The following two letters are responses to public comments from John Daukas ’84, Alumni Association President and former President of the Alumni Council, by Professor Peter Hackett and Susy Struble ’93 in May 20 and May 21, 2013, respectively.
I read with great interest your comments in today’s Daily Dartmouth (“Alumni Council Talks Campus Climate Issues”), particularly your belief that “the student protesters recently cited exaggerated figures about sexual assault” and that neither you “nor the students you talked to believe that 95 percent of sexual assaults on campus are not reported.”
“That sounds like a preposterous number,” Daukas said. “That’s like if a third of the women on campus were being sexually assaulted.”
It may sound like a preposterous number to you, but the statistic actually comes not from the demonstrators but from the FBI and the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Education. In fact, 42% of women who are assaulted tell no one about the crime. Using these statistics, as well as additional research that states that 1 in 4 women will be a victim of an assault or an attempted assault during their four undergraduate years, we can reasonably estimate that 125 Dartmouth women will be victimized each academic year.
You may find it hard to believe but those are the facts. As a senior faculty member, an alum, and former Chair of the Theater Department (2005-2011), my every day experience on campus confirms that this is sad and deeply disturbing but true. In fact, the situation may even be worse than the research bears out. I have spoken to many women who have been unable to complete assignments, dropped classes, changed majors and even left the College because they have been assaulted on campus and are afraid or unwilling to report.
I appreciate your obvious devotion and dedication to the College. However, if you would like to see the facts about sexual assault at Dartmouth, please go to the website dartmouthchange.org and click on the “Frequently Asked Questions” section. There you will find the truth as preposterous as it may seem.
Peter Hackett ’75
Avalon Professor of the Humanities
Professor of Theater
I echo Professor Hackett’s sentiments, including thanking you for your long service to the college we all love.
In the future, I respectfully suggest that you do not reference your talking to a few students as representing the final say on the Dartmouth student experience or even reference a survey as representing the student experience, particularly around such important moral and legal issues, unless you are certain that survey actually addresses the questions at hand and was rigorously structured enough to be considered statistically accurate.
Professor Hackett outlined the facts about sexual assault on campus quite well. You might be interested in reading some of the recommendations our organization has laid out regarding better data collection and distribution, as well as other points. It would be great if we could move beyond the myths and come together to work on creating a safer campus for everyone. I kindly direct you to www.dartmouthchange.org/recommendations. We would look forward to working with you.
On a related note, have you spoken with any of the students who were involved in the demonstration? They are very easy to find. We would be happy to make introductions. We’re very confused as to why you would ever publicly discredit and marginalize any Dartmouth student.
We would also be happy to facilitate any further conversations you’d like to have, perhaps with the Dartmouth students involved in the Student Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault, sorority presidents, Dartmouth’s Sexual Abuse Awareness Coordinators, or student victims of sexual assault, male or female, or their friends.
You also commented that “We shouldn’t make 98% of the students unhappy in order to make a couple of students happy.” I’m very curious to understand what conclusions or ideas you have that led you to say this as well as exactly what you meant. From our perspective, you simply added fuel to the fire in keeping the ongoing problem of sexual assault a divisive one for the campus. Dartmouth is better than this.
Let me pose a hypothetical question. Dartmouth reported 15 sexual assaults last year. Research varies, but there is agreement that this number represents only a small percentage of actual incidents. Let’s use an 80% unreported rate, which is what I believe Dartmouth’s SAAP coordinators reference. Now, substitute “racially motivated beatings” for sexual assault in the second sentence and think back to your comments in the article. Would you have said the same things?
Susy Struble ’93