To the Editor:
The Dartmouth is to be commended for its recent publication of op-ed pieces regarding the issue of sexual abuse and the College's disciplinary system. Although I cannot comment on the specifics of the cases involved, due to confidentiality restrictions, I do want to provide some general information about the Committee on Standards process and the COS record from recent years on cases involving allegations of sexual abuse.
Most of the complaints regarding sexual abuse that have been made and brought to the College's disciplinary system involve encounters between two individuals who are alone with one another. In other words, there are no direct eyewitnesses to these incidents and the hearings often become "he said, she said" situations. In order for the COS to conclude that a student has violated a College rule, a majority of members of a COS Conduct Panel must be persuaded that a preponderance of the evidence supports such a finding. In other words, to find a violation under this standard, the COS must conclude that it is more likely than not that the student committed the alleged violation. (1999-2000 Dartmouth College Student Handbook, p. 148.)
During my nearly six years as Undergraduate Judicial Affairs Officer, I have learned that I can never predict the outcome of a COS hearing. I have witnessed nearly all the hearings held during that time and I strongly believe that the process is fundamentally fair.
Statistics from 1987 to present show that the COS heard a total of 27 cases of alleged sexual abuse. Sixteen cases resulted in findings of violations and eleven students were found not responsible for violation. Sanctions in those cases have ranged from some length of College Discipline to permanent Separation from the College, with some length of suspension being the most common sanction.
I strongly urge students who believe that they haven been victims of sexual abuse to talk with Susan Marine, the College's Sexual Abuse Awareness Coordinator. I know that the disciplinary system may not be for everyone. But, I urge those students to consider the College's disciplinary system as an option. I am always available to meet with students to talk about the process. Students should also be aware that they always have the option to file reports with the Department of Safety and Security and/or their Class Dean. Complaints can also be filed with the Hanover Police Department.
Finally, I urge all Dartmouth students to read the Committee on Standards Annual Report which is distributed each year through Hinman boxes and to attend next term's COS Mock Hearing. Look for announcements at the beginning of winter term for the time and location.
Thank you once again for your coverage of this important issue.