May 15, 2015

Dear Students,

On this final day of finals, I am reaching out to you because of two concerns that are foremost on my mind. First, I want to encourage survivors of sexual assault to come forward and report. The many conversations on campus and in social media may cause survivors to question whether they will be heard. While I respect students' strong expressions of concern and frustration, I am also very concerned that other students who may need help might hesitate to contact Dean Mooko, our Title IX Coordinator or other campus resources. We stand with survivors. We are dedicated to being here for you, whether you are seeking confidential resources or wishing to report and open an investigation. If you read no further, please check out this website. 

I hold myself personally accountable for the distress and stress that students experience in this process. I also recognize that regardless of support, reporting and going through an investigation is a highly difficult process for survivors and others involved. And as can be seen, our efforts to support survivors do not always mean that survivors experience our process as supportive. It takes courage for any survivor of sexual violence to come forward and we must continue to do better so that they can do so with confidence. I give you my word on this.

Second, I want to make sure that everyone is aware of the resources available in our community to support students. Many of the resources and programs have been developed or initiated based on student participation and feedback as well as community forums, working groups composed of students, faculty and staff, campus audits and surveys. Resources and changes include:

  • a dedicated Title IX Coordinator
  • a partnership with Project Sister Family Services, providing a rape crisis counselor on campus once a week
  • hiring Tiombe Sewell, a sexual assault responder and trainer to work with our Student Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault
  • developing Teal Dot, our interpersonal violence bystander engagement program for students, faculty and staff
  • requiring training for all new students
  • training Student Affairs staff in trauma informed response investigations
  • hiring professional Title IX trained external investigators (certified as advanced investigators by the Association of Title IX Investigators)
  • providing academic accommodations and connections with counseling resources
  • developing comprehensive Discrimination and Harassment policies and procedures in conjunction with the other Claremont Colleges so they are in line with best practices to help students
  • and, most recently, on March 3, all The Claremont Colleges agreed to create a new sexual violence prevention and education center to open in the fall.

Our work is ongoing. I personally, and the College as a whole, are committed to making more changes to improve how we can prevent and address sexual violence, encourage reporting and support survivors, ensure a clear and responsive process. With this academic year being the second full year under the new Discrimination and Harassment Policies and Grievances Procedures and with the new national guidance that has come out since 2013, Dean Daren Mooko had already planned to bring together a working group of students, faculty and staff to review the comprehensive policy that was approved by the Board of Trustees in May 2013. This important policy review will begin this summer and continue into the fall, with the goal of sending proposed changes to the community for comment in the fall 2015 semester. Dean Mooko is seeking participation from students, faculty, and staff who have experience with the policy from the standpoint of an investigator, panel member, survivor, advisor, or advocate. I ask that you consider participating in this critical work.

In the current policy we carefully consider the full range of sanctions, including expulsion, in all cases that fall under the Sexual Misconduct policy section of our Discrimination and Harassment Policies and Grievance Procedures. There is a great range of conduct that falls under the sexual misconduct and sexual assault policies, including (citing from the policy) non-consensual sexual contact, non-consensual sexual intercourse, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, and other gender-based conduct. All these behaviors are absolutely unacceptable, but they do not all receive the same sanction. Given the range of prohibited conduct, the determination of sanctions in any specific case looks to the specific policy violation and facts of each matter – which are determined by the investigators following comprehensive interviews and the examination of data. The upcoming process will include a review of the kinds of additional guidance we may want in our sanctions policy.

This new group will follow the model used for the 2012-13 comprehensive policy review. That process included students (representatives from the Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault and student government), faculty and staff. Their work led to the creation of the College’s current policies. As part of 2012-13 process, the findings of a campus audit of sexual violence and institutional responsiveness was shared, Dean Mooko presented proposed changes at student, faculty, and staff forums, and we provided a 30-day community comment period. This information is still available at the Dean of Students Sakai site. The work ahead for our community will include a comparable period for gathering ideas, concerns, suggestions, and feedback on specific proposals. If you have suggestions about how this process can be improved I would like to hear from you. I do believe that we can work together to make Pomona a better and stronger community in many ways. Improving how we prevent and handle cases of sexual violence is a critical component of building a better community. I look forward to working with you in the months and year ahead.

As always, if you have any questions, thoughts, or concerns, please contact me. Dean Mooko and I are also happy to meet with students who are here over the coming weeks as well.

Safe travels to all and take care,

Dean Feldblum