Student Gov’t Condemns Kavanaugh Decision, Affirms Support for Sexual Violence Survivors

This afternoon, Pomona College’s student body government—Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC)—sent out an email to all students condemning the controversial decision by the United States Senate to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh and affirming its support of survivors of sexual violence amid campus controversy about whether unofficial blacklists should be used at club events to prevent sexual violence.

“Reflecting on the recent confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and the critical issues raised about his integrity, history of sexual violence, and judicial record, we, the Associated Students of Pomona College Senate, write this statement to stand in solidarity with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, Julie Swetnick, and all other survivors of sexual violence. ASPC Senate condemns this decision as it represents an institutional failure to acknowledge and support a survivor’s lived experience and the strength and resilience needed to participate in any disclosure process,” ASPC stated.

The student senators added that “no issue of sexual misconduct, including sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking or dating/domestic violence, should ever be politicized, for there is no single definition or representation for what a ‘survivor’ should look like. Every person, regardless of their background, nationality, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or political views, deserves to live with safety, comfort, and respect in regards to their personhood and physical autonomy.”    

ASPC addressed a key issue on campus that the Kavanaugh confirmation exacerbated: the use of unofficial—unsanctioned by the college—student club event blacklists where students can anonymously submit names of other members of the college community they would like barred from the event to create “[sexual violence] survivor-centered spaces.”

“To this end, the Senate would like to briefly recognize that students have felt that their recent individual and collective efforts to organically create and sustain survivor-centered spaces have been scrutinized or undermined by the administration. This sense of scrutiny comes from the lack of recognition and contextualization for recent student-led movements publicly addressing Pomona’s violent campus climate and the labor students have undertaken to protect survivors,” ASPC wrote in its email.

As the Independent reported previously, Pomona’s Dean of Students office condemned the use of such lists—which could be abused by non-survivors—as “bullying.”   

ASPC addressed this issue by calling on the college administration to improve official reporting mechanisms to meet the needs of survivors; theoretically an improvement to official reporting mechanisms could reduce a need for unofficial sanctions by other students: “[the] Senate is aware that not all students find official reporting procedures to be the sole route for seeking support from others, especially given the severe difficulty and pain that can come from having to repeat stories of trauma. It is clear that at Pomona there still exists institutional barriers, challenges, and gaps to meeting the needs of survivors. Therefore, we call for the administration to further their efforts to be transparent, educational, and collaborative in conversing with students to address these concerns.” (emphasis original)

Many students thought that existing measures were not enough, but also found blacklists to not be the optimal solution.

One third-year student told the Independent on the condition of anonymity that she thinks “it’s a tricky situation. Students have a right to not have to sit with their abusers at events. However, given that blacklists are so opaque, it opens up the risk of students getting unfairly banned from events.”

“However, I don’t think better official reporting would help,” she added. “Maybe blacklists are the best solution after all.”

Another Pomona third-years student echoed those thoughts: “If they’re going to end them, they do need to fill the gap, perhaps something through the school that would hold greater legitimacy.”

When asked whether more financial resources put into supporting sexual violence survivors, a second-year at Pomona said that “blacklisting demonstrates a desire in the community to bring about justice through the punishment of the attacker, not only the support of the victim. And Pomona’s ability to deliver that does not depend on money, it depends on a change in mindset and then a change in policy.

ASPC also directed students to existing sexual violence support resources offered by the college and various student support groups.  

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