Dartmouth College President Phil Hanlon gave a powerful speech Wednesday night calling for significant changes on campus in light of its high rates of sexual assault, high-risk drinking, and discriminatory social scene.
“Darmouth’s promise is being hijacked by high-risk and harmful behaviors, behaviors that are hurting too many of our students, dividing us as a community and distracting from our important work of teaching and learning,” Hanlon said. “From dangerous levels of drinking, to sexual assaults, disgusting and sometimes threatening insults posted on the Internet, and parties with racist and sexist undertones, our social scene is too often at odds with our mission and the practices of inclusion our students deserve.”
The Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is currently investigating Dartmouth for allegedly mishandling sexual assault cases under Title IX, a law that bans discrimination on the basis of gender, and the Clery Act, which requires cases of sexual assault to be reported to the Department. As recently as February, while the OCR investigation was ongoing, a student whose name appeared in a “rape guide” on a student-run website was sexually assaulted.
Applications to Dartmouth fell 14 percent this year, the steepest drop in two decades, perhaps as a result of the spotlight on its campus sexual assault problem.
To address these issues, President Hanlon announced the creation of a Presidential Steering Committee made up of students, faculty, administration and alumni, that will spend the summer developing solutions. Hanlon strongly encouraged student input, saying this “cannot be viewed as a mandate from the top.” Changes have also already begun on campus, including the work of The Dartmouth Bystander Initiative and the newly established Center for Community Action and Prevention to mobilizing the community against sexual assault, and the implementation of a disciplinary policy mandating expulsion for offenders.
Several other universities have come under federal investigation recently for mishandling sexual assault cases. In January, 39 members of Congress signed a letter calling for more transparency in the Department of Education’s findings regarding these cases, and the White House launched a taskforce to prevent campus sexual assault.
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Media Resources: Dartmouth College Office of the President 4/17/14; The Washington Post 4/16/14; Huffington Post 1/31/14; Feminist Newswire 7/23/13, 1/22/14; 3/14/14