PLEASE NOTE As of 2/14/14, these are an updated yet still draft version of our original recommendations. The revisions are based on input from developments on campus over the past year, various national experts and advocacy organizations, students, alumni, faculty and more. We hope to have these finalized very soon, but the current interest in concrete actions the College should take is high enough that we feel the need to share these now. We welcome all input.
Based on our experience, research, and discussions with students, staff, faculty and various national experts, we believe the following strategic actions must be taken immediately by the College.
1. Commission an independent analytical study of the campus climate at Dartmouth with particular attention to the aspects that contribute to sexual assault.
Action should begin with a detailed analysis of exactly why sexual violence and harassment exists and persists Dartmouth and continue with an unflinching commitment to address the root causes, whatever they are.
We urge the administration to work closely with faculty, students, staff and alumni to set up an independent commission composed of professionals in sexual violence prevention, public health, organizational behavior and change, harm reduction and education to create a methodologically rigorous and data driven analysis of the “who, what, why, where and how” of campus sexual violence. This study should provide insight into how Dartmouth’s various social institutions, administrative structures, organizational decision making, behaviors, norms, traditions, cultures and subcultures, “brand,” leadership and more relate to sexual violence.
This is essentially the same recommendation that came from the Committee On Student Safety and Accountability (COSSA).
2. Define and make public a long-term strategy for addressing sexual assault on campus and for centralizing prevention and response efforts.
Based upon the results of the above analysis, we urge the administration to work closely with faculty, students, staff and alumni to create a long-term strategy for combatting sexual assault at Dartmouth. The strategy should focus on supporting the victim, identifying and removing serial offenders, educating and disciplining facilitators, changing bystander behaviors and norms, and creating a culture where reporting sexual assault is encouraged and safe to do. It should include measurable goals, metrics for determining the effectiveness of various programs and driving adjustments, as well as a set of criteria for understanding when it might be necessary to reconstitute the outside panel, as described above, to recalibrate.
In addition, there should be only one advisory committee internal to Dartmouth to collectively address sexual assault on campus, and it should have:
- a clear mission statement
- a clear mandate
- a clear budget
- public, timely minutes and documentation
- clear empowerment
- all proposals should include a timeline for implementation and how effectiveness will be measured
- if a committee proposal is denied action by the administration, a reason must be given in writing and published
3. Set benchmarks: Conduct annual, independent surveys of community attitudes surrounding sexual assault on campus, with a particular focus on the student experience.
The only way to have an “evidence-based,” quantitative and qualitative benchmark of what’s actually happening on campus, the effectiveness of various prevention and response programs, and the role of campus cultures and institutions is to collect data anonymously through an independent survey [Ottens & Hotelling 2000]. This survey must include an assessment of the incidence of sexual assault and harassment during the previous year, similar to the assessments required of Military Service Academies by the U.S. government. They must also be methodologically rigorous, published annually in full detail, and include all stakeholders, such as faculty, staff, administration, trustees and alumni as well as students. Dartmouth could show further leadership by getting peer institutions to do the same in a standardized way.
4. Commit to aggressive intervention and prosecution to target repeat sex offenders.
Dartmouth needs to fully recognize that sexual assault is a serious crime most often perpetrated by repeat offenders. 91-95% of rapes are committed by serial offenders [Lisak & Miller 2002].
In support of this recognition, Dartmouth should immediately:
- Establish a “zero tolerance” policy for felonious sexual assault. Any student found responsible by the COS of a serious offence involving sexual assault should be expelled.
- Establish a “zero tolerance” policy for interfering — through harassment, intimidation or any other disruption — with a student’s desire to report an incident and/or press charges through the COS, police, or both. In addition, the College should provide explicit legal protection to the victim should they be further victimized by intimidation from outside the College.
- Revise the COS proceedings to better identify and remove serial sex offenders. For example, past sexual assault offenses brought before the COS should be taken into account in adjudications.
- Revamp the incident reporting system to more easily identify repeat sex offenders across the entire Dartmouth community and encourage their removal. There should be one integrated reporting system across the undergraduate and graduate schools. Victims should be automatically alerted if someone else reports an incident of sexual violence by the same offender. With this confirmation of an alleged serial sex offender, victims are less likely to blame themselves and more likely to feel empowered to press charges. Multiple victims should be able to press charges together under COS. These changes have been suggested many times in the past, such as by the Emergency Response Subcommittee of the SPCSA in spring 2010, but rejected.
- Each report of sexual misconduct should trigger two simultaneous investigations: an investigation into the incident being reported, and an investigation into the alleged perpetrator to better help whether he or she is a serial offender. The city of Ashland, Oregon provides a model for this that could be fit to the college environment. Such an investigative model would provide valuable data that would better help Dartmouth identify and discipline serial offenders.
- In addition, students found responsible must be disciplined appropriately and in a timely manner.
Related to this, sexual assault is not an unfortunate byproduct of (binge) drinking, and the College must end its public stance that there is a causal relationship between the two. Premeditation is often a part of campus sexual crimes, and alcohol is the most widely used “date rape” drug [Ottens & Hotelling 2000].
5. Improve the supportive focus on the victim and recognize that the College must work within its larger community to achieve this goal.
Victims should have meaningful access to all medical, legal and emotional support and resources that, as crime victims, they have the legal and ethical right to. This includes support available both within Dartmouth’s structure, such as a survivor advocate, as well as support outside the College, such as WISE, law enforcement and legal resources.
To be successful in this goal, the College must work across disciplines and communities. A holistic and comprehensive response is critical.
6. In the interest of changing the culture at Dartmouth that leads to sexual assault, place all options on the table for discussion and review, including the Greek system.
The College must consider the relationship between sexual assault and harassment and the Greek system, which is a social framework based on exclusion and segregation of the sexes, as well as the value of this exclusionary social system to the College’s educational mission.
7. Continue reform of the COS process.
The COS process must improve its credibility among students. Fixes should receive top-priority treatment. For example, the past offenses of accused perpetrators should be taken into account when determining the responsibility of someone accused of rape, sexual assault or sexual harassment.
8. Hold mandatory sexual assault education for all students, community members, administrators, staff, and faculty who could reasonably come in contact with a victim of sexual assault — including trustees.
We support the recommendation of many experts in the field that all students receive mandatory sexual assault awareness education. This training should happen repeatedly throughout a student’s time on campus.1 The mandatory training should also include familiarization with the reporting process, how to be an appropriate “first responder,” and emphasize the important community value of reporting while noting that it is the victims right to not report for whatever reason and that interfering with reporting in any way is a severely disciplinable offense. The training should also review the COS proceedings.
In addition, per the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights’ Dear Colleague letter, all members of the community who could reasonably come in contact with a victim of sexual violence should also have sexual assault awareness training. This would include trustees, faculty, staff, Greek house advisors, athletic coaches and any other staff and administrators with related responsibilities. Almost anyone on campus could be the first point of contact for a victim of sexual violence, and so almost everyone needs to know how to respond appropriately and how to direct the victim to the college’s and Hanover community’s resources.
The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and the Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Education recommend multiple campus-wide programs involving all constituents of the College (students, faculty, staff, community members) to effectively deal with this problem.
It is important to note that mandatory programs can be creative, dynamic and are proven effective.
9. Establish full transparency, accountability and inclusivity in campus sexual assault data collection and distribution, decision-making and resource allocation.
- Publish real-time information, including location, time and nature of every reported sexual assault on campus. The administration has this information but chooses not to share it. There are multiple databases of useful data, according to administrators, but no transparency around what’s done with it.
- Highlight the disciplinary actions taken against perpetrators of sexual violence2
- Publish the administration’s annual assessments of student activities to ensure they do not violate the school’s policies against sexual discrimination and violence. This is required by law, but as far as we know, has never been done.
- Publish its annual input to the National College Health Assessment survey. Other colleges and universities do this.
In addition to the annual campus climate survey, regularly host follow-ups to the SPCSA’s open symposiums to give updates on the implementation of the college’s strategy and to formally solicit ongoing input from the greater Dartmouth community.
10. Create one campus-wide set of policies and procedures for reporting sexual harassment and assault as well as for victim support.
A major impediment to identifying serial perpetrators is the lack of a campus-wide procedure regarding reports of sexual violence. This is easily addressable by creating solid internal procedures and training protocols that take into account the most common ways that victims report. These improvement can also better ensure that victims receive appropriate medical, emotional and legal support. In addition, all potential points of initial contact should be adequately trained.
11. Demonstrate unequivocal leadership.
It is vitally important for our leaders to speak out firmly, truthfully and often about the epidemic of sexual violence on our campus and to address the entire college community, including alumni.
1. This recommendation has also been included in guidelines published by the Avon Foundation for Women and Futures Without Violence: Beyond Title IX: Guidelines for Preventing and Responding to Gender-based Violence in Higher Education. Futures Without Violence, 2012.
2. This action is supported by the Office for Civil Rights’ Dear Colleague letter.