June 3, 2015

To the Pomona College Community:

Over the last several years, national and local attention has increased on the vital need to address the incidence of sexual violence on college campuses. Historically and still today, we know that incidents of sexual violence are largely underreported, and that survivors of sexual violence often do not feel supported when they do come forward. We have experienced these concerns at Pomona College. I want to take this opportunity to share with you what we are doing at Pomona College to protect every member of our community, and the ongoing work we are engaged in to prevent, address, and respond to sexual violence on campus, to support survivors of sexual violence, and to educate the entire campus community.

My resolve in this area is greatly informed not only by my long career as an educator but also by my higher calling, if you will, as a father of three children. I assure you that this important issue has my full attention. And, at the outset, I also want to stress that at Pomona we always strive to improve by listening and learning from experience and national best practices. On the one hand, I am proud of the work we’ve done on campus to invest in new resources, improve our policies and practices, and enhance training and education. On the other hand, as a recent dispute over the handling of a case of sexual misconduct on our campus has reminded us, each case is distinctive, personal, and painful. So, please do not mistake my pride in what our community has accomplished thus far as a signal that our work is completed.

As stewards of the College we are focused on providing a safe environment for all members of our community and full compliance with Title IX. You may think of Title IX as the landmark legislation best known for advancing equity in school athletics and prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs or activities operated by recipients of federal financial assistance (such as financial aid or research funds). Sexual harassment of students, faculty, and staff also includes acts of sexual violence, and is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX.

At Pomona, we are committed to early and proactive prevention programming around sexual violence on campus. Starting this fall, all new students will participate in Teal Dot, a highly popular and interactive bystander engagement workshop customized for The Claremont Colleges. It is a program designed to help keep our community safe by educating bystanders on practical solutions an individual can take when facing a potential high-risk situation that might lead to violence. The three-hour interactive training provides students, faculty, and staff with knowledge and awareness of these high-risk situations, and skills to prevent them from ending with violence. The goal is to give trained bystanders the tools and confidence to help prevent such incidents. We launched the Teal Dot program in 2014, and since then hundreds of students, staff, and faculty across The Claremont Colleges have participated. We also offer Teal Dot training to upper-class students, staff, and faculty on campus.

We also continue to require all incoming students to complete an online education bystander engagement course called “Haven” before arriving on campus. During Orientation, all new students participate in both a policy and resource workshop, led by our Title IX Coordinator, Associate Dean Daren Mooko, and a student-led presentation, entitled, “Drawing the Shades.” These sessions are followed by small group discussions about respecting others in our community and actions that can be taken to stay safe. Feedback from students has underscored the effectiveness of these early conversations to communicate to new members of our community what is expected of them.

Finally, all students, faculty, and staff receive a written resource guide on reporting options, support, and policies at the beginning of each year. The guide is also available on our website: http://www.pomona.edu/titleix

I encourage every member of our community to take advantage of the above-mentioned resources, consider them as we go about our daily lives on and off campus, and never hesitate to ask questions. It takes great courage for a survivor of sexual violence to come forward. The onus is on the College to ensure that members of our campus community feel that they can come forward with confidence that they will receive the help and empathetic support they need. That is why, in recent years, we have devoted significant work to examining and improving our policies and procedures, educating and empowering members of our community to play constructive roles, and ensuring that resources are available when survivors need them.

Let me describe and summarize Pomona College’s processes and resources for handling reports of sexual assault as well as some of our current review and planning activities. Pomona’s policy covers a wide range of conduct, including instances of sexual harassment, non-consensual sexual contact, and non-consensual sexual intercourse. All these behaviors are absolutely unacceptable, and these violations are sanctioned accordingly. Under our current policy, the determination of sanctions in any specific case looks to the specific policy violation and facts of each case – trained investigators assess and determine the facts of each case following comprehensive interviews and the examination of data.

When we receive a report that falls under the College’s sexual misconduct policy, we follow this process:

  • First, we provide survivors with access to a number of confidential support and counseling resources on and off campus, including Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services, the Chaplains’ Office, the Pomona College Ombuds, the Student Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault, Project Sister Family Services (a local rape crisis center, which has partnered with The Claremont Colleges), House of Ruth (a local organization providing domestic violence resources), and the National Sexual Assault Hotline.
  • We discuss and clarify all reporting options, including the survivor’s right to go to law enforcement, and next steps (you can view the options here). If the survivor wishes to report the sexual assault to the police, we help connect the person directly to law enforcement, and offer continuing support through any possible criminal process.
  • We give the survivor detailed information about the College’s own investigative and judicial process; survivors can choose to pursue both internal and external processes and remedies, choose to pursue only one of those avenues, or choose neither.
  • We discuss how to request accommodations, including academic accommodations if needed at any time.
  • We also inform the respondent of the allegations, review policies and procedures, and discuss resources and accommodations if needed at any time.
  • We encourage survivors and respondents to have a support person or advisor to assist them.

Most often, it is the College’s Title IX Coordinator who receives the report and reviews the resources and process with students. The Title IX Coordinator also works with those who have been named as respondents in these cases. The resources guide mentioned above is again provided to all students involved in a case.

We recognize that regardless of the level of support a community member receives, going through an investigation is a highly distressing process for survivors and others involved. Based on student experiences and feedback, we are continuing to improve the support network for survivors and others involved in these difficult situations. In recent years we have:

  • Fully revised our sexual assault and misconduct policies, and created a comprehensive set of discrimination and harassment policies and grievance procedures (approved by the Pomona College Board of Trustees in May 2013). This review process included the 2012-13 campus audit of institutional responsiveness to sexual violence and student needs, campus conversations, and open comment periods.
  • Created a full-time and dedicated position of College Title IX Coordinator to take the lead in these important cases (Associate Dean Daren Mooko).
  • Hired a sexual assault responder and trainer to work with our Student Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault.
  • Partnered with Project Sister Family Services to provide a rape crisis counselor on campus weekly.
  • Launched Teal Dot.
  • Introduced a campus safety app, LiveSafe, to enhance students’ security across the campuses of the five colleges.
  • Partnered with the other Claremont Colleges to create a new shared sexual violence prevention and resource center to open Fall 2015, which will provide prevention education for the entire community and resources for survivors and others.
  • Instituted annual training in trauma-informed response investigations for all on-call (24/7) Student Affairs staff and other staff investigators.
  • Hired professional external investigators (certified by the Association of Title IX investigators) to conduct full and fair investigations to ensure fair, sensitive, timely, and thorough investigations.

Sexual assault on college campuses is an evolving area of policy and regulation at the federal and state level. Pomona began its work before the first official guidance in 2011 from the Office of Civil Rights (at the Department of Education) to colleges regarding Title IX and sexual misconduct and has continued its work to meet and exceed new guidance and regulations as they are shared (as well as acting on lessons from within our community). Our work continues today. We believe that we must commit more time and resources in order to be a community that holds itself to the highest standards when it comes to preventing and addressing sexual violence, and supporting survivors. We are striving for a community that does not tolerate sexual violence, where investigations into reports of sexual misconduct are handled with sensitivity, fairness, and timeliness, and where survivors can come forward with confidence and feel supported, encouraged, and protected.

To that end, we are undertaking the following actions:

  • Our current Discrimination and Harassment Policies and Procedures were written in 2012 and 2013, approved by our Board of Trustees, and reflected the best practices and federal expectations at that time. Since that time, new information and guidance have emerged, and many colleges and universities are reviewing processes for investigations, hearings, and sanctions. Based on this as well as feedback from students, the Title IX Coordinator and Vice President for Student Affairs are bringing together a working group of students, faculty, staff, trustees, and alumni with expertise in this area to review the comprehensive policies. This important policy review will begin this summer and continue into the fall. We anticipate that a revised set of policies and practices will be brought to the Board of Trustees in the fall for review and action.
  • In the weeks and months ahead and continuing into the fall, we will hold community conversations regarding policies and practices. Topics we will be discussing include increased guidance or mandates on sanctions for different policy violations, improved support and referral systems, the kinds of financial and legal assistance that students involved in these processes may require, and more.  
  • We are partnering with Callisto, which is a new online reporting system for campus sexual assaults. Callisto is gaining national attention as a vital new tool and confidential resource for survivors; it allows survivors to hold back on submitting their report unless someone else reports the same assailant, or to save their file with a timestamp and come back at a later point to turn in their report. We have spent the last year carefully reviewing the details of what Callisto can offer to our community and thoughtfully considered the positive impact this service can have on reporting incidents of sexual violence on campus. We are pleased to join Callisto as one of its Founding Institutions.

We will continue to seek the counsel of outside experts on these difficult issues, so that we can ensure we are aware of and following best practices.

America has a sad history in dealing with sexual violence on campuses and elsewhere. It is a positive sign that today the issue is on the nation’s collective mind and is a part of open discussions on campuses such as Pomona.

At Pomona, we remain deeply committed to working together to create and support a community that makes every effort to stop sexual violence and provides every survivor with the support each of us would expect for our own family member.

I will continue to report to our community on this critically important matter.

David W. Oxtoby