Administrators face pressure to end the mishandling of assault investigations and put effective prevention measures in place
Dartmouth College President Philip Hanlon wants parents of women on his campus to know that the school is working to address the issue of sexual assault. During a hour-long conversation on New Hampshire Public Radio Tuesday, Hanlon said the school is “open” and “upfront.” “You should not be worried if a campus is talking about [sexual assault],” Hanlon said. “You should be worried if a campus is not talking about it.”
And Dartmouth is certainly talking about it. The school is hosting nearly 300 representatives from over 60 colleges, national experts, and government officials for a four day summit on preventing campus sexual assault, just days after a Congressional survey found that 41% of colleges polled have not investigated a sexual assault on their campuses in the past five years.
The Department of Education also launched investigations into 55 schools across the country this year, including Dartmouth, for allegedly mishandling of incidents involving an assault. This week’s summit is an opportunity for school and government officials to discuss best practices for addressing the issue, with representatives from Duke University, Rice University, Pomona College and Georgetown University on hand to discuss interactions between students and school administrators.
Hanlon said Tuesday that Dartmouth intends to position itself as a national leader in the effort to combat sexual assault on campus. He’s been in office for one year and named the issue one of his top priorities. In June, the college implemented a new policy for handling reports of sexual assault that requires outside investigators to look into complaints The policy also requires mandatory expulsion for some perpetrators of assault.
“As a nation we will reach a tipping point where nonconsensual sexual encounters on our college campuses are a thing of the past,” U.S. Representative Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH) said Sunday at an opening session of the summit. Research has shown that one in five college women will become a victim of an attempted or actual sexual assault while on campus. A TIME cover story from May detailed the crisis, which has been called an epidemic, and also examined the efforts to curb the trend.
On Monday, representatives from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice addressed the summit attendees affirming the federal government’s commitment to keeping student’s safe. “Every student needs to be safe,” said Catherine Lhamon of the Department of Education’s office of Civil Rights. Attendees have also been actively engaged on Twitter where conversations around the absence of males, student voices, and the need for more collaboration proliferated.