Author of online post identified as member of Class of 2017

“She might be reluctant,” read a Jan. 10 post on Bored at Baker, outlining the steps one should take to rape a female member of the Class of 2017, who requested anonymity based on the personal nature of these online attacks. “Just tell her to relax.” The student targeted in the post, which identified her name and residential cluster, was in the library when she read it. Later that day, while in class, she broke down.

“It just really hit me,” she said. “I started crying and needed to leave.” After emailing her dean, Natalie Hoyt, Safety and Security escorted her from class to the dean’s office, at which point the post was reported to Safety and Security and to Hanover Police.

For the next three nights, the student slept in a secret room reserved by the housing office for emergencies. She changed residence halls shortly thereafter.

The author of the Jan. 10 Bored at Baker post, a male member of the Class of 2017, is no longer on campus. He will return to appear before the Committee of Standards for violating the Standards of Conduct.

The female member of the Class of 2017 targeted in the post alleges that the post’s author sexually assaulted her last fall, but that she chose not to report the assault to either Hanover Police or Safety and Security.

Assistant dean and director of case management Kristi Clemens said that the female student came to the administration with the Bored at Baker post but had not filed a sexual assault report.

The College identified the author of the post last week with assistance from the female student, Clemens said in an email. Upon confirming his identity, Safety and Security investigators retrieved the male student. Once the post’s author’s identity was confirmed, the College issued a no-contact order.

Acting chief of the Hanover Police Frank Moran said they opened a case on Jan. 10, the day the post was published online. He said that because Hanover Police does not have a Dartmouth email address and thus cannot log in to Bored at Baker, all information must come from sources with access to the website. When a Bored at Baker post is reported to the police, they launch an investigation to determine if the law has been violated.

“From what I’ve seen of the content, it is clearly disgusting and morally irresponsible, but I’m not convinced that we have a crime that we would be able to prosecute,” Moran said.

New Hampshire defense attorney Andrew Winters said it is unlikely that the post’s author would be arrested and charged with a crime.

“It’s obviously very hateful and vile, but I think that it’s highly doubtful it would be sustainable as a criminal case,” he said. “It’s not a specific enough threat against the person.”

The post, however, may qualify as criminal defamation, which is a class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine under New Hampshire law, Winters said.

Moran, who was unaware that the post’s author had been identified when interviewed on Tuesday afternoon, said that one consideration during the investigation was the improbability of identifying the poster given the department’s resources. Due to Bored at Baker’s design, it is nearly impossible to identify website users, even with assistance from its administrator.

After an individual threatened in a Bored at Baker post to bomb last year’s commencement ceremony, Hanover Police contacted the FBI, which identified the source of post, Moran said. In this case, however, Hanover Police did not contact the FBI.

“We can only go to the FBI for what we consider the most heinous of crimes and the most serious of threats to the community,” he said.

Moran said that the police may reevaluate the case since learning that the post’s author has been identified,

Upon hearing the initial news that the police would not prosecute the author of the post, the target of the post decided to bring the post to public attention on Feb. 4. She posted a screen shot and a description of her experience in the Class of 2017 Facebook page.

“I can’t do this alone,” she said of her decision to post in the Facebook group. “We can’t have a culture where it’s okay to harass me and call me names like that. I thought I should address this to my classmates, so I did.”

After the Hanover Police department chose not to pursue the case, the College launched its own investigation into the post. The female student said she was unaware at the time of her Facebook post that the College would commence its own judiciary process.

When a criminal investigation is underway, the College yields to Hanover Police’s authority and does not start its judicial proceedings, Clemens said.

“That’s the lag time that I think people are asking questions about,” she said.

The post’s author is currently subject to the College’s judicial process. Under the typical judicial process, Safety and Security compiles a report for the Office of Judicial Affairs, which determines if the Dartmouth Standards of Conduct have been violated.

Clemens said that as a private college, Dartmouth’s policies sometimes hold students to a standard higher than that of the law.

The target of the post said she first spoke with her assigned dean, Hoyt, in November about being harassed on Bored at Baker. She was also seeing a therapist at Dick’s House.

“I passed the person going to class one day, and it made me tear up because I felt like he was responsible,” she said. “What if this person gets angry at me and tries to come after me?”

She alleged that the assault occurred following a residence hall party that took place during the first six weeks of fall term. At that time, the Greek First-Year Safety and Risk Reduction policy, which barred members of the Class of 2017 from entering Greek events where alcohol was served, was still in effect. She said she chose not to report the assault.

The name-calling on Bored at Baker began in November, she said, with anonymous online posters identifying her by name and labeling her “Choates whore,” as well as commenting on her intelligence. There are currently 21 posts on the website from between November and Jan. 10 that use the phrase. All posts referencing her name or initials have been deleted.

“I talked to the dean’s office because I was really depressed about it and upset and mortified that someone would be saying those hurtful things, and they told me there was nothing they could do,” she said. “I had to stay at Dick’s House because of how I was feeling.”

While the target of the post did not file an official report with the College in the fall when the harassment began, she said the response from administrators she spoke with seemed to indicate a lack of options.

The target of the post said she contacted her alleged assaulter in November via email, asking him if he had written comments about her online, and he responded saying she should contact the administration if she felt she was being harassed. The posts continued.

The female member of the Class of 2017 said the Jan. 10 post stood out from the others. The post advocated providing the target with alcohol and assaulting her.

The student body has reacted passionately to the Bored at Baker post. Panhellenic Council, along with the presidents of each of the eight sororities that it represents, and the Interfraternity Council sent campus-wide emails condemning the post.

“As women on campus, we are only as protected and safe as the least safe member on campus,” Panhellenic Council president Eliana Piper said.

The incident also inspired a gathering on the Green Monday night, where student leaders addressed hundreds of students, then sang the alma mater.

“I feel like a lot of people have been really supportive, and that shows how Dartmouth really is,” the target of the post said.

She also said that she is pleased with the administration’s response.

“They’re doing everything they can, and I feel like I have so much support there,” she said. “I just wish that it had happened sooner.”

The Department of Safety and Security could not be reached for comment by press time.

Hoyt, citing a desire to respect the students’ privacy, declined to comment.

The article has been revised:

Update: February 13, 2014 

In an initial version of the story, The Dartmouth did not include the reason why the female member of the Class of 2017 requested anonymity. The story has been revised.

 

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