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Dartmouth Students To File Complaint

In this 1983 family photo released by Constance Clery, Jeanne Clery is shown.  In the nearly 20 years since their daughter Jeanne was raped and killed in her dorm room at Lehigh University, Howard and Constance Clery have fought to make sure that colleges report campus crimes. (AP Photo/Clery Family)

In this 1983 family photo released by Constance Clery, Jeanne Clery is shown. In the nearly 20 years since their daughter Jeanne was raped and killed in her dorm room at Lehigh University, Howard and Constance Clery have fought to make sure that colleges report campus crimes. (AP Photo/Clery Family)

Hanover — A group of Dartmouth College students say they plan to file a federal complaint against the college alleging that administrators underreport and downplay sexual assault, racism and homophobia on campus.

Six Dartmouth students joined others from Swarthmore College, University of California at Berkeley, University of Southern California and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill yesterday in New York City for a news conference.

“I want the college to realize that there are students that from now on are committed to taking direct action to exert pressure on the college to make changes,” said Dartmouth senior Dani Valdes, who traveled to New York for the news conference. “If you come to Dartmouth as a freshman, you can expect to be sexually assaulted. We’re not going to take it any more.”

The Dartmouth students’ complaint is being filed under the Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities to disclose statistics about on-campus crimes . When the U.S. Department of Education investigates complaints, it is an administrative process, not a legal one, according to the Clery Center for Security on Campus.

In May, the U.S. Department of Education announced that Yale was fined $165,000 for inadequately reporting campus crime statistics, according to the Yale Daily News, the college’s student newspaper.

Valdes was also one of the students who participated in an April protest in front of prospective students about sexual assault, racism and homophobia. Valdez said that the Clery complaint includes about 15 testimonies from students.

Valdes wants a third party to hold the administration accountable for failing to prevent a “climate of hostility.”

“We’re trying to get the Department of Education to review the school and exert some pressures,” Valdes said. “We don’t feel safe in a majority of spaces on campus.”

Senior Karenina Rojas said she reported a crime to Dartmouth’s Safety and Security a few weeks ago when she found a LGBT plaque removed from its location and placed next to a VHS tape titled Jerry Springer Wild Relationships on the steps of a campus building.

Rojas saw that incident was harassment and vandalism. She reported it to Dartmouth Safety and Security, but when she checked the crime logs, it was nowhere to be seen. She included that example in her testimony for her Clery Act complaint, she said.

Dartmouth Spokesman Justin Anderson said the college has not yet seen the complaint.

“No educational institution should be complacent about claims of sexual assault and discrimination, and Dartmouth is not,” Anderson said in a prepared statement. “At Dartmouth, we care deeply about the harm that sexual assault and discrimination cause to a campus community. In recent years, we have implemented numerous new initiatives and are committed to finding effective ways to make lasting and positive change. Our efforts include prevention, education, increased accountability, increased staffing and resources, better coordination, and strengthening of guidelines.”

While Dartmouth students filed a Clery Act complaint, the other colleges’ students filed complaints under Title IX, which also mandates gender equality on college campuses. Attorney Gloria Allred is a Los Angeles-based lawyer who is known for taking high-profile civil rights cases, as well as cases involving women’s rights and minority rights. She spoke at the news conference, but Dartmouth students said they are not represented by Allred and they have not sought a lawyer.

Last month, Allred held a similar news conference in Los Angeles and represented students from Occidental College who have been sexually assaulted or raped as students. Students filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights, which is part of the U.S. Department of Education, for violating Title IX. The complaint included 37 student accounts of alleged rape, sexual assault or harassment on campus.

Students at Swarthmore College also filed a complaint under the Clery Act last month. Students claimed that the college discouraged students from reporting crime to law enforcement and under reported incidents of sexual assault and rape in the Annual Clery Security Report, according to The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s student newspaper.

Of the testimonies that Dartmouth provided in its complaint, only a small portion are sexual assault related, Valdes said, with most relating to homophobic or racist harassments.

During the last month, Dartmouth faculty and administrators have been confronted by students on campus simply don’t feel safe at the college on the hill.

On April 19, a group of about 15 students entered a performance during Dimensions weekend — an annual event to persuade prospective students to commit to Dartmouth — and shouted, “Dartmouth has a problem.” The protesters at the Dimensions show told students that a Dartmouth life would include homophobia, sexual assault and racism.

In the days that followed, anonymous online threats were made at the protesters and administrators canceled classes for a day of reflection.

Last week, a freshman was charged by Hanover police with four counts of aggravated felony sex assault.

Rojas said the reason she and her fellow classmates are filing this complaint is because they’ve been attacked or harassed and they feel the college hasn’t done anything to protect them.

“We believe we have no choice,” Rojas said. “We had to ask the federal government to investigate Dartmouth. ... It had to come to this.”

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.