CONCORD, N.H. — Dartmouth College is working on multiple fronts to prevent sexual assault, encourage reporting and hold perpetrators accountable, an administrator said Tuesday, days after the school’s president called it one of three critical issues that are compromising the school’s core mission.
Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson, an attorney for the school and the head of its judicial affairs office met with students, faculty and community members Tuesday for the latest in a series of “Campus Conversations” launched by President Philip Hanlon earlier this year. The discussion followed a speech Hanlon gave last week in which he called for an end to high-risk and harmful behaviors, namely sexual assault, high-risk-drinking and a lack of inclusion.
“We are a great institution, 245 years old, poised for an even better future,” he said. “But Dartmouth’s promise is being hijacked by extreme behavior, masked by its perpetrators as acceptable fun.”
During Tuesday’s discussion, officials explained and got feedback on a proposed policy that calls for having a trained external expert investigate sexual assault allegations and determine responsibility and create tougher punishments for those found responsible.
One student in the audience suggested that the policy also should include guidance on not just what constitutes a lack of consent to sexual activity but rather a “healthy, positive framing” of what “good consent” looks like. Leigh Remy, director of the office of undergraduate judicial affairs, said that might be possible, but it also would make sense to make that part of the college’s efforts to educate students about sexual assault prevention.
“This policy, and many of our policies, people read too late,” she said. “There are ways for us to take the information that’s in the policy and put it into education.”
Johnson said the college has many valuable prevention and education programs aimed at first-year students but should do more beyond that.
“I think we need a more formal, diversified delivery system,” she said. “We do a good job of outlining our expectations when students first enter the community, but there needs to be several points during their academic careers where those are reinforced.”
Dartmouth received nationwide attention several years ago for allegations of fraternity hazing, it is under federal investigation by the federal education department for its response to claims of sexual harassment and violence, and students recently protested at Hanlon’s office with a long list of demands aimed at creating a more inclusive, diverse campus.
In his speech, Hanlon highlighted efforts already underway to address those problems and announced the formation of a steering committee to make further recommendations.
“We can no longer allow this college to be held back by the few who wrongly hide harmful behaviors beyond the illusion of youthful exuberance,” he said. “Enough is enough.”