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The Dartmouth
June 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Student leaders talk sexual assault

Sixty student leaders of clubs, sports teams and Greek organizations discussed sexual violence on campus in Collis Common Ground on Saturday as part of Student Assembly’s “It’s On Us” campaign. The campaign, a White House initiative to provide federal support for student-led prevention and awareness efforts, required its partner organizations on each campus —in Dartmouth’s case, Student Assembly—to host a roundtable attended by a range of student groups.

Student body president Casey Dennis ’15 said a mobilized group of diverse student leaders can change how campus thinks, talks and acts regarding sexual assault. He added that while “It’s on Us” is a national initiative, the Assembly is tailoring it to Dartmouth’s campus.

Student body vice president Frank Cunningham ’16 said the event, which was closed to press, highlighted the urgency of stepping up as a community to take responsibility for campus sexual assault.

“A lot of us didn’t agree with what each other said, but we had such respect for each other that we were able to push ourselves and others to think in a different light,” he said. “This shows what our student body is capable of.”

Dennis said he was pleased by participation at Saturday’s meeting, particularly toward the end of the session, when participants discussed using leadership positions to shift campus attitudes.

One student proposed that the Dartmouth Bystander Initiative training be mandatory for leaders of all organizations on campus, Dennis said.

A recent report on sexual violence by the Center for Disease Control Division of Violence Prevention identified bystander intervention training as a positive approach.

Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault chair Sophia Pedlow ’15 said the event allowed student leaders to see each other as resources for change.

The College has made some positive changes in the past few months, Pedlow said, citing the hiring of Title IX coordinator Heather Lindkvist in June.

The roundtable discussion, however, could “refocus responsibility of tackling social problems onto student leaders,” Pedlow said.

SPCSA member Victoria Nevel ’16 said she found the ideas and motivation the student leaders expressed both inspiring and informative.

Dennis said he hoped attendees came away with a sense of ownership and understanding of campus sexual assault, as well potential concrete solutions.

“This is a cultural movement in reframing the way we think about sexual assault,” he said.

Student body leaders from nearly 200 schools across the country have committed to carrying out the “It’s on Us” campaign on their campuses, according to a White House press release. By promoting four objectives —using campus climate surveys to diagnose the problem’s scope, improving institutional responses when a report is filed, engaging male students and improving enforcement of federal laws — the campaign aims to shift thinking about sexual assault from a one-on-one crime to a situation in which everyone has a role to play in creating a safe and supportive environment.

“This is a tough subject to talk about,” Dennis said. “Sometimes we desensitize it.”

Rebecca Asoulin contributed reporting.