College appoints members to sexual misconduct committee

by Gigi Grigorian | 3/5/18 2:00am

The College announced the members of the Presidential Steering Committee on Sexual Misconduct, which will review College policies on sexual misconduct, ensure they are clear and present recommendations on policy development, education and training.

The committee members, announced on Feb. 14, hail from both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Leslie Henderson, dean for faculty affairs at the Geisel School of Medicine, serves as chair of the committee. Other members include senior associate dean of student affairs Liz Agosto ’01, assistant dean for postdoctoral affairs at the School of Graduate and Advanced Studies Victoria Blodgett, vice president for institutional diversity and equity Evelynn Ellis, biology professor Mark McPeek, Title IX coordinator Allison O’Connell, director of M.S. and Ph.D. programs for the Thayer School of Engineering Brian Pogue, associate dean for faculty at the Tuck School of Business Richard Sansing, senior athletics director Megan Sobel and government professor Lucas Swaine.

According to Henderson, the committee will present its recommendations on where the College can improve its education and policies on sexual misconduct to College President Phil Hanlon in late spring. The committee had its first meeting last week and will continue to hold weekly meetings until making its recommendations, Henderson said.

“The committee is not tasked with actually making new policy, but instead with identifying areas for improvements,” O’Connell said.

The committee is currently working to identify gaps in the College’s current policies, particularly in how information is spread to different divisions and individuals, Henderson said.

Sansing said that the committee will work to ensure that policies concerning sexual misconduct are clear, consistent and coherent.

Like Sansing, Henderson said that the committee’s work would ideally create clear, simple and inclusive policies. However, she noted that given Dartmouth’s complexity, simple policies might not be possible.

“We have a very complex institution, and a one-size-fits-all, monolithic arrangement may not work,” she said. “We’re going to have to have some divergences that fit people’s different roles within the institution.”

For that reason, the committee will consider whether and when the policies should differ across different divisions of the College, Henderson said.

Sansing also noted that, in the coming weeks, the committee might also look to peer schools to “find examples of the best practices that we might want to emulate.”

Henderson personally hopes that the committee will discuss education and training across the institution, especially with faculty and staff and with graduate divisions at the College.

“We have a number of good programs that have been put into place, especially at the undergraduate level, over the past few years,” she said. However, it is likely more difficult to ensure information on resources reach other members of the College, Henderson added.

Henderson stressed that the committee was charged with making recommendations regarding how best to improve that spread of information.

Because the steering committee will address sexual misconduct education, training and policies at all levels of the College, Henderson believes it is important for all of Dartmouth’s constituent schools to be represented with its members serving on the committee.

“If you look at the guidelines and advice that are coming out of the [U.S. Department of Education’s] Office for Civil Rights, it is not limited to undergraduates,” Henderson explained. “Those policies pertain across the entire educational enterprise. We need to have policies to be making sure we meet expectations from federal guidelines.”

Henderson also noted that because sexual misconduct could occur at any level at the College, the committee will work to review policies and education throughout all of the College, not just at the undergraduate level.

Sansing agreed that Dartmouth’s professional schools should have input as the College looks to evaluate its policies regarding sexual misconduct.

“In practice, the professional schools tend to follow [the undergraduate college’s] policy with respect to defining these events [of sexual misconduct] and how the institution responds,” he explained.

O’Connell said she appreciates the range of committee members because it will help the committee to better represent the diverse experiences of individuals affiliated with the College.

“I think it’s important that we have people from all different areas of the school so that we can make sure that we’re gathering all the relevant feedback from constituents,” she said.

In the spring, the committee will seek community input by holding forums for Dartmouth community members, O’Connell said. In order to maximize input from the community, Henderson hopes to establish different avenues through which individuals can present their ideas both in-person and anonymously.