Opinion Asks

We asked our staff: What do you think about the new sexual assault policy?

Making the move toward a zero-tolerance sexual assault policy is a crucial step forward for our school and will hopefully inspire other colleges to do the same. It is appalling to consider that a convicted offender could remain on the campus where they committed their crime. The mandatory external investigator model combined with a 60-day time limit for investigations could also minimize the pain inflicted upon those going through the sanctioning process. The policy will encourage individuals who do not feel comfortable with the sanctioning being an entirely internal investigation to report assaults. The administration should codify the SPCSA recommendations in their final revision of the sexual assault policy in order to ensure the comfort and safety of the victim.
­— Emily Albrecht ’16

The new policy is an improvement upon the old one, but questions will linger about what constitutes sexual assault because of the ambiguity of our definitions thereof. The new policy alleviates some of this ambiguity by defining sexual assault as “unwanted or unwelcome touching of a sexual nature, including fondling, oral sex, anal or vaginal intercourse, digital penetration, penetration with an object, or other sexual activity that occurs without valid Consent.”

The policy defines consent as “clear and unambiguous agreement, expressed in mutually understandable words or actions, to engage in a particular activity. Consent can be withdrawn by either party at any point. Consent must be voluntarily given and is not valid if (1) obtained by physical force, coercion, or threat; or (2) the initiating party, acting as a reasonable person, would have known that the non-initiating party was incapable of giving consent because of incapacitation, unconsciousness, or any circumstance rendering the non-initiating party unaware that sexual activity is occurring or is about to occur. Consent to engage in one sexual activity, or past agreement to engage in a particular sexual activity, cannot be presumed to constitute consent to engage in a different sexual activity or to engage again in a sexual activity.”

At Dartmouth, as at many colleges, sex often occurs after alcohol consumption, often in both members. Since there is no discernible threshold at which someone becomes too incapacitated by way of alcohol to give consent, what may appear as sex may in fact be sexual assault. Drunk and seemingly consensual sex could be sexual assault. A victim may wake up the next morning and realize someone took advantage of him or her, even if he or she did not or could not express opposition at the time. Until hook-up culture changes or Dartmouth is able to more clearly define what constitutes an inability to give consent, the nebulous classification will continue to cast confusion over sexual assault cases, an unfortunate occurrence which may in part explain why so many instances of sexual assault go unreported.
— Kyle Bigley ’17

I believe that the new sexual assault policy is a step in the right direction as it shows that Dartmouth is committed to combatting and ending sexual assault. I agree 100 percent that those found guilty of sexual assault should be expelled immediately. Ultimately, however, the success of the policy should be judged based on whether the number of sexual assaults on campus declines, which can never fully be known. Although I strongly support mandatory expulsion, our main focus should be on preventing the assaults before they happen, not on dealing with them after the fact. The goal should be to prevent sexual assault, period. One could argue that because there is now a harsher punishment for sexual assault, it will deter people from committing sexual assault and therefore decrease the number of assaults that occur on campus. I disagree. The threat of jail does not stop people from committing crimes, and the threat of expulsion will not in itself defeat sexual assault on this campus, especially when alcohol and other drugs may be involved. So while I support the College’s new sexual assault policy, I believe that we should not stop there. There is more work to be done on the education side. Expelling the perpetrator does not change the fact that the assault occurred, and it does not by any means make the victim forget the assault either.
— Joseph Geller ’16

The new policy represents a marked and positive change in administrators’ attitudes towards sexual assault policy, but the real test will be its implementation over the next year. With this change the College has an opportunity to transform student attitudes towards sexual assault on campus. I’d like to see an aggressive education campaign from Parkhurst that works toward campus-wide awareness of the new sexual assault policies and their ramifications. It’s one thing to make a 12-page document available to campus in an email, but it would be far more consequential to create and distribute the question-and-answer PSA outlining the policy’s salient points. I challenge the administration to take advantage of this opportunity to change our campus’ attitude towards sexual assault. For the sake of the student body and the school’s image, let’s see some accessibility and leadership accompanying this positive policy shift.
— Isaac Green ’17

While the College’s reformed sexual assault policy is a step in the right direction, it is by no means a cure-all. Some of the recent changes show signs of progress. The newly adopted zero-tolerance clause, coupled with the assistance of outside investigators, has the potential to act as a deterrent. However, unless significant changes in campus culture accompany these new provisions, the advancements made in the new policy will never realize their full potential. Dartmouth students must embrace their individual role in combatting sexual assault.
— Sarah Perez ’17

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