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Forum, June 8: Dartmouth must drop demand to ID plaintiffs


Friday, June 07, 2019
Dartmouth must drop its demand to ID plaintiffs

The recent reporting on the issue of anonymity for plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit over sexual misconduct in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Dartmouth College raises an important concern for survivors of gender-based violence.

The Department of Justice asserts that sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes, with 60% of incidents left unreported. The same is true on college campuses, where the American Civil Liberties Union estimates that as many as 95% of incidents go unreported. Until recently, sexual assault has been a virtually invisible crime because survivors have been afraid to come forward. The reasons for this are clear. Victims have to overcome very real obstacles to reporting: their own sense of shame, their fear of retaliation, their fear of facing bias and backlash in the workplace, and their distrust of authorities’ ability to provide meaningful support. Additionally, this trauma often has aftereffects. Statistics from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center indicate that 70% of survivors experience moderate to severe distress, more than for any other violent crime. All of these challenges explain the viral hashtag #WhyIDidntReport, which amplified survivors’ voices last fall.

One practice that has led to greater reporting of these crimes is the promise of confidentiality. Nonetheless, Dartmouth has chosen to demand that the “Jane Doe” plaintiffs relinquish their confidentiality in the $70 million lawsuit.

Three Dartmouth organizations — the Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault, the Dartmouth faculty chapter of the American Association of University Professors and the Dartmouth Community Against Gender Harassment and Sexual Violence — have filed a joint statement in support of the plaintiffs. This statement, which asks the college to rescind its demand, has been endorsed by hundreds of individuals, including U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster and state Sen. Martha Hennessey.

Even though the parties to the lawsuit have agreed to attempt mediation, it is important for Dartmouth to acknowledge the primacy of confidentiality in providing true support for survivors. Otherwise, Dartmouth’s claims of taking sexual violence seriously and creating a more equitable learning environment for all students, faculty and staff sound duplicitous.

STANLEY COLLA

Hanover

Column never identified the actual question

After reading syndicated columnist Dana Milbank’s recent Opinion piece (“The administration lies in the service of racism,” June 1), I was wondering what the “racist question” was that the administration wanted to add to the 2020 census.

Milbank wrote that adding this question to the census “will suppress participation by nonwhite people and, therefore, artificially increase white (and Republican) power in a new round of gerrymandering.” But what is the question?

From what I understand, the question asks if one was born in the United States or not, and has nothing to do with race.

JEAN LIEPOLD

Grantham

Helping students find food

It was wonderful to see Amanda Zhou’s May 28 article (“Feeding minds and bodies: Programs help Dartmouth students who face food insecurity”). Food insecurity in college student populations can often be overlooked, and there are many factors that contribute to this issue — income, meal plans and transportation, as well.

I would like to share elements of the Hanover Co-op Food Stores’ work that were not covered in the article, along with local collaborations aimed at food insecurity among college students and other efforts.

The Hanover Co-op is proud to have worked with Dartmouth’s Office of Pluralism and Leadership over the winter break to facilitate discounted shopping vouchers for students. We also held a store tour focused on shopping on a budget, and a hands-on, one-pot-meals cooking class. Some of these students enrolled in our Food for All program, which gives them an additional 10 percent discount for the year. The winter break program was a successful pilot, and from this we were able to work with the Student Assembly to offer additional gift cards for any food-insecure student. Our next goal is to plan and offer a similar program at local community colleges.

Food insecurity affects many in our communities. Helping everyone requires behind-the-scenes collaboration among numerous partners and support from our member-owners and shoppers. That happens through improved access to fresh fruits and vegetables and local foods through SNAP incentive programs like Double Up Bucks. Frequent food drives for Listen Community Services and the Upper Valley Haven, and daily food donations to Willing Hands are making a difference. Money raised from our Pennies for Change program currently goes to those three organizations each month.

Stakeholders in the Upper Valley must continue to come together and work cooperatively to address the issue of food insecurity. At the Hanover Co-op, we’re ready to help.

EMILY ROGERS

Hanover

The writer is member education manager for the Hanover Co-op Food Stores.