Between Monday night and yesterday morning, posters were put up across campus labeling a male member of the class of ’99 a “rapist”.
Dean of the College Lee Pelton said no incident of sexual assault has been reported to the College involving the alleged assaulter; he has no knowledge of who is responsible for the posters, and it is unlikely the College will take action against those who put up the posters.
Hanover Police Chief Nick Giaccone said no one has filed a complaint with Hanover Police regarding an incident of sexual assault that involved the student on the poster.
“The College has not received, as of today, a complaint from an alleged victim of sexual assault,” Pelton said yesterday. “At this point we don’t have any knowledge of who put up the posters either.”
The posters, which were found on bulletin boards in dorms as well as on non-College trash cans, showed the Green Book picture of the accused sophomore.
The student depicted on the posters refused to comment.
Pelton said he instructed Safety and Security to take down the posters after he found one on a garbage can yesterday morning.
“I saw the poster, and I thought they were just inappropriate,” Pelton said. “They are unacceptable.”
Pelton said although the posters violate the student handbook rule against anonymous posters, “it is unlikely the College will take any disciplinary action against the person or people who put up the posters.”
According to the College Student Handbook, “All notices and signs posted by organizations in residence halls, special interest or academic affinity units, or College-owned undergraduate society, fraternity, or sorority houses must clearly state the name of the responsible organization and must be posted only on designated bulletin boards.”
Pelton said the College will attempt to identify the person or persons who put up the posters.
“I encourage and am hopeful that if a sexual assault has occurred that it be brought to our attention and that a complaint be made so that we can follow through,” Pelton said.
Pelton said he was bothered by the posters because he feels they violate a commitment to open discussion, which he feels is important to the College.
“One of our principles at Dartmouth is our belief in open and public debate,” Pelton said. “The posters that are done anonymously which label an individual without the benefit of the individual being able to comment do not contribute to the community’s ability to understand or its ability to grow.”
Pelton said he thinks the posters have the opposite effect of what was presumably intended.
“These kinds of communication close off debate,” Pelton said. “I believe they have the opposite effect of what is intended. The incident is really regrettable.”
Coordinator of the Sexual Abuse Awareness program Susan Marine said she has mixed feelings about the posters.
“I think if someone is trying to communicate that they have been raped, this is not the most productive way to communicate this information,” Marine said.
“Sexual assault is a matter which we take very seriously in this community,” she said.
Marine said she hopes the accuser will come forward and said she was not sure if the accuser used posters because of dissatisfaction with the College’s disciplinary processes.
“Coming forward is a decision only she can make,” Marine said. “The use of the posters may or may not reflect their feelings about the College.”
Marine said she suspects it was not the accuser, herself, who put up the posters.
“It’s less likely that it’s actually [the accuser] and more likely a person who has decided to take on responsibility on the [accuser’s] behalf,” Marine said. “I’m not sure a person who had been violated would take such a public stance. It doesn’t seem like that would logically happen.”
Marine said the posters would likely have a negative effect on the accuser, if she were truly a victim of sexual assault.
“If someone is doing this on behalf of [the accuser], it is really misguided,” Marine said. “I think whoever put them up was not really thinking about what this would do to” the accuser.
She said the accuser “could be made to feel self-conscious,” Marine said. “I think that it could be really damaging for someone who has gone through this.”
College Counsel and Director of External Relations Cary Clark said the student depicted on the posters might have grounds for a lawsuit if he can prove the accusations are false.
“It’s conceivable that something like that, if it were untrue, would be the basis for civil liability,” Clark said.
“It’s a pretty strong statement about the individual pictured in the poster, and it’s conceivable the man might have a cause of action against the people who put up the posters,” he said.
This is not the first time a Dartmouth student has been accused of sexual assault through posters.
In May, 1992, posters picturing a student from the Class of 1992, allegedly found guilty of sexual misconduct by the Committee on Standards, appeared across campus.
The posters warned that the student remained in Hanover despite his suspension from the College. The posters advised students to call Safety and Security if he was seen on campus.