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Dartmouth Promotes New Policy; Administrators Hold Forum On New Sexual Assault Stance

Hanover — The outside investigators that Dartmouth College has proposed to hire to look into complaints of sexual assault would be made up of three or four people from the Upper Valley, with lawyers, law enforcement professionals or others with experience conducting similar investigations at other institutions being considered.

The college is still in the process of identifying candidates, said Robert Donin, who is general counsel for the college. He added that he doesn’t know how much the college would spend on the investigators, but said the college would create a budget to pay for their services.

On Tuesday, Donin and other administrators, including Dean Charlotte Johnson, walked about 20 people through the college’s revised sexual assault policy, which was introduced in March. The hour-long discussion is part of what the college is calling “Moving Dartmouth Forward,” which includes presentations about a variety of initiatives that have been announced since President Phil Hanlon took office last summer.

Currently when students report sexual assaults, they meet with a committee of two students, two faculty members and a staff member, Donin said.

“What we have heard from students, is that students quite understandably are reluctant to come forward and have to tell stories involving intimate personal details about a sexual encounter to other students, to their own teachers, and that is what the current system requires,” Donin said.

Under the proposed sexual assault policy, when a student has a complaint, an outside investigator will be assigned to investigate the facts of the case. The investigator will talk to both parties and compile a factual summary. If the investigator determines that the student accused did engage in sexual assault, then the case will be referred to a sanctioning panel of three people. Students could be expelled under the policy.

Josiah Proietti, who is a community director in the Office of Residential Life, asked if the investigation could be swayed by threats of legal action against the college.

“No,” Donin said. “Institutions are threatened with legal action all the time and they are equipped to deal with it.”

Murylo Batista, a junior, was one of the few students in the audience and was on the Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault that recommended that the college create a new sexual assault review policy.

Batista said he has read the sexual assault policies of other institutions, and they include a definition of what they want to promote. Batista said he would like the Dartmouth policy to include a meaningful definition of sexual consent, adding that such consent should be defined positively instead of just defining what is not consent, or the “no.”

After the discussion, Proietti, who clarified that he was speaking as an individual and not in his official capacity at the college, said he thinks this policy and the use of investigators is a step in the right direction.

“My hope is that this model will make it easier to report for no other reason than they don’t have to go in front of a jury of their peers,” Proietti said.

Buddy Teevens, the Dartmouth head football coach, attended the discussion and said he was there to learn more about the policy so that he could go back to his players and talk openly. He said he often has conversations with his players about issues such as sexual assault and binge drinking. He said he owes it to them as their coach to discuss issues beyond the football field.

“It may be embarrassing at times to some of the guys,” Teevens said, “but it’s the life of 18- to 22-year-old guys, and they need to understand that there is a right way and a wrong way to go about things, and I want our reputation to be pristine.”

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