COSSA recommendations see progress

Of the 21 recommendations published last fall by the Committee on Student Safety and Accountability, six have been executed, according to a progress report published on the Dean of the College website last month. Two recommendations are in the process of being implemented, seven are in the planning stages and six are currently under review.

COSSA, a committee formed in February 2012 by former College President Jim Yong Kim, drafted recommendations to ameliorate high-risk drinking, sexual assault and hazing on campus, with the overall aim of improving the quality of student life and education.

“I don’t remember a time quite like this, when the College President and many administrators have so much willingness to make progress,” said director of health promotion and student wellness Aurora Matzkin ’97. “As an alumna, it is exciting to see all the changes happening.”

The recommendations addressed eight categories: residential life, curricular investment, campus climate, faculty and staff, the judicial system, the Committee on Standards sexual misconduct hearing board, accountability for students found responsible for sexual assault and the Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students program.

Completed recommendations include developing an Intergroup Dialogue program, publishing timely reports on judicial outcomes, expanding first responder and motivational interviewing training for faculty and staff and selecting and training a core pool of Committee on Standards members who specialize in hearing sexual assault cases.

Matzkin said that the proposed sexual assault policy aligns with COSSA recommendations on accountability for students found responsible of sexual assault. The policy, which mandates expulsion for perpetrators of forcible penetration, is currently posted for public comment. The College plans to enact the policy by this summer.

The Intergroup Dialogue program, launched by the Office of Pluralism and Leadership last fall, prompts students to discuss identities like race, sexual orientation and socioeconomic class.

The program focuses on community building and development, said biology professor Ryan Calsbeek, a member of the committee on student life.

Women’s and gender studies professor Giavanna Munafo said she has been involved in several initiatives born from the report’s recommendations on faculty and staff, including a first responder training program and a motivational interviewing program.

The first responder training program teaches faculty to assist students and colleagues who disclose incidents of sexual violence, consisting of 90-minute discussion sessions hosted by the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning and the Sexual Abuse Awareness Program.

Every employee, Munafo said, should understand the resources available for survivors of sexual assault.

Matzkin said that nearly 400 staff members have received motivational interviewing training since 2012, and the training was significantly expanded to faculty members and undergraduate advisors last term.

Recommendations in progress include developing “living learning communities” and extending the BASICS program.

Calsbeek said that the proposed communities, including Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network in Residence, Global Village, Triangle House and a design-your-own option, are part of COSSA’s efforts to enrich students’ residential lives with experiential learning outside the classroom. They will open in fall 2014.

Progress on the BASICS recommendations has focused on expanding the alcohol intervention to Greek houses.

The report’s campus climate suggestion, listed as “under review” in the progress report, recommends data collection and analysis regarding the effects of gender, race, sexuality, class and other factors on the experiences of students, faculty and staff at Dartmouth.

The report did not include additional recommendations regarding campus climate because it is a “fluid and dynamic” topic subject to frequent changes, Calsbeek said.

Of nine students interviewed, most saw the College’s initiatives as a step in the right direction, though some disagreed on the efficacy of expanding the BASICS program.

Kainan Zhou ’16 lauded the College’s effort to build residential neighborhoods and enhance residential continuity.

“The kind of system we have right now doesn’t facilitate connections among students,” Zhou said. “Especially because in the first year, people build relationships with their floors, but afterward, everyone goes off to different places.”

Top Stories