WISE works to expand its role on campus

by Erin Lee | 2/9/15 8:19pm

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WISE launched a new website and increaesd support groups and informational posters this term.
Source: Catherine Most/The Dartmouth

WISE@Dartmouth is increasing its presence on campus to give students greater access to resources through a new website, support groups and informational posters, co-chair Caeli Cavanagh ’14 said. WISE@Dartmouth coordinates opportunities for students to get involved with WISE of the Upper Valley, an advocacy and crisis center for victims of domestic and sexual violence, WISE training coordinator Chelsea Williams said.

She said that WISE gave presentations at her high school in Tunbridge, Vermont, so while many people within her area knew about the organization, she found that Dartmouth students were primarily unaware of WISE.

“I thought that was an oversight because there’s a lot of benefits to how WISE does their work — the confidentiality, having privileged communication, meaning they can’t be subpoenaed for anything,” Cavanagh said.

When she became chair of WISE@Dartmouth last year, she wanted the organization to expand its role on campus and take advantage of opportunities to reach out to the student body to make sure students know about the different resources available to them.

“I think a lot of students are worried about utilizing College services because they feel there’s some sort of conflict of interest,” she said. “Whether or not that’s really the case, if that causes someone to not feel comfortable going to College services and they don’t know about any alternatives, then as a community we’ve failed to support them.”

In addition to outreach, WISE@Dartmouth aims to recruit students to become WISE advocates and acts as an internal support structure for them, as the work can be “grueling,” Cavanagh said. In fact, WISE@Dartmouth began as a way for Dartmouth students gain access to Tucker Foundation cars, which is necessary to become a WISE advocate, she said. The organization now has a total of five advocates, a significant accomplishment since advocacy training requires a 30-hour time commitment, she said. She added that four more people are planning on going through training in the spring,

WISE launched its new website, which includes a webpage especially for Dartmouth students, at the beginning of this term, Williams said. WISE staff considered how students access information and opted to give students the option to find support online as opposed to distributing brochures, she said. The Dartmouth-specific webpage contains information pertaining to on-campus resources and general information about sexual assault tailored to students.

“Students can get the support and the information they want where it’s most successful for them, on their own terms, on their own time,” Williams said.

In the past month, WISE@Dartmouth also started running on-campus support groups for self-identifying female survivors who want to talk about their experiences, an initiative that the organization wants to continue and expand, co-chair Ruby Hopkins ’17 said.

WISE@Dartmouth is reaching out to Greek houses in particular to raise awareness on campus by giving introductory presentations to the houses.

“Greek houses have largely been looked at as part of the problem,” Cavanagh said. “We’re looking at Greek houses as a social force on campus. We’re thinking about how we can partner with them to make sure it’s safe for everybody.”

As part of the Greek proposal’s recommendation that houses post the telephone numbers of various resources on campus, WISE is providing houses with posters that have their hotline number on them.

In the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” plan, College President Phil Hanlon mentioned WISE in the campus health and safety portion of the report, reaffirming its importance on campus.

“The College will continue to enhance our partnership with WISE,” the plan states. “This partnership will strengthen our existing confidential resources for survivors of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking.”

Cavanagh said that she was happy to see that WISE was included in the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” plan, though the organization is not directly involved with the plan’s development and execution.

Title IX coordinator Heather Lindkvist wrote in an email that though it is premature to discuss how WISE will engage in other “Moving Dartmouth Forward” initiatives, the College will continue to seek opportunities to collaborate with WISE in prevention, education and outreach efforts.

WISE@Dartmouth is planning an event in April that will allow survivors to tell their stories and will invite various groups on campus to perform dances or songs centered around calling attention to sexual assault, stalking and domestic violence, Hopkins said.