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Hanlon to Address Dartmouth Safety

Hanover — Recently inaugurated Dartmouth College president Phil Hanlon will discuss campus safety during a faculty forum today, a move praised by several professors who said they are eager to see the administration move forward in addressing the issue.

“Dartmouth has a problem,” said Professor of Government Linda Fowler. “We’re not the only school that has a problem, but because we are a small close-knit community, I think students who are harmed feel it very keenly, that somehow the community isn’t caring for them, and frankly for a school of our reputation, this kind of risky behavior, violent behavior, there’s just no place for it.”

Beatriz Pastor, a state representative and Dartmouth professor on sabbatical this semester, said the issues of alcohol abuse and sexual harassment are issues that need to be dealt with “right off the bat.”

“(T)hey shape to a great extent what is the culture of undergraduate life at Dartmouth,” she said.

Fowler said discussion this afternoon is expected to focus on a report released last week by the Committee on Student Safety and Accountability. The 12-person group of faculty, students and staff was established by preceding president Jim Kim in February 2012 to examine sexual assault, hazing and binge drinking on campus.

The nine-page report, available online at http://www.dartmouth.edu/~deancoll/docs/cossa.pdf, offers recommendations ranging from clarifying and strengthening penalties for students found guilty of sexual assault and extending alcohol intervention programs into Greek life.

“(P)resumably we’ll discuss those and see if that’s the way we want to go forward or if we will have additional study,” Fowler said.

The forum, which is open only to Dartmouth faculty, comes just two weeks after Hanlon’s first major address to the faculty, in which he discussed academic initiatives. The two forums involving the president and faculty were scheduled in tandem, as has been tradition each fall at Dartmouth, but it is a break from the norm to use the second forum to discuss student safety.

Fowler said Hanlon’s decision to discuss safety issues during the second forum, which traditionally was held specifically for Arts and Sciences faculty, was “telling” and “appropriate.”

“The last time we met as a faculty was last April after classes were canceled … so we haven’t really had a chance to deliberate as a group,” Fowler said. “There’s a lot of concern on the part of the faculty about behavior that is inappropriate, to say the least, and illegal.”

Hanlon’s inauguration in September followed months of escalating discussions about allegations of widespread hazing, sexual assault and alcohol abuse among students, as well as intolerance of minority and LBGTQ students. In April, administrators canceled a day of classes after a group of students publicly protested what they perceived to be a campus culture that tolerates racism, sexual assault and homophobia.

In July, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights began a compliance review of Dartmouth for sexual harassment grievance procedures and potential violations of Title IX. And just last week, a fraternity, Theta Delta Chi, was suspended through the rest of the school year and placed on probation until June 2016 because of alcohol and drug violations.

There’s “certainly no secret that Dartmouth has issues on the student life side,” said Richard Howarth, professor of environmental studies. Although Howarth wasn’t sure whether he could make it to today’s forum, he said he was “curious to see what direction (Hanlon) decides to take things” and expected that the new president would have the support of the faculty.

“It’ll be interesting to see how much tomorrow we see concrete decisions versus how much of it is setting the procedural wheels in motion to construct processes that go in some direction,” he said, noting that both had benefits. “(W)hat’s going to work is going to require setting a tone, and it is going to require processes where the community can work toward whatever the solutions.”

Pastor, who will not attend the forum because of her sabbatical, said she believes “conversations should provide the narrative but not take the place of decision making,” particularly related to stemming alcohol abuse, which she attributes to a lack of social options on campus beyond Greek life, and sexual assault.

She hopes to see clearer rules about alcohol use going forward, so that if a fraternity or sorority does not abide by the guidelines, they cannot operate on campus. She would like to see enhanced reporting and support mechanisms for victims of sexual assault.

Maggie Cassidy can be reached at mcassidy@vnews.com or 603-727-3220.