Crady outlines COS review, policy reform

by Allyson Bennett | 9/24/08 2:28am

After considering an extensive review of the Committee on Standards, Dean of the College Tom Crady announced that the standard of evidence for cases before COS will remain a "preponderance of the evidence" and that College disciplinary sanctions -- other than suspension or separation -- will not be reported outside of the College. Crady announced his decision in a letter to the Dartmouth community on Sept. 19.

The policies, which will take effect Fall term, stem from a review of COS by a committee of students, faculty and administrators that began in fall 2007 and include many of the review committee's recommendations. Several of these recommendations conflict with those of a 2006 Student Assembly COS review task force, and the Assembly will conduct its own review of COS policy in cases of sexual assault this fall.

Although the Assembly recommended that the College change the standard of proof in cases before COS from a "preponderance of the evidence" to "clear and convincing evidence," Crady decided after meeting with more than 55 students to retain the original standard, as recommended by the nine-member COS Review Committee. This standard, he said in an interview with The Dartmouth, better reflects the interests of the individual and the community, and follows a United States Department of Education policy, which dictates that a preponderance of the evidence standard is more appropriate in sexual assault cases.

"For me, the bottom line is that membership in our community is a privilege and includes a responsibility to do no harm to members of the community or the community as a whole," Crady said in the letter. "When it appears that our Standards of Conduct have been violated and harm has been done, our process for evaluating and addressing the situation must be fair, equitable and educational."

Student Body President Molly Bode '09 said in an interview with The Dartmouth that although the Assembly had hoped to increase the burden of proof, she understood that the College did not want to increase COS' role in collecting evidence, which a "clear and convincing" standard would require.

"That's probably the only thing that I see as the biggest problem with the report," Bode said of Crady's decision to keep the "preponderance of the evidence" standard. "Otherwise, I was pretty happy with it."

Crady also announced in the letter that there will be no separate hearing process for sexual assault cases "at this time." An Assembly committee will review Dartmouth's judicial approach to sexual assault as part of a broader examination of issues of sexual assault on campus beginning this fall, Bode said, and hopes to reach a decision by the winter. Crady said he welcomes such a review and wants to leave the option of a separate judicial process for sexual assault cases open after students had "wrestled" with the issue. The Assembly has not yet made a formal decision regarding such a process, Bode told The Dartmouth in July.

Crady also retained the current process of questioning witnesses whereby only the COS chair and members of the COS panel question witness, and students appearing before the panel submit proposed questions to the chair rather than asking the witness directly, as the Assembly task force recommended. The Assembly has since come to agree with the COS Review Committee that accused students should not directly question witnesses.

"We don't want to make this an adversarial session," Crady said, adding that he was impressed by the current method of questioning witnesses after he watched several COS hearings and believed it allowed witnesses to answer questions without feeling attacked.

In addition to announcing decisions regarding COS, Crady also stated in the letter that College discipline sanctions -- now to be called 'College probation' -- will no longer be reported as part of a student's disciplinary record to graduate programs and employers except in cases of suspension or separation. All sanctions, however, may be reported to programs that request full information about a student's College record if the student provides a release.

Furthermore, first-time alcohol offenses will no longer be subject to the College disciplinary process. Students will instead participate in Dartmouth's alcohol education and intervention program, run by Brian Bowden, coordinator of the Alcohol and Other Drug Education Programs at the College.

In a further departure from current policy, COS will now take a student's "level of intent" into account in determining appropriate sanctions. Intent will incorporate factors such as the clarity of expectations established by a professor and mitigating circumstances.

The College will also increase education outreach efforts regarding COS and New Hampshire's alcohol laws, a recommendation of the COS review committee that Bode supported.

Bode also applauded the decision to begin offering extended COS advisor training sessions and said the Assembly will help with the training and encourage people to become advisors.

The last formal review of COS was about 13 years ago, Crady said, but he said he hopes to review it on a three-year basis. One year after the implementation of the new policies, Crady hopes to meet with staff members and students about the policies' effectiveness.

"I'm open to examining the process," he said. "I do think what we've done is for the better."

The Assembly has not decided whether to issue a formal response to Crady's letter, Bode said.