Mixed Reaction on Dartmouth Campus; Some Outraged, Others See Justice
Hanover — Reaction on the Dartmouth College campus to the acquittal of Parker C. Gilbert was mixed, ranging from outright denunciation to a belief that the verdict was just.
On Thursday afternoon after the verdict was announced, students appeared to be going about their regular routines, traveling to and from buildings on and off campus, at the end of the first week of classes after Spring Break.
While a number of students interviewed said they weren’t following the trial closely, with a few even saying they were unaware of it, other students were quite passionate about the verdict.
“I am shocked,” said Eliana Piper, a senior from Michigan. “How much do you have to struggle, how loud do you have to yell for it to be considered rape? ... I think this sets a very unfortunate precedent.”
Senior Holli Weed agreed.
“I am angry and I am frustrated,” Weed, from California, said. “But I am not all that surprised.”
Weed said she thought the ability of Gilbert’s family to hire high-profile defense attorneys affected the outcome of the case.
“I 100 percent think that this sends a strong message to survivors that they will not be believed,” said Weed, who said she has worked as an advocate for sexual assault victims.
Other students said that given the facts of the case, there wasn’t solid enough evidence to convict Gilbert of rape.
“There were too many things that didn’t add up, too many things that weren’t connected,” said Tony Anzivino, a sophomore from Derry, N.H. “It is nice to see that it seems the whole justice system is working in the right way.”
Doug Phipps, a freshman from Darien, Conn., said the jury’s conclusion was understandable.
“I am not surprised based on what I heard about the case, based on the testimony,” Phipps said.
Despite a resolution to the case, however, Phipps said something still didn’t “feel” right Thursday afternoon.
“I am disappointed because this still somehow feels like the college lost some kind of battle against sexual assault,” Phipps said.
Dartmouth Change, a group comprised of students and alumni, faculty and staff and community members working to address the sexual assault “crisis” on campus, backed a statement released from WISE, a victim’s advocacy group that had supported the accuser at the trial. (As a general practice, the Valley News does not name the victims of alleged sex assaults.)
“Today’s decision in the Dartmouth rape trial of Parker Gilbert is devastating and there is no doubt that it sends a terrible message to survivors of sexual assault,” a statement on WISE’s website said. “Something has got to change if we can allow a man who has no relationship with the victim to violate her in her own bed and face no consequences.”
Asked for comment, Dartmouth released a statement that read: “We know that many members of the community have been following the case of the State v. Gilbert with a range of emotions. At this time, we are focused on the well-being of the community and moving forward.”
Barbara Sterling, who works in acquisitions in Baker-Berry Library, took more of a neutral stance on the verdict, which acquitted Gilbert of five counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault and one misdemeanor count of criminal trespassing.
“I believe that she (the accuser) did not consent to having sex with him, but I think she was not as loud and as forceful as she believed she was,” Sterling, who was interviewed on Webster Avenue, a few yards from where Gilbert and the accuser crossed paths at the Beta Alpha Omega fraternity the night of the incident.
“And I think he was too drunk to realize it,” she said.
Sterling said she hopes to see more students take part in social activities that aren’t centered around alcohol, because drinking clearly played a role in the Gilbert case.
“Maybe (students) should hang out other places where it isn’t all drinking,” Sterling said, referencing a fraternity house. “They could start having social (gatherings) that weren’t so involved around alcohol.”
A few people on campus Thursday said they felt an outsider’s view of Dartmouth College’s image was being affected by the publicity surrounding the outcome of the trial.
“A lot of people might make judgments on the acquittal without knowing the full details of the case,” Phipps said. “And I think people will make those judgments and Dartmouth will fall in the eyes of the public, while it shouldn’t.”
“I think people are beginning to be more and more uncomfortable with the reputation the school is getting,” said Robert Leverett, a sophomore from Georgia. “I think that will help things get done. It is just horrible that it had to come to that.”
Anzivino viewed the situation differently, though.
“It was nice to see something go this way, and that we can say maybe this didn’t happen,” Anzivino said. “So it is just nice for me to be like, you know what, Dartmouth is still pretty awesome, and we don’t have rapists running around.”
Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3248.