SPCSA releases policy proposal recommendations

by Roshan Dutta | 4/30/14 5:58pm

The Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault released a set of recommendations for the College’s proposed sexual assault policy on Monday afternoon, drawing on community feedback collected during and after an April 4 symposium. The recommendations are the first of three sets to be released by SPCSA in the coming months.

Other recommendations will address the role of the future Center for Community Action and Prevention and also include broad suggestions for Dartmouth.

Yesterday’s recommendations proposed separating the appeals process into two channels. If a student requests review of a sanction, the recommendations say the Dean of the College is sufficiently qualified to review the appeal.

The task of reviewing a finding that a student is or is not responsible for sexual assault, however, should fall to an alternative investigator, the recommendations state.

The recommendations also said that independent investigators should be educated on Dartmouth culture and Dartmouth-specific problems and should conduct investigations in Hanover.

After the College receives a report of sexual assault, the committee recommended, the investigation and sanctioning process should be completed within 60 days, in consideration of the impact an extended investigation can have.

The recommendations also suggested that during the sanctioning process, reporting students and students responding to an accusation should have the right to invite an individual unaffiliated with Dartmouth to be present for support.

Other recommendations addressed the policy’s language, requesting that “separation from the College” be replaced with “expulsion” and specifying that if the reporting student was incapacitated, the investigator should not be required to find that the incapacitation was “purposeful.” The term “retaliation” and the meaning of “bias” in the policies, they state, should be clarified.

Additionally, the group recommended that policies on “sexual harassment, intimate partner violence, stalking and other forms of power-based violence” be included. Students’ anonymity should also be preserved during the sanctioning panel, according to the recommendations.

Following the April 4 symposium, attended by about 150 students, staff, faculty, alumni and local residents, the committee compiled feedback and selected what they believed to be the 12 most urgent recommendations, SPCSA vice chair Carla Yoon ’15 said.

“We couldn’t necessarily convey every single point,” Yoon said, “but we decided to narrow them down to the most commonly expressed concerns or the ones that people felt most strongly about.”

The President’s Office requested preliminary recommendations from SPCSA on the proposed policy, which was released March 14, SPCSA member Murylo Batista ’15 said, and the committee hoped to release its recommendations in time for administrators to incorporate them.

“We’re now waiting to hear back from the president’s and the dean’s office on how they intend on incorporating our recommendations and how they intend on responding,” Batista said. “We want to see which ones they took, which ones they didn’t, and respond accordingly.”

Yoon, speaking on her own behalf and not on behalf of the committee, said that she believes that the College’s current sexual assault policy should be expanded to cover sexual harassment.

Batista said he believes the most significant recommendation is the suggestion that the sanctioning panel preserve student anonymity by using pseudonyms. This proposal, he said, will be well-received because administrators recognize that using a student’s name may bias the adjudication process.

Aurora Matzkin, the College’s director of health promotion and student wellness, said in an email that she was excited to see the the recommendations’ release.

“This group of students consistently provides thoughtful contributions to shape the efforts on campus,” Matzkin said. “I know their feedback on the proposed policy changes will be carefully considered.”

The SPCSA last made recommendations in July 2013 following a yearlong series of deliberations and meetings. The recommendations, which asked for more institutional data about assault on campus, followed a two-year lapse in the College releasing community reports that concerned sexual assault.

For the recommendations in full, clickhere.

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