The Week

by THE DARTMOUTH EDITORIAL BOARD | 5/24/02 5:00am

A Divisive Stance

Hillel has taken a dangerous stance by adopting the statement, "Wherever we stand, we stand with Israel," for it is irresponsible for a religious organization to support unequivocally a government's actions.

Hillel's misguided decision is further complicated by the questionable process leading up to the advertisement's submission to The Dartmouth. The organization voted with only a portion of its members present, taking a step that potentially alienated many Jewish students on campus from the center of the Jewish community. It would have been better to make an advertisement representing a viewpoint constructed by Dartmouth's Jewish students rather than appropriating the words of Hillel's national campaign.

Taking a political stance is always a potentially hazardous choice for a religious organization that should aim to be inclusive. Hillel, by giving itself distinct political beliefs, excludes those Jewish students who do not necessarily agree.

Preemptive Excuses

"There will be another terrorist attack. We will not be able to stop it."

This statement of helplessness made earlier this week by FBI Director Robert Mueller is a politically motivated act that undermines Americans' faith in their government.

By forcefully promoting an image of vulnerability, Mueller sets a standard so low that the FBI cannot be held accountable for any future attacks. Considered along with the suspicious timing of the release -- amid questions of warning signs before the September attacks -- and similar statements made by Vice President Cheney the government appears to be aiming more to protect itself than to stop terrorism. Meanwhile, the supposedly official Homeland Security warning system remains at a yellow-alert level amid these panicked declarations. Buying political insurance at the expense of frightening Americans is not a proper tactic for any government.

A government should protect its citizens, so the Bush Administration's time would be better spent by providing information on practical safety measures and supporting the public servants who dedicate themselves to protecting us from terror.

A Step Backward at Harvard

Among the most significant achievements of the students' rights movement of the 1960s was the creation of disciplinary committees that include faculty, students and administrative representatives. The cooperative model for hearing charges of academic and other violations, a model now widespread on college campuses such as Dartmouth, means that "dean's justice" does not prevail.

At Harvard, the faculty recently took a step backward.

In a vote that was not preceded by any campus debate, Harvard's faculty voted to require victims of sexual assault to present significant evidence before their claims can be investigated by the university's disciplinary body. The policy appears to be an effort to streamline Harvard's judicial system and protect the university from costly lawsuits.

The result, however, is an unfair set of rules that puts an extra burden on victims of sexual assault. Experts in public health estimate that only one in eight rape cases are ever reported. Not only will Harvard's new policy increase the number of assailants who don't face consequences, but it ignores the reality that most instances of rape don't have witnesses and that it often takes time for victims to muster the courage to seek justice.

The faculty vote on the new policy was sadly unilateral. "Faculty's justice," if not "dean's justice," certainly prevailed, with all its potential for unfairness and absence of meaningful discourse.

Dartmouth should draw lessons from the situation at Harvard. Instead of adopting a policy unfair to victims of sexual assault, the College should recognize the need for more, not less, student input on sexual assault policy. It should also reform a system that punishes students who commit academic dishonesty more severely, with three terms of dismissal, than it punishes rapists, who receive one.