Symposium on Sexual Assault will discuss community accountability

by Priya Ramaiah | 4/2/15 7:49pm

This afternoon, faculty, students and community members will convene in Collis Common Ground for the fourth annual Symposium on Sexual Assault. The event, hosted by the Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault, will focus this year on community accountability for sexual violence, as well as recognition of groups and individuals making positive change on campus, SPCSA chair Tori Nevel ’16 said.

College President Phil Hanlon will open the session, followed by updates from College survivor advocate Benjamin Bradley, Health Promotions & Wellness co-director Amanda Childress and leaders of Mentors Against Violence, Nevel said.

Title IX coordinator Heather Lindkvist will also speak at the event about the Association of American Universities sexual assault campus climate survey, which went live early Thursday morning, and the new sexual assault resources website that was launched last term.

A portion of the symposium will be devoted to the initiatives outlined in the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” plan introduced by Hanlon earlier this year, Nevel said. Lindkvist will be soliciting community feedback about the consent manual, which is scheduled to be released online this summer as part of “Moving Dartmouth Forward.”

SPCSA releases recommendations related to combating sexual violence every year, and this year’s recommendations were products in part of feedback gathered at last year’s symposium. The 2014 recommendations suggested that administrators conduct an external campus climate survey, ban Bored at Baker and support Greek houses in becoming co-educational or local.

Chelsea Lim ’16, a recipient of an SPCSA Elizabeth Hoffman mini-grant — which funds research focused on reducing instances of sexual assault on college campuses — will present her research findings from Mentors Against Violence climate surveys of Greek houses.

The event will also highlight members of the community who are enacting positive change surrounding sexual violence on campus, Nevel said. This includes Sexual Assault Peer Advisors, as well as groups on campus that have changed their constitutions in an effort to make victims of assault to feel safer, such as undergraduate society Amarna.

Last term, members of Amarna’s executive board worked with Lindkvist to create a code of conduct for members that included procedures for placing people on a blacklist and defined what could make someone unsafe versus uncomfortable in the house, Amarna vice president Abbey Hartley ’16 said. The new code clarifies the process for identifying and removing from the house people who make members feel unsafe.

“The winter executive board worked hard, in tandem with the Title IX coordinator, to make sure our sexual assault policy was as powerful as possible,” Hartley wrote in a statement. “I hope that we can set a standard for all organizations on campus.”

Childress, who is charged with the development of the mandatory four-year sexual violence education program included in the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” plan, said that the symposium is an opportunity for the community to envision how a mandatory program could take form at the College. Her office is planning to pilot preliminary portions of the program in the fall, she said.

Dartmouth is the only school besides the United States Naval Academy to introduce a four-year mandatory violence education program, Childress said.

Bradley, who joined the College last year, will be speaking about the programs recently implemented by the office of health promotions and student wellness, including Dartmouth Bystander Intervention training and Gameplan 2.0, a version of DBI for athletes that focuses on relationship violence and bystander intervention.

“The symposium is a great method for communication from the Dartmouth community to some of staff and administration and vice versa,” Childress said, adding that the generally large turnout at the event allows for greater discussion and information sharing. “It’s an opportunity to share the progress that we’re making on campus and garner suggestions and ideas so that we can continue to move forward.”

Bradley echoed the importance of having administrators, staff and students in the same room discussing issues of sexual violence.

“Having these big forums is re-energizing,” he said.

Nevel said she hopes that this year’s event will make the implementation of “Moving Dartmouth Forward” a realistic vision, one with which she hopes students will want to engage.

While last year’s summit focused on the new sexual assault policy, Nevel said that this year’s summit will center on the Dartmouth community and provide examples of what everyone can do to take action against sexual violence.

“I want to expand it from just being a conversation about policy into a conversation about what communities and individuals can do in and out of the classroom,” she said.

The symposium will be held at 3 p.m. in Collis Common Ground.

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