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The Dartmouth
June 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Colla: Men of Dartmouth

At the beginning of a new school year, sexual assault remains an issue for Dartmouth, but men can help put an end to it.

There are two reasons why I titled this column after Dartmouth’s former alma mater, Men of Dartmouth. First, it is a salutation to those it is primarily addressed to: men of Dartmouth. Second, it is a conceit whose relevance I hope to demonstrate shortly.

By most measures, the last six months of 2022 were particularly noteworthy for all women of Dartmouth, past and present. Foremost, after 253 years of male leadership, Dr. Sian Leah Beilock was chosen as Dartmouth’s 19th president. Former Chair of the Board of Trustees, Susan Dentzer ’77, Adv ’22, suggested such a decision was more than timely last year in the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine. The College then hosted alumni on campus to celebrate the rededication of Dartmouth Hall made possible by the philanthropy of over 1,000 Dartmouth women. This coincided with the 50th anniversary of coeducation and the advent of Title IX. Finally, the Dartmouth women’s rugby team successfully defended its NIRA title and completed a perfect season. Its third national championship in four years burnished this team’s reputation as among the elite in the nation.

I’m excluding other noteworthy accomplishments for reasons of length, but you get my point. Women not only belong at Dartmouth, they are vital to its success, and yet we may ask if they have finally realized full parity?

Despite their achievements and contributions, there remains an area where Dartmouth’s women have yet to be honored as full peers: gender-based violence. Dartmouth’s 2022 Clery Report indicates that after a brief respite in 2020 — when social interaction on campus was greatly restricted — incidents of domestic violence (which includes dating violence), fondling and stalking have returned to near pre-pandemic levels.

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network statistics will tell you that over 26% of female undergraduates and nearly 10% of female graduate students “experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.” Think for a moment about the number of Dartmouth women those percentages represent over the past half-century.

Articles this past summer and spring in The Dartmouth and the Valley News offer multiple examples of the ugly reality of this data right here in Hanover. RAINN also reports that college women are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted as they are to be robbed and that college women often do not report gender-based violence to authorities. It is more likely than not that available data understates the problem.

More to the point of this essay, gender-based violence on campus tends to occur at higher rates at certain times of the year. More than 50% of sexual assaults occur in the fall, and women are at increased risk during their first few months of college. Further, the vast majority of sexual assaults on college campuses are perpetuated by someone known to the survivor and about half occur when one or both parties have consumed alcohol. At Dartmouth, men control most opportunities for socializing with alcohol through the fraternity system.

Men have to be part of the solution because we are at the core of the problem. As Dartmouth begins a new year, the first under our first female president, men of Dartmouth need to step up to help ensure that the “Dartmouth experience” is as full and fair and safe for women as it is for themselves.

Irwin Reiter, a former executive of the Weinstein Company — whose CEO, Harvey Weinstein, was the personification of sexual misconduct — wrote the following in the Los Angeles Times last November: “Men have a critical role to play in ending sexual assault, harassment, and misconduct … [T]hey are often well-positioned to use their power to hold other men accountable, to help survivors, and to ensure that more misconduct does not occur. By not believing survivors or failing to take adequate action, men have too often enabled individual actors and systems that perpetuate sexual abuse.”

Now to my conceit. In the 1970s, new co-eds were complacent about the words in Men of Dartmouth. If Dartmouth men were proud of the “granite … in their … brains,” so be it. By the 1980s, however, they were not. In an effort to placate male alumni while recognizing women more fully, the original words were rewritten to include female references while preserving the existing rhyme scheme. Thus, the original “Stand as brother stands by brother” became “Stand as sister stands by brother.” When these verses were rewritten, women no longer had to dodge urinals in hastily converted bathrooms, but their relative position to men was still subservient. Lest the old traditions fail.

The culture of an institution as venerable as Dartmouth changes slowly. Despite 50 years of coeducation, male primacy still persists on campus. Fortunately, laws have changed to recognize the fundamental and pervasive inequity of gender-based violence. Now, men of Dartmouth, we need to get behind that change, to push the culture to reform faster, and to make the full joy of the Dartmouth experience available to all students.

There are ways you can help make this happen: First, engage with the Sexual Violence Prevention Project or the Dartmouth Bystander Initiative. Be informed about the reality of sexual violence. Second, trust women who talk about sexual violence that they have experienced and the genuine harm they have suffered. For them, breaking the silence is an act of courage. Third, identify other like-minded men on campus and commit to action steps you will take to end this menace. Become active bystanders.

A new school year has begun; might it also signal a new era on the Hanover Plain? We men — all of us — can end gender-based violence at our College. As President Beilock suggests, we can be brave. We can anticipate the danger, and we can help prevent it. We can become real allies. We can stand as brother stands by sister.

Stanley Colla ’66, TU ’86 lives in Hanover. He is Vice President Emeritus at Dartmouth and a member of the Dartmouth Community against Gender Harassment and Sexual Violence. The views expressed in this Opinion column are his alone.

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