Pomona College Suspends Advocates Program

This afternoon, Pomona College’s President’s Advisory Committee on Sexual Violence Intervention and Prevention (PAC-SVIP), Intervention and Prevention Leadership Team sent out an email stating the college’s intention to suspend the Pomona College Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault program for the duration of the spring semester amid confidentiality and legal concerns about the program.

During a review by the PAC-SVIP, “some urgent and mostly confidential concerns arose related to the Pomona Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault program, a long-standing peer-to-peer educational and survivor support program.”

Legal and confidentiality issues were the main concerns; however, the administration did not specify which legal or confidentiality concerns caused the suspension of the Advocates program:

“Due to the concerns raised, President Starr requested that the PAC-SVIP leadership team convene to further assess the issues and make recommendations. Recognizing how important peer support is, we are moving forward with steps that will bring Pomona Advocates into compliance with legal requirements for confidentiality, which we know is important to many survivors, and thus ensure that the Pomona Advocates can carry on their critical role in our community.”

As a result, it was announced that “the Pomona Advocates program will be paused for the duration of the 2019 spring semester. This spring, Student Affairs will launch a recruitment and hiring process for the Fall 2019 cohort of the Pomona Advocates. This program will remain a College program, but will enter into a partnership with the local rape crisis center, Project Sister Family Services.”

The email informed students that “The new cohort [of the program] will participate in the 40-hour advocate training provided by Project Sister Family Services, which is required by the state to provide advocates with the privilege of confidentiality,” adding that “This paid training (including housing and meals) will occur during the summer (at the same time OA leaders and RAs return to campus for training). This training will provide peer advocates with the legal privilege of confidentiality, meaning they will be exempt from federally-mandated reporting requirements under the Clery Act and Title IX. This partnership will also provide Pomona Advocates with ongoing support and mentorship that will sustain and care for our student peer advocates.”

It was also declared in the email that, as a means of reforming the program, “Student Affairs will also establish a new peer-to-peer education program focused on raising awareness about sexual assault, intimate partner violence, stalking and harassment, consent education, bystander intervention and the like.”

The PAC-SVIP is “composed of students, faculty and staff…[and] was convened last April. President Starr established the committee to strengthen the College’s demonstrated commitment to a comprehensive, caring and effective approach to sexual violence.”

The email concluded that Pomona College “will establish a CARE (Campus Advocacy, Resources, and Education) Program under the direction of Associate Dean Sue McCarthy, designed to accurately reflect the breadth and depth of the College’s ongoing commitment to all four critical components in addressing sexual violence – prevention, reporting, response and support.”

One Pomona student told the Independent on the condition of anonymity that “Pomona’s decision smacks of concern over cost-cutting rather than anything else.”

Previously, student groups have taken sexual assault into their own hands, including enacting anonymous blacklists, drawing criticism from the college’s administration. However, the practice has since stopped.T

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