Pomona College’s Politics Department has postponed a Friday event with California Democratic assemblywoman and alumna Cristina Garcia, after news broke that Garcia is under investigation for sexually assaulting a legislative aide.
In an email to the Independent, Pomona College Politics Department chair Professor Susan McWilliams confirmed that Garcia’s talk will be postponed.
While the original event description lauded Garcia, the current chair of the Women’s Caucus, as a prominent voice “for women’s issues [and] government transparency,” the Democratic assemblywoman is now under investigation by the state legislature for “sexual misconduct allegations.”
According to an article by POLITICO, Garcia—a “leading voice” in the #MeToo movement—sexually assaulted numerous staffers and lobbyists. One, Daniel Fierro, a staffer to Assemblyman Ian Calderon, allegedly was “cornered” by Garcia after the annual Assembly softball game. Garcia “began stroking his back, [and] then squeezed his buttocks and attempted to touch his crotch before he extricated himself and quickly left.”
Although Fierro did not report the incident at the time, Calderon has referred the matter to the Assembly Rules Committee, which launched an investigation. The assault of Fierro was confirmed by two other legislative staffers, but Fierro is not protected by a landmark whistleblower protection act recently passed by the state legislature because he is no longer employed as a staffer.
According to POLITICO, a prominent Sacramento lobbyist was another target of Garcia’s sexual misconducts:
He [the lobbyist] said he was heading out the door in part to avoid the assemblywoman — who had been increasingly “flirtatious” and had called him on a few occasions before for late night drinks which he repeatedly declined. She spotted him and said, “Where are you going?” the lobbyist said. “She came back and was whispering real close and I could smell the booze and see she was pretty far gone,’’ he said. “She looked at me for a second and said, “I’ve set a goal for myself to f*** you.” At that point, Garcia “stepped in front of me and reaches out and is grabbing for my crotch,’’ he said. That was “the line in the sand,” according to the lobbyist, and he stopped her. “I was four inches from her, eyeball to eyeball — and I said, ‘That ain’t gonna happen.’”
Garcia herself has engaged in high-profile activism on the issue of sexual harassment, especially in recent months with the rise of the #MeToo movement.
A September 2016 article posted on the Pomona College website describing Garcia as a “force of change in Sacramento” featured several quotes from Garcia declaring herself an ardent advocate for victims of sexual assault.
“I decided that to be legislator, I was going to legislate to empower other women,” Garcia said. “Part of getting rid of our rape culture is talking about it, but it’s also about how we define it. … If we’re going to end rape culture, we have to call rape what it is, it’s rape.”
She also complained of being “sexually harassed early” in her legislative career.
The Independent reached out to Pomona College Advocates for Sexual Assault, “a student-initiated organization formed in response to concerns about the underreporting of sexual assault on Pomona’s campus” about the matter. However, Pomona College Advocates for Sexual Assault did not provide a response at the time of publication.
Commenting on whether Garcia should be disinvited or not, Eliot Sands, a sophomore and public policy analysis major at Pomona, told the Independent that “[we] need to apply the same litmus test to her as we would anyone else.”
This postponement is not the first related to sexual assault at the Claremont University Consortium, of which Pomona is a member institution. In 2014, Scripps College, another member of the consortium, disinvited conservative political pundit George Will after he wrote a column saying that courts, not colleges, should adjudicate sexual assault cases.
Garcia graduated from Pomona College with a bachelor’s degree and obtained a Master’s degree from Claremont Graduate University, another institution in the Claremont University Consortium, which also includes Harvey Mudd College, Claremont McKenna College, Scripps College, Pitzer College, and the Keck Graduate Institution. She is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California.
Matthew Reade contributed reporting.
Edit: This article has been updated to clarify that the POLITICO article described Garcia as a “leading voice” in the #MeToo movement, rather than the event poster.