Dartmouth has always been the problem child of the Ivy League, but President Hanlon’s summit last week on the “extreme behavior” plaguing the university is an unexpectedly candid admittance of the many toxic and harmful practices that characterize parts of student life on the Dartmouth campus. The school is notorious for its Greek life antics and threats of sexual violence on campus—the acquittal of Parker Gilbert, formerly D’16, now a former Dartmouth student, accused of raping a fellow classmate, has been the subject of nationwide media attention.
Hanlon’s summit (and accompanying op-ed in the Boston Globe) comes on the heels of an announcement about proposed changes to the College’s sexual assault policy. On March 18, the President Hanlon and Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson released a letter calling for comment on its revised sexual assault policy. Two of the main changes included in the new policy include adding a trained external investigator to the adjudication process and mandatory expulsion in cases where:
- “the student found responsible for sexual assault engaged in sexual penetration, oral-genital contact, or oral-anal contact by use of force, threat, or purposeful incapacitation of the reporting person; or
- the student found responsible for sexual assault engaged in sexual penetration, oral-genital contact, or oral-anal contact and was motivated by bias on account of race, color, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, or disability; or
- the student found responsible for sexual assault had previously been found responsible for sexual assault.”
Expulsion is also the first punishment considered at peer institutions like Yale but the process often falls apart in the adjudication and investigation process. Former opinion editor of The Dartmouth Lorelei Yang believes that more effective reform should be aimed at the adjudication process.
“It’s a mandate that doesn’t have enforcement, it’s like an unfunded mandate,” she said. “There’s really no visible enforcement mechanism I can see at the moment.”
Yang’s frustrations stem from cases like Gilbert’s. The jury acquitted Gilbert of five counts of sexual assault, based primarily on the accuser’s roommate’s testimony, who was in the next room at time of the alleged rape—she stated that she did not hear cries, loud noises or other sounds consistent with nonconsensual sex.
Freshman Dartmouth student Rachel Glikin called the trial outcome “truly tragic” and said she was shocked to see it result in an acquittal. However, she believes that the problems currently plaguing Dartmouth are not endemic to it and are simply representative of larger cultural issues nationwide. She wrote:
“From my perspective, a outspoken, small group of students are magnifying and labeling things as ‘Dartmouth problems’ when in reality racism, sexism, and crimes (as disgusting as they are) are part of our world problems. The fact that they occur on this campus is horrible, but not the college’s or administrations fault, and therefore it is unfair and unrealistic to look to them to solve them immediately. Dartmouth’s imperfections are not unique to Dartmouth, and it’s unfortunate that they are being labeled as such.”
Whether or not this is true, President Hanlon is aiming to improve Dartmouth’s climate no matter what (and probably save those dropping application numbers). During his summit speech, he announced the creation of the President’s Steering Committee consisting of students, faculty, and alumni to focus on issues of drinking and sexual assault. However, the kind of grassroots campaign Hanlon is seeking to instigate will face difficulty in overcoming the general student apathy that can be found at every college campus, not just Dartmouth—according to The Dartmouth, a “Summit 2.0” meeting held a few days after Hanlon’s speech attracted only 20 students.