Dartmouth College announces plans to combat sexual misconduct

Posted January 3rd, 2019.

As It Appeared On
Union Leader

By PAUL FEELY New Hampshire Union Leader

HANOVER — Dartmouth College officials on Thursday announced plans for an outside review of each of the school’s academic departments and revisions to its sexual misconduct policy as part of efforts to promote a campus environment free from “abuse of power.”

Thursday’s announcement came almost two months after seven current and former Dartmouth students filed a lawsuit against the college after filing multiple complaints with administrators at the Ivy League school alleging sexual harassment and assault by three professors — complaints the students claim were ignored.

In an email, Dartmouth President Philip Hanlon said the college plans to create a single sexual misconduct policy for all faculty, students and staff.

In the email, Hanlon referred to the plan as the third pillar in a set of initiatives established to create a “welcoming, inclusive, and equitable environment” on campus. Hanlon wrote that the Campus Climate and Culture Initiative (C3I) follows Moving Dartmouth Forward (MDF), launched in 2015, and Inclusive Excellence (IE), launched in 2016.

“These three interlocking initiatives form a broad-based program to ensure that behaviors and relationships in all contexts on campus are consistent with our values,” the email said. “All of us are deeply committed to creating and maintaining a safe, inclusive climate where our community members can fulfill their academic and professional aspirations. At the start of the College’s 250th anniversary year, we want to set a higher standard for ourselves in creating a more respectful culture across our campus.”

In a press release, Dartmouth officials said C3I is based on a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), called Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

“Institutions can take concrete steps to reduce sexual harassment by making system-wide changes that demonstrate how seriously they take this issue and that reflect that they are listening to those who courageously speak up to report their sexual harassment experiences,” the report said.

C3I is made up of measurable actions that address recommendations from the report. It also addresses the types of sexual harassment that the report identifies: gender harassment, unwanted sexual attention and sexual coercion. School officials say Dartmouth has committed to adopt all of the higher-education-specific recommendations in the report.

An independent external advisory committee will evaluate Dartmouth’s progress on C3I programs.

The committee will be chaired by Gilda Barabino, dean of the Grove School of Engineering at the City College of New York. Barabino is a member of the task force that wrote the National Academies report.

Also on the committee are Joanne Conroy, a physician and president and CEO of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health, and Susan Finegan, a partner in the litigation section and chair of the pro bono committee at the Mintz Levin law firm.

School officials said the report will be made available to the public. An on-campus director will be designated to manage implementation of the initiative.

The initiative also calls for expanding capacity in the Title IX office and increasing mental health resources, providing additional resources for the hiring of faculty who are underrepresented in their fields, and collaborating with institutions committed to sharing ideas and best practices related to implementation of the NASEM report recommendations.

Thursday’s announcement came almost two months after seven women sued the Ivy league school, claiming years of harassment and assault by former psychology department faculty members William Kelley, Paul Whalen and Todd Heatherton. The suit claims the trio were subjecting graduate students to a wide range of sexual harassment including groping, sexting, hot tub parties and even rape.

In addition to $70 million in damages, the seven plaintiffs in the case — Andrea Courtney, Annemarie Brown, Kristina Rapuano, Vassiki Chauhan, Sasha Brietzke, Marissa Evans, and another woman who is proceeding anonymously — ask that Dartmouth be ordered to institute policies that will prevent similar abuse in the future.

They are represented by Sanford Heisler Sharp, the same firm that represented Chessy Prout in her lawsuit against St. Paul’s School.

“To the extent that Dartmouth now seeks to conform its policies to the requirements of federal law, we certainly support this long overdue step,” Deborah Marcuse, Partner at Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP and counsel to the seven women plaintiffs, said in a statement. “That said, Dartmouth continues in its failure to acknowledge or accept responsibility for the damage its long history of inaction has caused. Until Dartmouth commits to making the women whose ‘courage’ President Hanlon claims to ‘admire’ full partners in crafting and implementing reforms, each new ‘comprehensive initiative’ will continue to miss the mark.”

The state Attorney General’s office is engaged in its own criminal investigation of the conduct in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.

“Powerful accounts of sexual misconduct and the surfacing of painful memories have had a profound effect on us all,” Hanlon wrote in a recent letter to the Dartmouth community. “While change does not come easily for any institution, and there are no easy solutions, the stories that brave members of our community have shared strengthen our resolve to ensure that our learning environment is safe and inclusive for all of its members.”

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