As Dartmouth College alumni, faculty, staff, students, parents, and members of the greater Hanover community, we are appalled by the continuing crisis of sexual violence and harassment on campus.
It is clear to us – from the data as well as from personal experience – that despite over forty years of coeducation, Dartmouth’s culture is still dangerous and damaging to women and men. There is a major disconnect between students’ experiences of sexual violence and harassment on campus and what the College is doing to address this epidemic. While we are deeply grateful for the work that has been done and to those who have and continue to invest thought and effort into addressing sexual violence and the culture that breeds it, too many of the College’s programs and responses are reactive, not preventative. Many simply do not work.
This must change: it is a civil right of every student to receive an education free from the threat of discrimination and sexual violence.
Dartmouth’s per-capita rate of reported forcible sexual offenses is consistently the highest among its Ivy League peers, with 55 reports in 2014 and an average of 24 reports per year (over a nine year span).1 Using FBI and Department of Education statistics, we estimate that 125 Dartmouth undergraduate women will be victims of sexual assault or attempted assault in the coming year.2 A well-known college and university safety rating program recently gave Dartmouth an F rating for college crime and safety based on its number of forcible sexual offenses. Another program ranks it the most dangerous among its peers. That is a horrific statistic. Additionally, institutional support for conditions that enable sexual violence and harassment are well-documented and range from the administration’s refusal to discuss the role the Greek system plays in perpetuating the problem to abdicating responsibility by insisting that change can come only from students and refusing to institute any mandatory programs.
We have come together because of our outrage at the situation and because we believe that Dartmouth must do better. Every single one of us has been personally affected by the sexual assault crisis on campus. We are Dartmouth, and we expect change. We challenge the administration and trustees of Dartmouth to take the decisive actions we outline in our recommendations. We also challenge the administration and trustees to act now, in a transparent and inclusive manner, with regard to all decision-making and resource allocation related to sexual assault on campus.
We stand ready to give our time, our personal resources, and our financial support to help the College stop this epidemic.
1. These numbers come from the Clery Report. Although Clery Report data is imperfect, it is the only public data available for comparison between institutions. A documented issue with Clery Report numbers is the problem of under-reporting: fewer than 5% of completed or attempted rapes of college students are reported, according to the Department of Justice. Additionally, incidents appear in the Clery Report in the year that they were reported, not necessarily when the assault actually occurred, and it is not uncommon for victims to wait months or even years before reporting to authorities. Finally, there is the possibility that higher numbers of reported incidents indicate a more supportive environment for victims rather than more sexual assaults; however, without a standardized, objective methodology for measuring the incidence of sexual assault on campus, there is no way to determine the correlation between actual assaults and assaults as defined in the Clery Report. This is another reason we call for a better benchmarking of sexual assaults on Dartmouth’s campus in our recommendations.
2. This rough estimate is based on the assumption that the problem at Dartmouth is no better or worse than at any other U.S. college. The generally accepted statistic is that one in four women will be the victims of assault or attempted assault during their years on campus, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Dartmouth has approximately 2000 undergraduate women on campus, divided by four for the total number of those at risk in any given year, divided by four again to account for the one in four statistic, which brings us to 125.