Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Support independent student journalism. Support independent student journalism. Support independent student journalism.
The Dartmouth
February 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Government updates sexual assault regulations

The College will create new sexual violence prevention programs and enhance existing education and outreach to comply with federal regulations published Monday. Among other requirements, the regulations instruct universities to list all possible sanctions for students found guilty of sexual violence and provide comprehensive information about dating violence, domestic violence and stalking in their annual campus safety reports.

The regulations, which take effect July 1, 2015, clarify language like “rape,” “consent” and “unfounded” allegations and require colleges to disclose the number of “unfounded” crime reports it receives each year. The regulations also require universities to increase transparency in the adjudication process, add gender identity and national origin as separate bias categories in hate crime reporting and clarify prevention programs and disciplinary proceedings for all kinds of sexual violence.

Title IX coordinator Heather Lindkvist said the College is complying in “good faith effort” with the regulations thus far and is expanding its sexual violence prevention programming.

The requirements’ publication concludes a yearlong rulemaking process since Congress reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act in 2013. The reauthorization both expanded the reach of the Clery Act — which requires colleges to disclose information on campus crime, including information about sexual violence incidents and prevention resources — and created a committee of experts to draft additional regulations. The Federal Register published the regulations Monday, following a public comment period on a preliminary draft released in June.

In August, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights opened an investigation into possible Clery Act violations at the College. The investigation came after more than 30 students and alumni filed a complaint against the College in May 2013, alleging Clery violations related to sexual assault, LGBTQ, racial and religious discrimination, hate crimes, bullying and hazing.

Dartmouth’s annual security and fire safety report, released on Oct. 1, complied with the preliminary regulations by including statistics on dating violence, domestic violence and stalking. The report lists one dating violence incident, four stalking incidents and no reports of domestic violence for 2013. Reported forcible sex offenses increased to 35 in 2013 from 24 in 2012.

Judicial Affairs director Leigh Remy wrote in an email that Dartmouth has been following the rulemaking process closely. In September, the office published a supplement to its existing sexual assault policy to incorporate information and disciplinary procedures for sexual harassment, domestic violence, dating violence or stalking by students and student organizations.

After seeing the final rule produced by the federal committee, her office will revisit its policies to ensure compliance, Remy wrote.

Founder of advocacy group SurvJustice Laura Dunn, who was the primary student negotiator on the Department of Education’s Violence Against Women Act rulemaking committee, said the new regulations will likely lead schools to change prevention programs to incorporate ongoing prevention training throughout the school year.

The regulations also enable both parties in a hearing on sexual violence allegations to elect an advisor, which can be anyone from a parent to a therapist to a lawyer, Dunn said. Schools, however, have the power to limit how these advisors interact with the judicial process, such as preventing them from speaking to their advisee during a hearing.

Survivors, who now must receive written notification of their case’s outcome and the resulting sanctions, may find it easier to appeal a judicial decision, Dunn said.

Student activists and community groups should pay attention to the list of possible sanctions for dating violence, domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault that schools must now include in their annual security report, she said.

“We’ve had campuses that have assigned papers or educational videos or just getting counseling rather than a suspension or an expulsion,” Dunn said, adding that she believes suspension and expulsion are the only appropriate punishments when an investigation finds a student responsible of sexual violence.

Alyssa Peterson, a campaign organizer at advocacy group Know Your IX, said the new requirements address a gap in public discourse around sexual assault, which often focuses on assault by acquaintances in an alcohol-fueled setting.

“There’s been insufficient research on the prevalence of dating violence, domestic violence and stalking violence,” she said. “The focus on acquaintance sexual assault does not include all survivors.”

Peterson pointed to intimate partner violence as one overlooked type of sexual violence.

Alison Kiss, executive director of the Clery Center for Security on Campus, said the regulations can help an institution go beyond “textbook compliance” and integrate prevention into institutional culture. She emphasized the importance of using ongoing, research-based prevention programming, which the regulations require.

“If we’re going to put the time into education and prevention, we should be doing something that works,” Kiss said.