College to form sexual misconduct steering committee

by Gigi Grigorian | 2/13/18 2:15am

On Jan. 29, the College announced the creation of a Presidential Steering Committee on Sexual Misconduct. College spokesperson Diana Lawrence said in an email statement that the committee will review existing policies across the institution about sexual misconduct. The committee will then present suggestions intended to improve campus policies and training about sexual misconduct at the College, Lawrence wrote.

Subjects considered in the committee’s review will include “sexual misconduct response, prevention, education and accountability,” Lawrence’s statement said.

While the College has not yet announced the makeup of this new committee, its members will include faculty and staff from each of the different schools and divisions at the College in order to include a wide range of perspectives and experiences.

The timeline of the committee’s work has also not yet been announced, but Title IX coordinator Allison O’Connell said she expects that the committee will make recommendations to College President Phil Hanlon by the end of this school year.

“The issue of sexual misconduct is a nationwide problem that senior administrators have been discussing regularly,” Lawrence wrote.

O’Connell said that she appreciates the College’s ongoing focus on sexual misconduct, which is furthered with the creation of this committee.

“It’s always important to look back at policies and make sure that we are consistently doing the best that we can in creating fair and equitable processes, but also in offering the most effective and engaging training opportunities for our campus,” she added.

O’Connell also noted that continued revision and assessment of sexual misconduct policies is necessary to comply with changes to federal regulations from the Department of Education. The College “revamped” sexual misconduct training in 2017, according to the College press release.

In order to assess the efficacy of the College’s current sexual misconduct policies, the committee will consider the findings of two recent surveys regarding the topic.

The first survey, conducted in 2015, was organized and performed by the Association of American Universities, a consortium of 27 colleges in the United States and Canada, including the College. This survey could not be personalized with questions geared toward College-specific programs, but it provided an important baseline for future surveys about sexual misconduct, said associate provost for institutional research Alicia Betsinger.

Betsinger added that the AAU 2015 survey allowed for the comparison of data from students at the College with responses from students at other intuitions, providing researchers with indicative data that would not have been available in a single institution’s study.

The second survey relevant to the committee’s review is one conducted in 2017 by the College’s Office of Institutional Research. This survey incorporated questions from the 2015 AAU survey in order to assess response trends and improvement over time. The 2017 survey also included new questions that, according to Betsinger, “better addressed issues around Dartmouth’s student population or just gave us more information than we were not able to get in the 2015 survey.”

Betsinger hopes that the committee will explore the significance of the results of both the 2015 and 2017 surveys.

One major finding from the survey results pointed to the effectiveness of the Dartmouth Bystander Initiative. Data collected in the 2017 survey indicate an improvement from the 2015 survey reports, O’Connell said.

Manager of DBI Ben Bradley said these “encouraging numbers” reveal how students are recognizing sexual misconduct and intervening accordingly.

With the survey data regarding sexual misconduct, Bradley considered the ways that DBI can become more successful.

“Who are we missing?” he asked. “How can the workshops feel more specified and helpful to students? How do we engage staff and faculty as well?”

Bradley added that the Presidential Steering Committee should consider the same kinds of questions when crafting suggestions to Hanlon.

Like O’Connell, Bradley acknowledged the importance of this new committee as a step forward in the College’s continued focus on sexual misconduct.

“A committee that is looking at this issue from many points of view is really important,” he said. “We continuously, as an institution, have to work to think about how we are making sure our work is comprehensive, effective and far-reaching.”