Verbum Ultimum: Shirking Their Duties

by The Dartmouth Editorial Board | 5/9/13 10:00pm

Our three-part series on sexual assault, published last week, noted the Committee on Standards' failure to release a community report since the 2009-2010 academic year. Prior to 2010, COS released annual reports detailing its operations, and is expected to publish these reports annually, according to the Dartmouth Student Handbook. It is both irresponsible and unethical for the individuals charged with writing these reports to shirk their duties. This abdication of responsibility is especially galling given student uproar related to sexual assault over the past weeks and months.

When asked to explain the absence of these reports, assistant dean for campus life Kate Burke said that Undergraduate Judicial Affairs is "in transition," and claimed that the next report will be issued before the end of the summer. This response is simply unacceptable. No transition can excuse two years of inaction. Over the last few years, there has been significant turnover in many parts of the administration, most recently with senior vice president and senior advisor to the president David Spalding being named dean of the College of Business at Iowa State University. Nonetheless, administrative positions have not simply been left empty; they have been replaced by interim hires. One could reasonably expect that procedural actions, such as the release of annual COS reports, would still occur on schedule. In spite of this, members of the Classes of 2014 and 2015 have not seen a single COS annual report issued about the time that they have been on campus. It seems nearly farcical that a time of transition is put forward as an excuse for irresponsibility on a major task.

The continued failure to release annual COS reports bolsters student complaints of administrative inaction and lack of transparency. While the community has seen much recent discussion over sexual assault, the dialogue has been almost completely devoid of hard data, limiting the community's ability to reach a shared understanding of events on campus. While COS data admittedly suffers from the widely recognized problem that sexual assault is an under-reported crime, the information would nonetheless be useful. Many people have wondered whether the College has been adequately punishing those found guilty of sexual assault. If the COS released these reports in a timely fashion, we might be able to intelligently discuss this question. At this point in time, we simply cannot.

The Committee on Standards must prioritize the completion and timely publication of its annual reports for the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 academic years. There is no legitimate excuse for further delay. More importantly, the COS needs to commit to releasing future annual reports in a prompt fashion, such that the College never again finds itself in a situation like the one it currently faces.

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