Sexual assault assuredly occurs at Dartmouth, a disturbing and frightening fact for all students, female and male alike. More students than ever are demanding the administration to “take action” against sexual assault. But what exactly is being done now to stop sexual assault from occurring and to hold individuals found guilty of sexual misconduct responsible for their behavior?
SAPAs – sexual abuse peer advisors – are students who are dedicated to supporting their peers who have had experiences with sexual assault. During the winter and spring terms each year, new SAPAs undergo a 32-hour training course, learning the fundamentals of supporting the survivors of sexual assault. After completing this course, SAPAs are certified to work with survivors by providing medical and emotional advice and referring victims to other resources if necessary.
In addition to working with individuals, SAPA seeks to educate the entire Dartmouth community about sexual assault and violence. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), so SAPAs have been particularly visible lately with campus-wide events and programs. On Thursday, April 25, for example, SAPAs held their annual “Take Back the Night” (TBTN) event. About 50 students, faculty, and staff gathered in this march around campus, which concluded with a gathering in the middle of the Green. TBTN events are held at college campuses around the world, aiming to raise awareness about sexual assault and establish nonviolent and supportive communities. The Student Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault (SPCSA), Mentors Against Violence (MAV), Sexperts, and V-Day Dartmouth are other student groups, in addition to SAPAs, that work tirelessly to support the survivors of sexual assault and educate all community members in order to prevent future incidents.
During the Dimensions show, the protestors chanted about specific incidents of rape on campus, often repeating, like a chorus, “95% of rapes are unreported!” The protestors did not cite the source of this statistic during their demonstration. Many studies conclude that between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 women are raped while they are college students. However, figures approximating the incidence of unreported rape on college campuses vary widely. Some studies do suggest rates of 95 percent while others report lower figures – around 75 or 80 percent. None of those are specific to Dartmouth’s campus. Nonetheless, many victims of sexual assault do not report their incidents, usually because of the traumatic nature of sexual assault or fear of retaliation.
Sexual misconduct, which is defined as any nonconsensual, threatening, or intimidating sexual behavior, violates Section III of Dartmouth’s Standards of Conduct. Those found responsible for violating Section III will, according to the Student Handbook, “incur the most serious sanctions the College can impose, up to and including separation.” But how exactly is that enforced? How does the College attempt to make certain that sexual misconduct is punished and survivors of sexual assault are protected? Once a sexual assault has occurred, victims have various routes through which to press charges, in addition to numerous sources of support – such SAPAs, SAAP (Sexual Abuse Awareness Program) Coordinators, and of course the Deans. If the victim chooses not to move his or her incident through the college disciplinary process initially, he or she may still anonymously file a complaint through the SAAP Program, Undergraduate Judicial Affairs, or an Undergraduate Dean.
SAAP professionals can provide counseling and resources to the victim while Judicial Affairs and the Deans can inform the victim about the process of filing a formal charge with the College. The College cannot take disciplinary action against any individuals accused of sexual assault based on these reports or conversations with SAAP, Judicial Affairs, or the Deans. However, after receiving counseling and advice from these professionals, a victim can move forward and file an official report with the College through Safety and Security or Judicial Affairs, if he or she so chooses.
Students who do choose to file a formal complaint must provide a written statement to Judicial Affairs or a verbal account to a Safety and Security investigator. Once these reports are filed, the Director of Undergraduate Judicial Affairs determines whether there is “sufficient evidence to warrant a disciplinary allegation.” If there is such evidence, the accused student will receive an “allegation packet.” This includes a letter from the Undergraduate Judicial Affairs Office that describes the allegation, information gathered during the investigation, and potential outcomes of the case. The packet also includes a form through which the accused individual officially admits or denies these charges. If a student who is accused of a serious violation, such as sexual assault, admits responsibility for the incident in question, he or she can have a hearing before the Committee on Standards (COS) or request a one-on-one hearing with a dean. One-on-one dean’s hearings are very rare in assault cases, but require accused students to admit responsibility before the meeting and provide a statement detailing his or her actions. The meetings are held without advisors or witnesses and, usually, without attorneys. They may not end in a finding of “not responsible.”
If an accused individual does not admit responsibility, then he or she will have a COS hearing. A panel of five members of the Dartmouth community, consisting of two faculty members, two students, and one administrator, will hear the case. In order to find responsibility, for which a preponderance of evidence is necessary, a COS hearing requires a majority vote. The victims of an alleged assault, advisors, and witnesses may be present, and a finding of “not responsible” may be issued. Accused students must also choose whether to have an open or closed hearing. Any student, faculty, or staff member can attend an open hearing, as can reporters. In a closed hearing, only the Committee, witnesses, accused students, advisors, and the victim may attend. Again, attorneys are left outside the door in a process similar to that described in the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal by Judith Grossman. Before the hearing, the COS holds a closed meeting to discuss “administrative details” and questions they plan to ask during the hearing. COS hearings are based on the assumption of innocence. Hearings typically consist of opening statements, questions, and closing statements. After closing statements, the COS deliberates, first questioning the accused individual’s responsibility and then, if he or she is found responsible, the appropriate judicial action.
Possible sanctions include a warning, reprimand, college probation, suspension, and permanent separation from the College. The accused individual is informed of the outcome of his or her hearing and possible sanctions the next day. Sanctions usually begin immediately. Students can request a review or the hearing if he or she believes there was a significant procedural error during the hearing or if new information that could possibly exonerate him or her has been discovered.
Sexual assault violates not only campus policy but also New Hampshire state law. When allegations of sexual assault are brought before the College, they are not forwarded to the Hanover Police unless the victim is under age eighteen or requests for the College to do so. However, a victim of sexual assault can always request a criminal trial or bring civil charges against his or her assailant through the Hanover Police Department.
This past February, the presidents of 27 of Dartmouth’s Greek organizations voted unanimously to update the College’s sexual assault policy to include automatic sanctions on affiliated individuals who have been found responsible of sexual misconduct by the COS. Previously, an affiliated student found responsible for sexual assault could be reprimanded by his or her Greek organization (in addition to the COS sanctioning). However, some felt that this policy allowed Greek houses to turn a blind eye to assaults in order to avoid adjudicating their own brothers or sisters. This would have been a result of having two separate judicial processes.
Now, after an affiliated individual is sanctioned by the COS for sexual misconduct, he or she will automatically receive additional Greek sanctions. If the individual has received a sentence of probation or one-term suspension, he or she will also be put on social probation, be barred from holding a leadership position in the organization, and may not live in the house. In addition, the individual must participate in an education program, which is individually constructed by representatives from GLOS (Greek Letter Organizations and Society), SAAP, Judicial Affairs, and the student’s Greek house. There is also a second category for more serious violations. In this second category, Greek houses essentially signed over their ability to protect their brothers and sisters in order to help end sexual assault. If an affiliated individual is suspended for two or more terms or permanently separated from the College, he or she will immediately and permanently be separated from the Greek organization. It is interesting that this particular reform hasn’t been discussed in much of the current dialogue on campus.
Even with education and slowly modified policy, sexual assault will probably never be truly eradicated from Dartmouth’s campus or from the world in general. That is the sad truth. However, SAPAs and all individuals at Dartmouth who work to combat sexual assault have venerable goals. While we may sometimes question their specific actions, they do, nonetheless, serve an extremely important purpose at Dartmouth. While the SAPAs support survivors and the COS and GLC policies reprimand aggressors, we as students have the lion’s share of the power to stop these incidents before they occur through bystander intervention and enforcing cultural mores against questionable situations or possible sexual assault.
There are no simple answers to ending sexual violence. No one policy will eradicate all dark deeds from campus. And banning the Greek system will hardly reduce sexual assault if it forces drinking and social scenes out of relatively public and open basements into locations hidden even deeper underground. At least Safety & Security currently knows where most of the drinking takes place on campus. It’s time for everyone on campus to grow up and accept a few harsh realities. The first is that sexual assualt occurs at Dartmouth just as it does at most other places in this country and the world. The second is that only through concerted and prolonged effort coupled with campus-specific and scientific policy changes can we truly impact sexual assault at Dartmouth. This may be a five or ten year project with several different policy tweaks every year, but with a subject so serious, we can’t rush to judgment. As tempting as that route is, it leads towards an abyss full of unintended consequences.
Instead, we need to all sit down at the bargaining table and slowly create beneficial policies that unite our campus in a campaign against sexual assault. Culture wars are not won overnight by a few radical activists. We can unite everyone on campus together under a banner of serious and thoughtful reform. Students and alumni all want to be a part of that process to improve Dartmouth, let’s make sure the administration proceeds in that fashion rather than a careening course calculated to respond to each and every gust of public opinion.
While we do not agree with the protesters’ methods or their seemingly one-minded crusade against the Greek system, we do agree on a few basic tenets. We agree that sexual assault is wrong. The protest is a sign: that the campus climate is ready for a discussion of sexual assault at Dartmouth. The alumni are ready as can be seen in our interview with Susan Struble ‘93. She recently founded DartmouthChange along with other alumni in order to pressure the administration towards making sensible reforms. The faculty seem to be interested given the fact that they participated in the teach-ins and the community exercises when classes were cancelled. The students appear to be ready. At least, we know we here at The Dartmouth Review are ready for that discussion.
Note that we said discussion, not dictatorship. Every member of our community has a voice and should be allowed to use that voice. There are long discussions ahead for Dartmouth, but that’s good. Let us just hope that everyone both on and off-campus is willing to participate in that discussion respectfully, thoughtfully and carefully. After all, we’re meant to be make the world’s problems ours and then to attempt to solve them. Can we honestly shrink from solving the problems at our doorstep simply because they are complicated? Simply because sexual assault is a difficult topic and will require us to continue discussing and changing policy for years? Those are all paltry reasons compared to the moral obligation we have to reduce the violence occurring in our own backyards. First, we must fix our own problems. Then the world’s.
-- Caroline Sohr
Entries in Dartmouth College (108)
Sexual assault assuredly occurs at Dartmouth, a disturbing and frightening fact for all students, female and male alike. More students than ever are demanding the administration to “take action” against sexual assault. But what exactly is being done now to stop sexual assault from occurring and to hold individuals found guilty of sexual misconduct responsible for their behavior?
On the heels of the protests by the radical group formerly known as Dartmouth REALTALK (now known as Dartmouth RealTalk), there comes the news that Greek leadership is considering a new policy to ban freshmen from all Greek houses while alcohol is being served or consumed until the Monday after Homecoming. On the one hand, this is something I support. It's a reform of the Greek system that's targeted at reducing the problems associated with Greek life while maintaining the institution itself. Good. It's hardly an attempt to ban the Greek system which so many RealTalk aficionados appear to desperately desire.
It is not inherently a bad idea, but I fear it will have dangerous consequences. Ban freshmen by all means, but then where will they go?
I remember the halcyon days of my freshman fall. We were not lured to the fraternities. Rather, we chose to go because we wanted to. As for the theories that this will limit access to alcohol, I worry that is merely a pipe dream. Everyone on my freshman floor had an upperclassman friend who would buy hard liquor for them within a fortnight. And, unlike the light beer that is consumed in the fraternities, our pre-games always consisted of grain spirits or cheap vodka. Why? It was easier to store, more cost-effective and finally more concealable. By far, mixed drinks were the beverage of choice.
For those of you who no longer imbibe, mixed drinks are far more dangerous than light beer. It’s a lot easier to down six extra shots in thirty minutes than six extra beers. And then, you will be in a lot more trouble. Sadly, I fear that freshmen will merely remain in their dorms or in less monitored spaces, pre-gaming with hard liquor and mixed drinks. That is far more dangerous in terms of drinking behavior than a game or two of beer pong with Keystone Light in a fraternity basement. After all, in a fraternity, there are experienced upperclassmen monitoring the situation to make sure no drunk freshman dies on their couches. In an open basement, there are other individuals who are present in the situation who can instantly spot a stumbling and vomiting individual and then help them. All of these are good safeguards. Some claim that freshmen won’t pre-game if there are no available parties. To these seemingly naive people, I reply that the pre-game will become the party.
As for sexual assault, I believe this policy could reduce the number of sexual assaults significantly. But, I worry there may also be other unintended consequences. For example, wouldn't it be a worse power dynamic if liquor was scarce? If there were only a few parties available to freshmen? If an older student held a party in his dormitory room and invited freshmen, wouldn't that be a far more hostile environment than a fraternity basement which is open to all students? In a fraternity basement filled with older male and female students from across campus, bystander intervention is a far more likely occurrence. At the same time, then freshmen can easily choose to leave a threatening and uncomfortable environment. After all, the next opportunity to get alcohol is just steps away down Webster Avenue. If the supply of liquor is restricted to those few unethical enough to invite over freshmen, why would that reduce sexual assault? It could, conceivably as freshmen would be on guard at such parties as opposed to assuming that fraternity parties are completely safe. But is that the only reason we are supporting this policy?
I desperately hope that banning freshmen does indeed reduce sexual assault, but I also do not believe that we should just march blindly over the cliff of bad policy without a little forethought. So, instead of just blindly passing this policy, the Greek leadership should very clearly state to the administration that as a consequence of this policy’s passage, extensive records must be kept of all relevant statistics for the incoming freshmen class and then publicly shared. For example, we need to know if sexual assaults increased or decreased before and after Homecoming. Did this policy merely delay sexual assaults until fraternities were opened to freshmen? Or did it increase sexual assault by pushing freshmen social scenes and alcohol consumption into unregulated areas of campus? The same goes for binge drinking. Why not conduct anonymous surveys on sexual assault as well as record all reported sexual assaults and freshmen who were sent to DHMC or Dick’s House? Why not record their BACs as well?
The debate on campus is woefully bereft of facts or data. If we’re going to try a new policy, we must also examine its effects. How else can we know if we’ve truly improved the situation? How else can we discover the truth about sexual assault, fraternities and binge drinking? Policy based on theories instead of facts is dangerous and irresponsible. We can and should do better.
-- Thomas J.P. Harrington
As the HBO series Game of Thrones has swept the campus, we here at The Dartmouth Review were shocked to receive the below text of an article from an anonymous source. In it, the authors describe the similarities between campus rivalries and the War of Five Kings in a satirical manner. We all need to laugh at ourselves sometimes. Enjoy.
Alpha Delta = House Baratheon
Renowned for their abilities on the battlefield (or rather the soccer field and the rugby pitch), these athletic warriors are far better at leading teams than they are at ruling the campus social scene. They do possess massive charisma, however, as well as the ability to imbibe large quantities of alcohol.
Theta Delta Chi = House Lannister
A band of blonde brothers, these athletes are renowned for both their athletic prowess and their wealth. The battle for social capital is largely waged between them, Psi U and Alpha Delta with all of Webster Avenue coming in a distant fourth. Their manes of golden hair merely seal the deal.
Psi Upsilon = House Tyrell
A very old and wealthy house filled with members with a unique sense of fashion. Like Ser Loras, many brothers of their house are renowned throughout the land for their beauty. As the Lords of the Reach, they command the territory between the Lannisters and the Baratheons.
Sigma Alpha Epsilon = House Stark
A once proud house that was on the rise, it has now been brought low by betrayal from within. Geographically isolated, it is only the brave few who walk through the cold winds to their broad doors.
Phi Delta Alpha = The Unsullied
Like The Unsullied, Phi Delt is renowned for its cultish brotherhood. Brothers never leave the house save to eat...with a band of other Phi Delts. Many guess that this is the result of their difficult pledge period which involves dogs and children. Both groups have a distinct distaste for the company of women, shunning the gentler sex.
TriKap = Brotherhood Without Banners
A motley band of diverse outcasts who unfortunately cannot wear their own insignia, these brothers are renowned for their egalitarian ways of welcoming freshmen. Of course, many doubt whether their intentions are as perfectly pure as they claim.
Zeta Psi = Ser Bronn of Blackwater
Recently raised to the status of a house, these brothers are glad to have gained that status. However, they remain without lands and must strive to gain any social capital whatsoever.
Chi Gamma Epsilon = House Greyjoy
Like the Viking-esque House, Chi Gam has an ample number of lightweight rowers, perfectly suited for coastline raids. Their new hot tub certainly conjures up images of The Drowned God. They were once more prominent, but recently had their aspirations crushed. On the plus side, this has coincided with the House growing increasingly less sketchy.
Beta Alpha Omega = House Bolton
Both the Boltons and Beta have recently entered the clash for social capital. Both houses are obsessed with waving flags. Both houses lock their own doors and are fairly secretive. And most damningly, both houses have recently surged in terms of power and influence. Rumors of nefarious means surround both houses including the capture and imprisonment of another house’s pledge. Flaying remains the territory of the Boltons.
Gamma Delta Chi = House Tarly
Often, when a giant lumbers across campus, he is wearing the letters of Gamma Delta Chi. GDX is a house of big men and bigger football players. Many tales are sung of their feats of strength and dangerous endeavours. While Sam Tarly of The Night’s Watch inherited only the size, his family is a group of warriors renowned for both their bravery and their brawn.
Sigma Nu = House Martell
Sigma Nu is the house at the very end of Webster Avenue, just as House Martell lurks at the very bottom of the Westerosi continent. Both Houses are sadly irrelevant for the majority of conflicts on both Westerosi on Webster Ave.
Sigma Phi Epsilon = House Frey
Ambitious and more importantly, numerous. The Twins was named for the two castles on either side of a river, but could just as easily have applied to the Frey’s broods. Both houses are also renowned for their unConventional, but memorable parties.
Alpha Chi Alpha = House Karstark
This house has many who adhere to the Old Gods, and is otherwise pretty respectable if not prominent. Unfortunately, they recently suffered a significant loss to their student body after a heinous betrayal.
Bones Gate = Temple of The Many-Faced God
These brothers are just as devoted to exploring the unknown and the mysteries of life as the Faceless Men are to understanding the many facets of death. Their very name reeks of the crypt. Like the Temple of The Many-Faced God, they serve a drink which will make you go blind...if not die. Valar morghulis.
Chi Heorot = House Westerling
A once-proud and powerful house that now has little but their pedigree and an old name. They have fallen so far that the house was even written out of the show. Not too dissimilar from the fact that Heorot has been written off on the social scene.
Alpha Phi Alpha = House Mormont
On the fringes of the battle for social capital, this fraternity has recently fallen on tough times due to a scandal. As a result, its members have been scattered by the winds in a state of exile.
Panarchy = Harrenhall
A once proud house that has been evacuated and now its massive rooms are home only to the spirits of its previous occupants. Screams often echo down the half-collapsing halls as odd experiments take place.
The Tabard = House Arryn
A small house that is in the middle of the kingdom, but remains aloof and neutral during the scramble for social capital between houses. Rumored to engage in odd and decidedly unsavoury behavior that transgresses the lines of normal sexual conduct. Also, they are always high above the clouds.
Alpha Theta = The Night’s Watch
Skilled in the ways of D&D and League of Legends, the warriors of Alpha Theta have pledged themselves to protect the realm from unseen horrors of all types, a most nerdy vow which means they shall also go unmarried and sire no children. Theirs is a thankless task few will willingly accept, but will also prove invaluable should the College ever be overrun by zombies.
Phi Tau = Wildlings
Sworn foes and rivals of Alpha Theta, they are a most libertine and uninhibited people even if things have died down a bit from the nudist phase of the early 2000’s. They remain generally detached from the game of thrones played by the realm’s greater houses, though their living conditions are surprisingly nice given their location and status.
Kappa Delta Epsilon = The Sand Snakes
These illegitimate daughters of the Red Viper are renowned for their views on sexual liberation and revolt. Together, they plot to overthrow the patriarchy and lead House Martell to victory and domination of Westeros.
Alpha Xi Delta = Maesters
Like the Maesters of Oldtown, Alpha Xi Delta is obsessed with knowledge. The sisters are renowned for their GPA which has long been at the highest reaches of the Greek system. An impressive sisterhood indeed, they are also famous for the many deeds they accomplish post-graduation.
Alpha Phi = House Clegane
Dark rumors circulate that sisters of this house were exiled from rush events if they lacked suitable, shall we say, facial symmetry. In this regard they have much in common with House Clegane, where Sandor skipped town after a tragic “accident” in which is brother shoved his head in a fire. Unfortunately, no APhi displays the same prowess as Gregor Clegane on the tournament field.
TriDelta = House Targaryen
Blonde and beautiful - that covers almost all that can be said about this somewhat dominant sorority. Oh yes, they also transform into fire-breathing dragons at the prospect of acquiring more social capital.
Epsilon Kappa Theta = House Tully
They have a castle, but don’t stand out in any regard really. They’re nice, decent, and honorable people, but without any significantly positive or negative characteristics. Their neighbors are considered far more adventurous and interesting than the Tullys themselves.
Sigma Delta = House Tarth
Known for tough, empowered girls who play rugby and can easily stomp most men into the ground, and also located near the blue waters of the White River, Sigma Delta would be a natural home for Brienne of Tarth, who may lack traditional feminine charms but has made up for it by punching out Jaime Lannister more than once. One of the few women in A Song of Ice and Fire to regularly acquit herself well on the battlefield, Brienne is one of the few women who dares to operate in a man’s world.
Kappa Delta = House Baelish
Like the infamous Littlefinger, Kappa Delta is without a castle or a homebase, really. Yet, through plenty of scheming, Kappa Delta has managed to secure the administration’s promise of a future castle. Surprisingly, so has Lord Baelish after years of service to the Crown. Of course, it remains to be seen if either of these promises will be kept. Kings and Administrators alike are both known for their fickle ways, sadly.
Kappa Kappa Gamma = House Lannister
Renowned for their incestuous relationship with Theta Delta Chi, these often blonde females are on top of the social scene. Unfortunately, many theorize that this is only due to incessant scheming...which will eventually fail. But for now, they are the Queen Regent.
The Dimensions protesters had three concrete claims regarding sexual assault contained within their chant. First, that Dartmouth has had fifteen reported sexual assaults in the past three years. Second, 95% of sexual assaults are not reported, and so the true number of assaults in the last three years is something on the order of 300. Third, they complained that, in the past decade, only three students have been expelled for sexual assault.
To take on the last bit first, technically speaking, Dartmouth does not “expel” people. In a lovely case of euphemism gone wild, condemned students are “separated” from the College, calling to mind Soviet prisoners who were punished not with execution, but merely being shot in the head. In any case, the protesters were correct that only three students have been “separated” for sexual assault in the past decade. First, in the 2002-03 academic year, two men were separated after being found responsible for repeatedly overriding both physical resistance and verbal non-consent to have sex with a third student. The other case ending in separation involved a student who engaged in repeated “sexual misconduct,” including entering a student’s room while they slept, following explicit denials of consent. This low number of “separations” is consistent with a general unwillingness to “separate” students in Hanover for other crimes. There have been separations for major financial fraud, repeated severe substance abuse, and a handful of other matters, but in most years there are no separations whatsoever at Dartmouth and it remains a punishment applied only in particularly egregious cases.
Counting only separations is a little misleading, however, as in addition to the three completed proceedings, four students voluntarily withdrew from the College prior to the completion of proceedings. Thus, the number of students leaving the college due to sexual assault claims is more than double what activists have claimed, though still probably lower than what they desire.
Besides the three separations and the four withdrawals, there were twenty-six other Dartmouth undergraduates who faced college judicial hearings related to sexual misconduct, according to Committee on Standards’ own summary data. Of those twenty-six, eleven cases ended in the acquittal of the accused student due to insufficient evidence. According to COS, most of these cases dealt with disputes over the level of consent to certain acts and whether a reasonable person would have considered a partially inebriated student able to give consent.
That leaves fifteen cases where students were found responsible for misconduct but punished with something less than expulsion. Three cases ended with only permanent College Probation; unsurprisingly these were somewhat less severe cases. For instance, in one of the cases a pair of students essentially engaged in sexual badgering, repeatedly asking another student for sex despite being told to leave. However, the harassment ended there and did not escalate.
Twelve students faced suspensions. These cases were severe but still clearly fell in a different category than those cases ending in expulsion. Several cases involve students clearly too intoxicated to give consent, while others involve coerced sexual contact that, in the College’s lingo, fell short of intercourse. Despite occasional assumptions that suspensions amount to a “slap on the wrist” or a “six month vacation,” eight of the cases required suspensions of at least one years, and some required six or eight consecutive leave terms. It’s unclear how many students, if any, decided to transfer rather than serve out their lengthy suspensions.
While just over three sex offense cases go before COS each year, this total is well below the overall number of sex offenses that are reported at Dartmouth each year. Safety and Security’s crime logs found fifteen sexual assaults between the years 2009 and 2011 (this presumably is the same source RealTalk cited in their protest). The College’s 2012 Clery Report, a summary of campus crime mandated by federal law, shows even more as it incorporates claims brought to entities besides Safety and Security. According to the Clery Report, Dartmouth had fifteen forcible sex offenses (a category combining rape and forcible fondling) in 2011 alone, preceded by twenty-two in 2010 and ten in 2009 for a total of forty-seven reported forcible sex offenses in the past three years.
If we want to claim that “Dartmouth has a problem,” it’s helpful to compare these statistics with similar colleges. Harvard, with 6,500 undergraduates in Cambridge, had twentysix reported forcible sexual offenses in 2011, very close to Dartmouth’s number when accounting for its larger size. With the rest of the Ivies, however, Dartmouth fared quite poorly. In comparison, Yale had eighteen such offenses in 2011, but that was a significant spike from ten and seven in the previous two years. Brown, on the other hand, had a mere seven reported offenses in 2011, despite having several thousand more students and being located on the relatively mean streets of Providence, Rhode Island. Columbia and Cornell had just four offenses each in 2011 despite being very large.
So Dartmouth looks pretty bad matched with the other Ivies, then (besides Harvard, that is). Surely, however, we must be better than some other class of schools. How about the sexually repressed kids at those Catholic universities? Nope! Notre Dame had just nineteen offenses from 2009-11 for its eight thousand undergrads, and Georgetown had twenty-one with about the same student count. Franciscan University, a small college of 2,000 in the recently infamous town of Steubenville, Ohio, has had only two reported sex offenses in the past three years! Well, what about the unwashed, unprivileged masses crowding large state schools? UNH’s Clery Report lists forty results in the last 3 years, less than Dartmouth’s forty-seven, and UNH has twice as many undergrads! How about Ohio State, with 42,000 undergrads packed into a school with tons of elite athletes? A scant sixty-one forcible sex offenses over three years, just 50% more assaults with ten times the population.
On the plus side, Dartmouth did not finish in dead last in my admittedly non-rigorous search. Amherst College had an identical count of fifteen reported forcible sexual offenses in 2011, but Amherst only has 1,800 undergrads.
Based purely on looking at reports, then, it looks like Dartmouth does indeed have a problem, relative both to other schools and to the population at large as well. If this data can be accepted at face value, Dartmouth is genuinely in need of improvement. However, there’s a major complicating factor that is the source of heavy doubt and disagreement: Report rates. Rape is frequently said to be a heavily underreported crime, if not the most underreported crime. According to the protesters and many others, 95% of sexual assaults at college are not reported to the authorities. This is a major claim and if true drastically alters our understanding of Dartmouth’s sexual assault rate. The fifteen assaults officially recorded in S&S’s crime logs would balloon to 300.
The prime piece of evidence for the 95% claim is a report by the Department of Justice released in 2000, entitled “The Sexual Victimization of College Women.” The report draws upon a survey of over 4,000 women who were attending colleges and universities in the year 1996. Said survey was quite exhaustive in just about every way one could hope. It was randomized to take women from universities all across the country, rather than from just one or a handful. The response rate was over 85%, keeping non-response bias to a minimum. The questions were relatively well-designed, leaving as little as possible to interpretation or vagueness. In a deft touch, they even told survey respondents to limit their responses to the beginning of the 1996 school year and later, thus avoiding the effects of memory decay.
The results of this robust survey were grim. 1.7 percent of college women claimed to have suffered, in the previous school year alone, experiences that the researchers classified as “completed rapes.” Several more were victims of attempted rapes or lesser sexual coercion.
These stats, if true, would be utterly flabbergasting relative to conventional measurements. 2% of college women being raped every year would translate to a rape rate of 1,000 per 100,000 people. Given that there are 20.3 million college students in the United States, that would come out to 203,000 students being raped every single year. According to the FBI’s National Crime Victimization Survey, on the other hand, America had less than 90,000 sexual assaults, total, in 2011, and even RAINN, an independent anti-sexual assault organization, estimates that only 207,774 rapes or sexual assaults occur each year. Clearly, somebody’s numbers are way off.
The reason the DOJ report could estimate a rape rate so much higher than conventional totals is linked with the other bombshell of the report, cited by the RealTalk protesters: According to the study, 95% of “completed rape” victims never report the incident to authorities. This is a dramatic claim; by comparison, the FBI estimates that about half of rapes are reported, and even another DOJ study in 2006 upped the report rate to 12%.
There are other reasons to feel doubtful of the DOJ survey’s numbers. One reason is simply time. The survey itself concerned events in 1996 and 1997, and in the sixteen years since then rape rates have fallen significantly and there has been a great deal of campaigning to encourage the reporting of sexual assault on campus. As a result, the report rate may have risen. That would explain the 2006 study’s increased number. While the increase seems small, it makes a big difference; if Dartmouth’s report rate were 12% then the fifteen assaults reported to S&S from 2009 to 2011 would extrapolate to 125 total assaults instead of 300. Still a tragedy, but fairly different numbers.
Reading closely into the 2000 study finds other interesting data nuggets regarding the low report rate. Women were given a large array of reasons they could offer for why they chose not to make a report. Many women decided not to make reports for very unfortunate reasons, such as a fear of reprisal or a fear of bothering the police.
The most commonly stated reason for not reporting, cited by a full 65% of respondents who were listed as victims of “completed rapes,” was that they “did not think it was serious enough to report.” Nearly half also did not consider what had happened to them to be rape, despite the surveyor’s classification. There are several reasons this could be so. Some of it may stem from an unwillingness to identify a boyfriend, family member, or friend as a rapist, or from a belief that rape is committed by strangers. However, it’s also very possible that many of the incidents were indeed not that severe in some way or another, and the survey overreached in classifying certain acts as rape when the average person does not. Also worthy of consideration is the factor of punishment. Rape is a major crime that leads to years in prison and a slot on the sex offender registries, and it is conceivable that some women may have refused to report because, even if they felt wronged, they did not believe the assault warranted destroying the attacker’s life. In other words, the more seriously we treat rape, the higher people may raise their personal threshold for what rape is. This is all speculation, however, and to make any strong assumptions would be hubristic.
This matter of punishments, though, brings us back to a major complaint of the protesters, the fact that only three students have faced expulsion for sexual assault in recent history. Some, such as the group Dartmouth Change, have advocated mandatory expulsion for all students found guilty of sexual assault. Of course, such mandatory expulsions can be more troubling than they appear at first glance, since college sexual assault hearings are far from the criminal courts that most people associate with rape hearings.
Legal professionals have a minimal role and nobody would mistake the proceedings for constitutional due process. Perhaps most troubling is the evidence standard. A normal criminal conviction requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In collegiate hearings, even the more rigorous proceedings will require a charge only meet the standard of “clear and convincing evidence,” which is supposed to represent about 75% proof (how one assigns a percent value to evidence has never been particularly clear). However, many activists favor the use of a “preponderance of evidence” standard, where a simple majority of evidence is sufficient to declare guilt. This is the standard Dartmouth already uses.
The argument has been made that the preponderance standard is necessary because the use of a stricter standard implies that the accuser’s word is not equal to the word of the accused. Relying on preponderance, so it goes, puts the two sides on equal footing. This may be the case, but what it ignores is that the consequences of a COS hearing are far from equal for the two sides.
We require proof beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal trials because the punishment of citizens by the state is an awesome power that should only be applied in places of relative certainty. Similarly, expulsion from college is a severe, life-altering event with effects comparable to a brief prison stint. If we mix mandatory expulsions with the preponderance standard of evidence, it is inevitable that we will end up expelling more than one innocent student.
This is part of the reason why sexual assault is often punished with suspensions instead. When the threshold for guilt is lower, punishments must be less severe to compensate. Dartmouth can have a higher conviction rate, or it can have expulsions, but to try having both would be destructive.
Dartmouth has a sexual assault problem. How severe, it is hard to tell. A solution must be found, but mass expulsions is not it.