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NH News

Gathering outside home of UNH president, protesters call for stronger response to campus rape allegations

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Samantha Coetzee / NHPR
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UNH students gather at the home of University President James Dean to protest the school's response to recent allegations of sexual assault on campus, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021.

More than 100 students gathered outside the home of University of New Hampshire President James Dean Monday night to protest what they call the school’s insufficient response to recent sexual assault allegations on campus.

Dean himself showed up to the protest to try and address student concerns, though many protesters said they were unpersuaded by his message. Some pointed specifically to a recent email sent by Dean to the student body, which they said appeared to downplay the severity of recent rape allegations.

Daisy Young, a UNH student who addressed the crowd of protesters Monday, said Dean’s message illustrated the limits of the school’s current approach to handling sexual abuse.

“The resources they continue to showcase and provide us with aren’t working,” Young said. “They refuse to acknowledge that instead of reacting to these violent incidents, we need to prevent them.”

Kat Geschimsky, a freshman at UNH, said she’s disappointed that students don’t feel safe on campus.

“It’s terrifying not being able to feel like you can walk down the street comfortably, confidently and safely,” she said. “I always have something on me, and even when I do I’m still scared.”

Dean said he thought the turnout was impressive but believes students are not seeing the whole picture.

“I don’t think students necessarily know all the things we’re doing and tonight we didn’t have much of an opportunity to talk about it,” he said. “But clearly they’d like us to do more and we’ll try to work with them to see what we can do.”

Multiple accusations of rape and sexual assault are currently circulating at the University of New Hampshire. In his email Monday, Dean advised students to refrain from posting possible false accusations on social media. He also wrote the university would not discuss the matter publicly because of the need to protect people’s privacy but that measures are being taken to prevent crimes on campus and support victims.

More than 5,000 students have signed a petition to expel a student who is accused of multiple instances of sexual assault.

Durham’s chief of police said the department is not involved in the investigations right now, which are being handled by UNH Police.

Students and administrators are scheduling a time to meet and discuss potential changes to how reports of sexual assault are handled.