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Report Shows Increase in Fondling Reports, Drop in Alcohol Violations at Dartmouth



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, October 04, 2018

Hanover — Crime statistics for 2017 outlined in Dartmouth College’s annual campus safety report were relatively “consistent” with the prior year, school officials said.

But at least two categories in the Security and Fire Safety Report released this week reflect noticeable changes — the number of reported cases of fondling increased from 8 to 14, a 75 percent increase, while there was a 6.8 percent drop in the number of disciplinary referrals for liquor law violations on campus.

The document, also known as the Clery report, includes statistics for several types of crimes, including sexual violence, theft and arson. The college releases the report annually in October under the Clery Act, a federal law that requires colleges and universities to compile and publicize information on public safety in their communities.

Kristi Clemens, Dartmouth’s Clery Act and Title IX coordinator, said she feels that 2017’s numbers are “consistent” with years past, which tells her that Dartmouth does a good job at informing its community on how to report crimes, among other things.

Although there have been more reports of fondling — the touching of a private body part of another person for sexual gratification without consent of the victim — that doesn’t necessarily mean there are more acts of that nature happening on campus, Clemens said.

“I think people impacted by behavior such as this are no longer just brushing it aside,” Clemens said. “I don’t think it is indicative of a change in behavior … but in a change in culture both nationally and on campus.”

Reports of rape decreased by one to 24 from 25; in 2015, the college broke “forcible sex offenses” down into the categories of rape and fondling.

Disciplinary referrals for liquor law violations decreased from 293 in 2016 to 273 in 2017, a figure Clemens says signifies that Dartmouth students “are engaging in less dangerous drinking.” Arrests for liquor law violations increased slightly, from 40 to 46. There were 45 such arrests in 2015.

Since the college instituted a ban on hard alcohol three years ago, officials are seeing students with lower blood alcohol content levels, she said.

Another possibility for fewer violations is that students have a more rigorous academic load, she said.

“There may well be less drinking because the coursework is really challenging,” she said. “The national trends we are seeing about drinking behaviors are trending downward.”

Overall, Clemens said, Dartmouth is making progress in changing the culture on campus in several areas.

“Overall, the numbers are what the numbers are,” she said. “I don’t see high numbers as problematic. I think that says people know and trust in the institution to report crime when they see it ... and that Dartmouth will support them.”

Peggy O’Neil, executive director of WISE, an organization that supports victims of gender-based violence in the Upper Valley, said offered a few preliminary comments on the report. Based in Lebanon, WISE also opened an office on the Dartmouth campus in 2015.

“It is a positive that the college is able to gather the data and to begin to see what it is telling them,” O’Neil said.

She added: “Having this information and the consistency of the reporting over three years is useful for us. I think we are trying to understand how to use this to improve responses and prevention.” She said WISE officials are still digesting the report.

O’Neil said an increase in reports of sexual violence might be attributed to the national climate, including the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault, as well as Dartmouth’s efforts to improve confidential reporting and increase access to support services. One question O’Neil had was why there were zero reports of dating violence in both the 2016 and 2017 report. In 2015, there were nine reports.

“That is a question mark for us,” she said. “WISE has some Dartmouth data that we provide to the college that we don’t share publicly. ... This Clery report indicates that no one reported dating violence, which is curious to us.”

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.

Correction

Disciplinary referrals at Dartmouth College for liquor law violations decreased from 293 in 2016 to 273 in 2017. An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect number for 2016.