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Pomona College failed to properly handle sex abuse cases, complaint alleges

Pomona College has failed to adequately respond to complaints of campus sexual violence, creating a hostile environment for students based on their gender, according to a complaint filed to federal education officials by several students this week.

The complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights by Yenli Wong, a recent Pomona graduate, and 10 other students who were dissatisfied with the campus' sexual assault grievance process, according to the campus newspaper, the Student Life.

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Wong has written in the newspaper and on social media about her experience being sexually assaulted on her first day of school and a campus investigative process she said retraumatized her and resulted in sanctions against the assailant she considered minimal.

(She has not disclosed the sanctions, saying she was barred from doing so by campus confidentiality rules.)

Miriam Feldblum, Pomona vice president for student affairs, said the college would fully cooperate with federal education authorities. Pomona joins more than 140 other campuses under investigation for their handling of sexual assault cases, including UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis, Stanford University, USC, Occidental College and San Francisco State.

"We are fully committed to working with the Office of Civil Rights on this," Feldblum said in an email Friday. "We share the same goal with the Office of Civil Rights: preventing and eliminating sexual violence in all forms."

Feldblum said Pomona fully revised its sexual assault and misconduct policies in 2013 to improve its handling of cases under the federal Title IX law, which bars discrimination in education. In the last few years, the college has hired a full-time Title IX coordinator, a sexual assault responder and trainer and professional investigators.

Other steps include more educational workshops, a new online reporting system and a new sexual violence prevention and resource center with other Claremont Colleges, Feldblum said.

Feldblum notified Pomona students, staff, faculty and parents about the complaint in a campus-wide email Thursday.

For more education news, follow me @TeresaWatanabe

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