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Dartmouth Safety Data Show Little Change; Liquor Ban Credited

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/5/2017 12:52:32 AM
Modified: 10/5/2017 3:33:20 PM

Hanover — Dartmouth College’s annual campus safety report for 2016 shows little change in most key crime statistics, except for a slight drop in arrests and internal sanctions for alcohol violations.

The data show that sexual violence and substance abuse reports stayed nearly level in the first full year of Moving Dartmouth Forward, a collegewide initiative meant to curb risky behavior.

Arrests for liquor law violations fell to 40 reports from 45 in 2015, and internal college sanctions for alcohol use dipped to 293 from 313.

College administrators this week were reluctant to ascribe such small changes to Moving Dartmouth Forward rather than to routine fluctuation, but said other statistics indicate that a ban on hard alcohol enacted under the program in spring 2015 was working as intended.

Dartmouth releases these reports every October under the Clery Act, a federal law that requires colleges and universities to compile and publicize information on public safety in their communities.

“There’s not a lot different in the Clery report this year from previous years,” Senior Associate Dean of Student Affairs Elizabeth Agosto said in an interview on Tuesday — although, she noted, reports of drug incidents and sexual assaults had ticked up marginally.

Dartmouth reported 11 arrests for drug violations in 2016, compared to nine in 2015. Reports of rape rose to 25 from 20, and sexual violence incidents characterized as “fondling” doubled to eight from four.

Agosto added that more reports of sexual violence might indicate an increased willingness to come forward, not necessarily an increased risk to students.

“We want people to be reporting and bringing information forward,” she said. “That’s always the goal behind Clery.”

School officials last year explained a larger drop in alcohol arrests, between 2014 and 2015, by pointing to the hard alcohol policy, as well as to new police practices and a college tendency to handle liquor violations internally. Arrests decreased by more than half between those two years, falling from 100 to 45.

This week, administrators said the hard alcohol ban’s effect was visible in a decrease in hospital transports among students and an increase in use of the school’s “Good Samaritan” policy, which gives students partial amnesty from college sanctions if they call for medical attention for their intoxicated peers.

Dartmouth recently expanded its Good Samaritan policy to include illegal drugs. The policy does not protect students from criminal charges, nor does it make them exempt from punishment for violations of other college policies.

Students used the Good Samaritan rule to call for help 131 times in the 2016-17 school year, compared to 96 times in the prior school year.

The Clery report is not the only metric that Dartmouth officials are using to gauge risky behavior and sexual violence on campus.

“It’s one piece of the puzzle,” said Allison O’Connell, the school’s coordinator for Clery and Title IX, the federal statute covering gender-based equity in education.

A former assistant district attorney for Suffolk County, Mass., O’Connell came to Dartmouth in September 2016 and formally succeeded the school’s former compliance officer, Heather Lindkvist, in August.

In an interview on Tuesday, she said Dartmouth was processing data from a spring 2017 campus climate survey, the results of which administrators expect to release later this fall.

The Dartmouth climate survey follows a broader poll conducted in spring 2015 by the Association of American Universities. Results from that survey showed that 28 percent of Dartmouth’s female undergraduates said they had been victims of sexual violence during their college careers, compared to an average of 23 percent across 26 other participating schools.

In addition to the hard alcohol ban, Dartmouth has been implementing other parts of Moving Dartmouth Forward’s reforms, including a new “consent manual” that teaches students “how to clearly ask for and give consent” in sexual encounters.

Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.

Correction

Dartmouth College officials plan to release data later this fall from a spring 2017 campus climate survey conducted by the school. An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the scope of the survey.




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