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Letter: Dartmouth Is No Leader in This Field

To the Editor:

In a recent press release announcing the formation of the Center for Community Action and Prevention, Dartmouth’s Office of Public Affairs described the college as “a leader in developing cultural-changing strategies.” President Hanlon, referencing his recent attendance at a White House session on sexual assault, was quoted as saying that “Dartmouth’s efforts to address sexual assault were recognized by the White House as exceptional.” Another announcement touts the college’s participation in a symposium on sexual assault recently convened at the University of Virginia.

It is precisely this sort of hyperbole that discourages victims of sexual violence to report, jeopardizes the college’s credibility, creates an atmosphere of deep cynicism on campus, and undermines the administration’s efforts to build support for their initiatives.

Far from being a leader on this issue, Dartmouth lags behind many of its peer institutions. Violence prevention centers are already present on many other campuses. While aspiring to be a welcoming and inclusive community, Dartmouth continues to support a fraternity system that dates back to the 18th century, discriminates by gender, and is arbitrarily exclusive. The college provides no hard data measuring the effectiveness of the new Bystander Initiative or any of its other prevention programs. Although information on other crimes is routinely shared with the campus community by Safety and Security, real-time information on campus sexual assaults is not. The college provides no mandatory sexual assault awareness education for its students, a recommendation of many national violence prevention experts.

The truth is that the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Education, on its own initiative, recently opened an investigation of Dartmouth and its compliance with Title IX, the statute that guarantees women a campus environment free from the threat of sexual violence. The OCR targeted Dartmouth specifically because the college’s problems appear to be “particularly acute or national in scope.” The college has directed considerable resources to the prevention of campus sexual violence, assault and harassment. However, much more needs to be done effectively before Dartmouth can truthfully claim a place as a leader in the field.

Peter Hackett

Avalon Professor of the Humanities

Professor of Theater

Dartmouth College