COSSA fails to meet since May
By Noah Reichblum And Lindsay Ellis, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, October 12, 2012
The Committee on Student Safety and Accountability, a 12-member advisory group created in May to formulate short and long-term solutions to address hazing, high-risk drinking and sexual assault, has neither met since its initial meeting in the spring nor reached out to the local and national partner organizations outlined in former College President Jim Yong Kim’s March 22 and May 8 press releases, according to COSSA members.
The committee, co-chaired by Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson, consists of four students, four faculty members and three additional staff members, including Director of Safety and Security and College Proctor Harry Kinne.
Johnson said that the committee has not met since the spring because the new academic calendar has created scheduling conflicts among members. As a result, “there is no progress to report at this time.”
Hannah Decker ’13, committee member and president of Kappa Delta Epsilon sorority, said she is disappointed by the committee’s failure to move forward.
“We met one time in the spring, and then there’s literally been radio silence,” she said.
COSSA was not involved in the development or implementation of the alcohol and harm reduction policies that went into effect on Sep. 21, though the short time frame between COSSA’s founding and the policies’ formulation could have accounted for the committee’s exclusion, Decker said. COSSA member and Greek Leadership Council Moderator Duncan Hall ’13 said, however, that decisions regarding these policies could have profited from COSSA’s involvement.
“It makes logical sense for those policies to be discussed through that committee,” Hall said. “I still think it could have been beneficial for that committee to oversee the policies.”
Johnson has met with student groups and conducted forums on issues of sexual assault, binge drinking and hazing, although Hall said he is unaware of COSSA’s level of involvement in these specific discussions and follow-up actions.
COSSA originally planned to meet two or three times each term, Hall said. The committee was originally intended to produce a slate of recommendations within 12 to 14 months.
“It’s concerning because there was a greater goal that was to be achieved through this committee,” Hall said. “I question the seriousness in which the Dean’s Office takes this goal.”
Panhellenic Council President Sarah Wildes ’13 noted that the committee may be irrelevant, given the existence of similar student-led organizations.
“I think that this committee was superfluous to the more important, student-initiated conversations held between students and faculty and administration,” she said in an email to The Dartmouth.
In his May 8 letter to students, faculty and staff, Kim said that COSSA would work with the Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault and the Dartmouth College Health Improvement Program.
SPCSA has not been contacted by COSSA since the announcement, according to SPCSA Chair Elizabeth Hoffman ’13, who said that SPCSA members were unaware that the two committees would collaborate until Kim’s announcement was published.
“It makes sense that they’re not talking to SPCSA because they’re not talking to each other,” Hoffman said. “I was surprised that President Kim chose to insert the committee’s name without working closely with us to describe what relationship he envisioned for our two committees.”
COSSA’s mission to incorporate faculty and administrator perspectives distinguishes the organization from student-led initiatives, Hall said.
Several students said they were not familiar with COSSA and its goal.
“If COSSA had made significant change on campus, more students would be aware of its existence,” Dave Connolly ’13 said.
Lisa Berreman ’13 questioned its necessity on campus in light of the committee’s failure to meet or produce tangible policies.
“It’s a good idea to have, but if you’re not going to follow through on it, then why have it in the first place?” she said.
Because of existing policies and student focus groups that address binge drinking and sexual assault, COSSA does not serve a distinct role at the College, Nate Davis ’14 said.
Berreman said that the administration likely considered the College’s public image when Kim and Johnson created COSSA last May.
“There was the issue of hazing and Andrew Lohse [’12], and if they didn’t make a move, they would have gotten more PR backlash,” she said.
Several students said that the administration must consider student opinion when making policy decisions.
Given COSSA’s membership composition and available resources, the committee has the power to implement successful policy changes, according to Decker.
“I think the committee maybe still has the potential to pursue different strategies for next fall or to make things safer in the winter and spring, but I think optimally things would have gotten done before the fall,” Decker said.
COSSA members Chelsea Suydam ’14, co-chair and biology professor Robert McClung, Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Students Lisa Thum and Native American studies professor Bruce Duthu declined to comment.
Other COSSA members could not be reached for comment by press time.
Staff writer Stephanie McFeeters and Clifton Lyons contributed reporting to this article.