A year in, Remy steers judicial affairs office

by Victoria Nelsen | 9/18/14 8:50pm

The student handbook now specifies sexual harassment, stalking and dating violence as kinds of sexual misconduct that threaten the well being both of students and the College as a whole. These adjustments to the handbook’s language, announced Monday afternoon in a campus-wide email from interim Dean of the College Inge-Lise Ameer, reflect the judicial affairs office’s yearlong effort to institute a stronger sexual assault policy at the College.

The office, formerly called undergraduate judicial affairs, dropped “undergraduate” from its name this summer to demonstrate that graduate students are also protected under the new sexual misconduct policy, which took effect in June, judicial affairs director Leigh Remy said. While previously, the standards of conduct did not refer specifically to sexual harassment, stalking or dating violence, they are now included in standards I, II and III.

In the coming year, Remy said, the office’s role will change following the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” presidential steering committee’s report. The committee, convened in May by College President Phil Hanlon, is tasked with recommending ways to reduce binge drinking, sexual assault and exclusivity.

Since Remy became judicial affairs director in July 2013, the office has focused on strengthening the sexual assault policy and attempted to increase face-to-face communication with students and organizations, Remy said.

The past year has seen almost complete staff turnover. Of the office’s four administrators, three — including Remy, assistant director Alexandra Waltemeyer and administrative assistant Becca Wistrom — were hired since summer 2013.

The office is also searching for a hearings officer, a new position that will focus on administrative hearings and outreach to students while helping to alleviate the office’s large workload, Remy said. A search committee received a large number of applications for the hearings officer position, and two rounds of interviews will follow.

“This is a great team of people to work with,” Remy said. “I think they really respect students. I think they listen carefully. I don’t think that this is an office that anybody wants to come to, but my hope is that if you do, you feel that you’re fairly treated and given ample time and listened to.”

Judicial affairs oversees the Committee on Standards, which examines student misconduct that could result in suspension or separation from the College, and the Organizational Adjudication Committee, which focuses on misconduct within organizations.

Less serious cases of individual misconduct comprise the majority of the office’s cases, Remy said.

Remy said she is trying to change the common perception of Judicial Affairs as a “black box,” adding that only individual cases are nontransparent.

When Remy undertook the director position, she aimed to build the campus’ confidence in and understanding of judicial affairs, as well as increase the office’s transparency. Emphasizing her belief in fairness, Remy said her goals include responding quickly to cases and discussing the reasoning behind the standards of conduct.

Of 10 students interviewed about their opinion of the office, seven said they had a neutral impression of Judicial Affairs, while three said they perceived it negatively.

Dan Pham ’16, who serves on the Committee on Standards, said that before ​he was elected to his seat, he had no opinion on the office but assumed students would perceive it negatively.

Since joining the committee, however, his impression changed.

“It’s much less of a punitive process than I thought it would be,” Pham said. “Judicial affairs isn’t out to get students. It’s a way to uphold the standards and to give students time to reflect on their actions, as opposed to something that’s strictly punishment.”​

Remy said that the community is best served through conversations about values and respect instead of getting caught up in the rules.

In June 2013, Remy was promoted after working in the undergraduate deans office since 1999. When she accepted the position, she said that she would serve as director for a year and then decide if she would continue in the position, a choice she made this summer.

“I think that we have accomplished some really important things for students and on behalf of the institution this last year,” Remy said. “It’s been a hard year, but I see it as a service.”

For a period of several months, Remy co-wrote the sexual misconduct policy with general counsel Robert Donin. Together, she said, they met with various organizations to gather input. They will continue to work on it this year.