SPCSA, GLC hold talk on sexual assault policies
By Iris Liu, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, February 15, 2013
Surrounded by One Wheelock’s signature warm ambience, roughly 10 students gathered on Thursday afternoon to discuss the College’s new sexual assault policy in a meeting co-sponsored by the Greek Leadership Council and the Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault.
The new policy, which places uniform sanctions on individuals found responsible of sexual assault by the Committee on Standards, was passed by the GLC earlier this week. Representatives from GLC and SPCSA hosted the meeting in an effort to expand campus awareness of the new policy and answer students’ questions, SPCSA president Elizabeth Hoffman ’13 said.
SPCSA’s symposium on sexual assault, originally planned for Winter Carnival weekend, was canceled due to the snowstorm. The rescheduled symposium will most likely take place April during Greenways, the College’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of coeducation.
The small group discussion focused on the College’s accountability system for sexual assault. To hold a perpetrator of sexual assault responsible, victims can consult with Safety and Security and Sexual Assault Awareness Program coordinators — who will hold a potential perpetrator accountable if the victim pursues a case — and initiate hearings through the Committee on Standards and individual Greek houses’ internal adjudication processes.
“We’re trying to work with existing processes to improve the system, rather than abolishing the Greek system as a whole,” SPCSA vice president Anna Fagin ’13 said. “There’s a common sentiment about working within the existing system, in addition to bringing in new structures.”
Students at the meeting shared their views on the sensitive nature of sexual assault and potential changes to the adjudication process that could ease the stress for victims.
In the current COS trial process, the accuser files an account of the incident, which the accused then reviews and responds to.
Students expressed concerns that this process could lead to bias in the investigation.
In the fall, the Dean of the College’s Office and the President’s Office supported SPCSA’s Key Informant Environmental Assessment, a research project regarding sexual assault and reporting at Dartmouth, Hoffman said.
“One of the main findings of the review was a deterred reporting based on how difficult it is to go through the COS process,” Hoffman said. “It can be very uncomfortable and very trying for the survivor.”
Due to these difficulties, SPCSA has worked to increase alternative options for students, Panhellenic Council secretary Maia Matsushita ’13 said.
Although the accused is required to be present during the COS hearing, the student pursuing the proceeding can participate in absentia or request a divider to avoid facing the accused student, she said.
Students can consult SAAP coordinators confidentially rather than report incidents directly to Safety and Security officers. Under the Clery Act, Safety and Security is required to investigate alleged incidents when presented with accusations that identify a possible perpetrator.
“For many survivors, the most important part of their healing and recovery process is a sense of control,” Hoffman said. “SAAP coordinators are not going to initiate anything with the information you give them without your explicit permission.”
SPCSA’s review was one of many initiatives that has resulted from meetings with students and College administrators, Fagin said.
Other additions include the Safe Ride program, a second SAAP coordinator and the Dartmouth Bystander Intervention program.
Under the new GLC policy, Greek organizations are required to participate in sexual assault education training. The Dartmouth Bystander Intervention program, crafted by clinical psychologist Jennifer Sayre specifically for the College, is one option for Greek houses, Panhellenic Council president Sarah Wildes ’13 said.
“Training members of Greek houses to be bystanders teaches everyone how to be more conscientious and responsible,” she said. “We’re trying to use the Greek structure in a positive way by giving Greek leaders tangible ways to affect issues in their own houses.”
All future new members of Greek houses will be required to sign judicial release forms to allow Greek Letter Organizations and Societies to access their judicial histories, in the same way members are currently required to release their academic records to the GLOS office.
Jillian Mayer ’14, who attended the event, said she only heard about the new GLC policy because her friends contributed to its creation.
“As a person who is outside of the Greek system, I tend to antagonize it a lot,” she said. “But knowing that really articulate, powerful, driven men and women are invested in making the system better makes me feel so much safer. I’m so grateful to them.”
Michael Tree ’13, another participant, emphasized the need for a cultural shift at the College.
“Dartmouth started off as an all-male school, and there seems to be some residual from the transition to being coed,” he said. “There needs to be a change in the way people think, even in the world at large. Why not start at Dartmouth?”
SPCSA has worked closely with the Dean of the College’s Office and the President’s Office as a conduit between students and administration, Fagin said.
“Through meetings like this, we’re able to send specific suggestions to COS, and the administration has been very responsive,” she said. “We’re all on the same team, and it really does feel that way.”