College debuts Campus Climate and Culture Initiative

by Elizabeth Janowski | 1/8/19 3:05am

The Campus Climate and Culture Initiative, or C3I, will take effect immediately, with mandatory Title IX training for faculty and staff beginning this week along with plans to present a unified policy on sexual misconduct to the faculty by the end of the term, according to provost Joseph Helble.

The initiative, which was announced by College President Phil Hanlon through an email on Jan. 3, comes in the midst of an ongoing sexual harassment class action against the College. Three professors in the psychology and brain sciences department — who have since retired or resigned from their positions — are accused of sexually harassing or in some cases, assaulting female students repeatedly over the span of 16 years while College administration took no action, according to the lawsuit.

Among the reforms outlined in Hanlon’s statement, the College will now undergo an evaluation by an independent external advisory committee, conduct climate reviews of each academic department, revise its sexual misconduct policies, mandate access to multiple advisers for all graduate students and increase investment in mental health resources.

A working group overseen by Helble will investigate other areas for policy reform and compile a report by the beginning of the summer. The climate reviews, on the other hand, are anticipated to take several years to complete.

According to Helble, the initiative was largely inspired by recommendations outlined in a 2018 report published by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine that analyzed the damaging effects of sexual harassment on women in STEM-related fields.

“I’m proud that Dartmouth is taking these steps to address and confront this challenge and to make Dartmouth’s environment even better for students going forward,” Helble said.

The College developed the initiative in consultation with the Title IX office, according to Title IX coordinator Kristi Clemens.

Clemens noted that under the initiative, the Title IX office will create a unified sexual misconduct disciplinary procedure for all members of the Dartmouth community, with a focus on clarifying processes for faculty and staff. She also expressed excitement over the anticipated expansion to the Title IX office, which currently consists of herself, a deputy Title IX coordinator and an administrative assistant.

“If we added another person, that person could be the main contact for people who want to come in and report,” Clemens said. “That would allow me to focus on some of the more proactive measures like annual reporting and working closely with our investigators.”

Dean of the Grove School of Engineering at the City College of New York Gilda Barabino will spearhead the external advisory committee. Barabino was selected for the position based on her past leadership at her institution, as well as her involvement in the task force that wrote the 2018 National Academies report, according to Helble.

The committee will publish progress reports available to the public, which will include updates on the College’s progress towards a unified sexual harassment policy and aggregate outcomes of Title IX investigations on campus, Helble said.

University of Michigan psychology professor Abigail Stewart and Thayer School of Engineering professor Vicki May will manage the climate reviews of each of Dartmouth’s departments. Helble noted that these reviews will entail discussions within individual departments and programs to foster an environment that “enables everyone to speak freely … and is supportive and nurturing of all.”

Additionally, Helble emphasized the importance of having women in positions of power as part of the new initiative.

“Do I think it is important that women play roles of leadership in this process where we’re trying to confront issues of sexual harassment and abuse?” he said. “Absolutely.”

While the new federal guidance for Title IX proposed in November 2018 may prompt another revision of Dartmouth’s Title IX policies in the near future, Clemens said that the College will continue with the reforms outlined by the initiative.

“Right now Dartmouth is in an action moment,” Clemens said. “We’re not going to wait to see how other things shake out. When we identify problems or gaps that we need to address, we’re going to move on that now so that we can continue to strengthen our community and keep it safe.”

WISE campus advocate Bailey Ray said she hopes the initiative will lead to change in the future.

“What we’re looking to do is address the systemic structures that allow abuse and harassment and violence to take place,” Ray said. “My hope in terms of what we need to address is that we need to be looking at how everyone is complicit in gender-based violence. That means we need to understand how we view gender and gender roles and how we look at power dynamics.”

She added that the initiative gives the community a chance to “do the real work” and make an important impact.

“When bad things happen, we have to face them head on, but we also have this opportunity to say this is who we want to be, this is how we’re going to change things that haven’t worked and this is how we ensure that we build a healthy community and a healthy campus,” Ray said.

Clemens and Helble both noted that the College administration will continue to encourage and listen to feedback from the Dartmouth community throughout the initiative’s implementation.

“As the details of the initiative move forward over the next several months, the goal is in fact to have a series of meetings with groups around campus — students, faculty and staff alike — to gather community input on the specifics and then move forward,” Helble said.

The Student Assembly and Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault will be hosting an open forum for students to ask questions and voice their opinions on the initiative this Friday at 5 p.m. in Collis 101.

Advertise your student group in The Dartmouth for free!