The SPSCA Meets

Dartmouth reconsiders its sexual assault policy.

Dartmouth reconsiders its sexual assault policy.

On Friday, April 4th, the Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault (SPCSA) presented its “Third Annual Symposium on Sexual Assault at Dartmouth College”. Taking place over the course of three hours at Collis Common Ground, the event brought together over one hundred students, faculty members, and administrators to discuss sexual assault at Dartmouth, the College’s various programs and initiatives to prevent and combat it, and the College’s newly proposed sexual assault policy.

The symposium began with a speech by Sophia Pedlow ’15, chair of the student-only SPCSA, who briefly outlined her group’s activities and goals. During smaller group discussions that occurred later in the event, Ms. Pedlow emphasized the importance of mutual respect and support.

Next, there were additional speeches describing research conducted by two female undergraduates through the Elizabeth A. Hoffman MiniGrant. This grant, provided by the President’s and Dean’s offices, offers funding for undergraduate research on sexual assault at Dartmouth. In summary, one of the studies found that the majority of Dartmouth students are unaware of exactly which sexual assault resources are available to them on campus, while the other was a comparative analysis of how Dartmouth’s peer institutions investigate and punish sexual assault.

After these introductory speeches, the bulk of the symposium consisted of a series of guided discussions conducted at small tables of students, faculty, and administrators. These discussions focused on several topics including the proposed creation of a new “Center for Community Action and Prevention” (CCAP), which was outlined by Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson, and the new proposed sexual assault policy, was introduced by Director of Judicial Affairs Leigh Remy. With regard to the CCAP, most of the discussion seemed to focus on a need for clarification of the roles of the existing initiatives against sexual violence such as SAPA, MAV, and others, as well as how these groups would relate to the new CCAP. There seemed to be a general consensus that it would be highly beneficial to streamline the college’s efforts against sexual assault into fewer, better-defined groups, which could potentially be housed together in the CCAP.

With regard to the new sexual assault policy proposal, discussion focused on a few key issues; namely that while the new policy provides a very clear definition of consent, there needs to be a better definition for incapacitation given the college’s prevalent drinking culture. Other matters relating to the policy that were discussed included whether assault investigators should be internal (i.e. part of the community and familiar with the college) or whether they should be external and hired from a pool.

Participants also discussed the benefits and drawbacks of having students sit on Judicial Affairs sanctioning panels and whether or not said panels should have the actual names of the involved students when hearing a case. Throughout these discussions, a member of the SPCSA was present at each table, and these facilitators took notes on the conversations in order to eventually compile a list of “2014 Community Recommendations.” Overall, this event was well-attended by a diverse group of community members; while Dartmouth still has a long way to go in terms of addressing its sexual assault problem, the energy and ideas put forth by this symposium’s attendees was an encouraging sign.

Dartmouth’s new proposed sexual assault policy is available in full here.