Gender-based violence initiatives expand in recent years

The College’s many gender-based violence initiatives — ranging from Title IX to the Sexual Violence Prevention Project — work to ensure campus safety.

by Angus Yip | 10/28/22 5:20am

by Oliver De Jonghe / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

This article is featured in the 2022 Homecoming special issue.

“We envision a campus where students are free of extreme behaviors … where sexual assault … [is] eradicated from our campus,” College President Phil Hanlon said in his January 2015 speech launching the Moving Dartmouth Forward initiative.

Today, a range of statutes, initiatives and organizations on campus aim to mitigate the prevalence and impact of gender-based violence at Dartmouth. Together, they create frameworks to investigate incidents and educate students about responding to incidents. They also provide resources for community members to seek support. The Dartmouth investigated these initiatives and resources and how they have evolved throughout the years.

Title IX

According to the Department of Education, Title IX is a federal statute enacted in 1972 that prohibits exclusion or discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs receiving federal financial assistance. In turn, Title IX influences gender-based violence policies and incident reporting on college campuses. 

Title IX coordinator and assistant vice president for equity and compliance Kristi Clemens clarified that Title IX applies to all members of the Dartmouth community when engaged in an educational program or activity. 

She added that the federal government sent a reminder to all colleges and universities in 2011 to keep them apprised of their obligations under Title IX. This includes schools having a designated Title IX coordinator and having clear policies for members of the community to report incidents of gender-based violence.

“Most colleges and universities including Dartmouth were already [compliant with requirements], but it really shone a spotlight on sexual misconduct on campuses and brought into focus the work that we do now,” Clemens said.

According to this year’s Annual Fire and Safety Report, also known as the Clery Report, there were 16 reported rapes in 2021, up from 10 in 2020 but down from 32 in 2019. This past year also saw a rise of stalking with 21 instances, up from six in 2020 and nine in 2019.

Clemens said that many gender-based violence incidents are unreported, so the figures in the Clery Report are “just the tip of the iceberg.”

“We try to collect data through other ways like our sexual misconduct survey, which [is] anonymous for people to share what has happened to them and what they’ve heard is happening to other people, so that we have a better picture of what's really happening out there,” she said.

According to Clemens, community members who report incidents under Title IX generally fall under three categories: members who wish to make a report to be held in the Title IX Office’s files and are requesting no action, those who are requesting supportive measures because of the incident and those who wish to take action against the respondent.

In the third case, the complainant can opt to launch a formal investigation or an informal resolution, Clemens said. In a formal investigation, an external investigator conducts interviews, examines evidence and produces a report about the incident. 

When the respondent is a Dartmouth student, the final verdict on the investigation is determined by a three-member hearing panel comprising the director of community standards and accountability, a representative of the Dean of the College and a trained staff member from the Committee on Standards, Clemens said. If the respondent is a staff member, the panel has one member, and if the respondent is a faculty member, the panel has five, she added.

If the respondent is found responsible, the strongest possible consequence is being “removed from the College community permanently,” Clemens said.

Clemens explained that informal resolutions are much more “open-ended” and “are all forms of restorative justice.” In one possible resolution method known as a shuttle agreement, the complainant can propose a list of requests to be conveyed to the respondent, who can then decide which requests to comply with. 

Another possible resolution method is called a restorative conference, in which “both parties would sit together with a facilitator to talk about the harm caused … and figure out a way forward,” she said.

“Restorative justice is really important … when there’s an opportunity to talk about the harm caused and find a plan forward rather than just casting somebody out of our community,” she added.

Clemens also noted that both parties must agree to participate in an informal resolution — if either the respondent or the complainant chooses not to, and a formal complaint has been filed, the Title IX Office would transition to a formal investigation. She added that once an informal resolution has been concluded, the complainant cannot choose to launch a formal investigation against the respondent over the same incident.

Sexual Violence Prevention Project

The Sexual Violence Prevention Project is a four-year sexual violence prevention curriculum required for all undergraduate students, aimed at “[reducing] sexual assault, relationship violence, stalking, and harassment on Dartmouth's campus,” according to the SVPP website. The program is organized by the Student Wellness Center.

According to Student Wellness Center director Caitlin Barthelmes, the SVPP was announced in 2015 as part of the Moving Dartmouth Forward initiative. She added that the SVPP incorporates elements from the Dartmouth Bystander Initiative, first launched in 2012, which aims to educate community members about building the necessary skills to intervene when witnessing potential moments of harm.

“The goal of SVPP is for Dartmouth students to be able to contribute to a safer, healthier community while here at Dartmouth, but also to help reduce violence out in the world after they graduate,” Barthelmes said.

Barthelmes said that the curriculum is “constantly evolving” and is being “simultaneously developed and implemented.” The first-year experience is fully developed and the sophomore experience is “mostly” completed, while the rest of the upperclassman curriculum is still being developed based on student responses to the underclassman experience. The delay in upperclassman programming has been due to limited resources, according to past reporting by The Dartmouth. Barthelmes added that the SVPP has an active student advisory board every term that provides input on the program.

“We will continue implementing, improving and evaluating, which is so important because we want to make sure that what we're offering students is, in fact, working,” Barthelmes said.

Currently, the first-year experience includes the Culture, Behavior and Experiences survey — which collects baseline information to help determine the effectiveness of the SVPP — a pre-arrival online course and four first-year sessions over the fall, winter and spring. The sophomore experience includes the CBE survey and three sessions.

Barthelmes also said that the curriculum for freshmen is taught by other students who have undergone “ongoing facilitator skill development.”

“It’s one of the points of pride of this program,” she said. “We thought it was really important for students to … be led through these discussions and activities by their peers on campus.”

According to the SVPP website, the program’s outcomes are currently being measured through the annual Culture, Behavior and Experiences survey, and the survey data is being analyzed by the Prevention Innovations Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. Barthelmes added that the organizing committee will also consider students’ responses to the pre- and post-SVPP surveys to further develop the program.

Sexual Assault Peer Alliance

The Sexual Assault Peer Alliance is a student organization that “[provides] informed, empathic and empowerment-based support to Dartmouth peers impacted by sexual and gender-based violence” through “providing positive, peer support to fellow students,” according to its website.

According to a SAPA resource guide, there are 51 active SAPAs this term, as well as six SAPA-trained students who are not active responders but can direct students to other SAPAs.

Active SAPA Harrison Sholler ’24 said that students can seek out any SAPA listed on the SAPA website for support, but it is “much more common” for students to reach out personally to friends or acquaintances who are SAPA-trained.

Sholler said that he became a SAPA in hopes of “being a resource for [his] friends.”

“I wanted to be trained in … how to talk to people about gender-based violence … so that I could be a better resource for the people around me in the different spaces that I’m in on campus,” he added.

Associate director of the Counseling Center and SAPA co-director Alexandra Lenzen said that all SAPAs go through 40 hours of training “to learn about trauma and the foundations of gender-based violence, and resources on and off-campus.” She added that after taking and passing a final test that “gauges their knowledge and understanding,” students can opt to become active SAPAs.

Sholler added that the training emphasizes trauma-informed “listening and response skills” and “learning how to talk to someone from a perspective of supporting them … making the conversation about them and reflecting their ideas back to them” — a conversational technique called motivational interviewing, according to a SAPA brochure.

According to Lenzen, SAPAs can also help students navigate the campus and community resources available to those affected by gender-based violence, including the Counseling Center, the chaplain at the Tucker Center, Dick’s House, the Title IX office, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, and the Hanover Police Department.

SAPA is not a confidential resource, according to a SAPA brochure. Confidential resources include health care providers and the College chaplain, among others, who legally cannot share a person’s information without their consent unless required by law, such as if there is imminent danger to the person or others. The brochure also notes that SAPAs are not responsible employees — as they are not employees of the College — meaning that they are not required to share disclosures of sexual assault, relationship violence, stalking or harassment with the Title IX Coordinator. Responsible employees include UGAs, MHU peer support providers, faculty and staff, undergraduate deans, Safety and Security officers, the Student Wellness Center and others, according to a SAPA brochure.

Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault

The Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault aims to “serve as an intermediary between students and the larger Dartmouth College community” and “plan and implement cross-campus initiatives to address sexual violence,” according to the SPCSA website. SPCSA executive Madeline Gochee ’23 said that the committee currently has 13 undergraduate students consisting of members of the Class of 2023, 2024 and 2025.

Gochee said that the committee’s role includes “institutional advocacy,” as it communicates “what students and staff are doing and what they need” to the administration. SPCSA also provides input on changes in structural policies, she said. 

Gochee added that the committee is currently advocating for the reinstatement of the Department of Safety and Security’s SafeRide program, which offered vehicular transport by Safety and Security officers between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. to students. At the onset of the pandemic, the program was replaced with walking escorts.

Gochee said that the committee also advocated for extending the First Year Safety and Risk Reduction Policy or “frat ban” for the Class of 2026 by two days. According to an email sent to campus by the Greek Leadership Council on Sept. 17, this year’s frat ban was scheduled to end at noon on Oct. 31. Gochee said that many members of the Class of 2026 would likely be heading out that night — especially since it falls on Halloween — which may create a “dangerous” situation if first-year students test their limits. On Oct. 19, the GLC announced that it had voted to extend the frat ban by 24 hours, until noon on Nov. 1.

Gochee also noted that the SPCSA has collaborated with SAPA to organize a lecture series centered around reducing harm caused by gender-based violence at the College. According to an email sent to campus by SPCSA on Oct. 3, the lecture series consists of seven weekly lectures in total, and students who attend at least five will receive a diploma certified by SAPA and SPCSA. 

Gochee added that this lecture series was created in hopes of allowing all students on campus to be trained on how to respond to gender-based violence. 

“SAPA as an institution didn’t have the capacity to take everyone [who applied],” she said. “[SAPA and SPCSA] saw a need … to really give students the ability to get more training on gender-based violence and be empowered in their knowledge.”

Gochee said that SPCSA is currently considering running the lecture series in the spring and subsequently running it at least twice a year.

The lecture series aims to “push the boundaries of what’s currently being talked about on campus,” Gochee added, noting that topics like restorative justice and intersectionality are “not fully explored.”

“There’s a lot of really difficult conversations that happen with gender-based violence,” she said. “We’re hoping that people can gain … a more nuanced understanding of power that a lot of other programming doesn’t really have.”

Production Executive Editor Mia Russo ’23 is the president of SAPA. She was not involved in the writing or editing of this article.