel like they have options outside of the TIX office, either through the legal process or through community organization and support,” Keswa said. “There must be more outlets to disrupt norms surrounding rape culture on campus.”
While the town hall only scratched the surface of the work that needs to be done, advocates said, it successfully produced a list of actionable items and brought together students who felt passionately about seeing change implemented on campus, setting up the possibility for more concerted progress on campus in the fall.
“We recognize that the Title IX process can be retraumatizing for survivors and incredibly difficult,” Lekha Amin PO ‘23 said in an email to TSL. “So we definitely want to extend a huge thank you to everyone who came out [on Thursday] to speak about their experiences.”