Dartmouth Unveils New Plan to Strengthen Harassment Prevention, Response

Jan 3, 2019

Credit Allison Quantz for NHPR

Dartmouth College today detailed a new plan to combat sexual harassment and violence, an effort first announced last month. 

The move follows a federal lawsuit filed against the school by seven current and former students, alleging administrators knowingly failed to protect them from abuse. The plaintiffs claim former members of Dartmouth’s prestigious psychological and brain sciences faculty harassed and assaulted them for years.

In the weeks since their claims became public, students, faculty and alumni have demanded more accountability and action by Dartmouth leadership.

The college has said it disagrees with the allegations laid out in the lawsuit, and will respond in more detail in court.

In meantime, however, President Phil Hanlon is addressing ongoing concerns about women’s safety and inclusion on campus. The plan announced Thursday, called the Campus Climate and Culture Initiative, appears to form the backbone of that response.

It wraps in previously announced initiatives – including reviews of all departments looking at issues of inclusion, as well as revisions to sexual misconduct policies – with new efforts.

All faculty, postdoctoral researchers, students and staff will now receive a consistent, mandatory Title IX training, and administrators say they will expand the Title IX office. The school is also pledging to hire more mental health counselors and allocate more money toward recruitment of diverse faculty.

In addition, Dartmouth has named a new external advisory committee that will conduct an annual review, to be made public, looking at the school’s sexual harassment prevention and response efforts.

“As senior leaders, we will commit the resources and energy required to overcome the biases and barriers that women and many others face on our campus,” wrote President Phil Hanlon in an email to students, faculty and staff that was also signed by other members of the school’s leadership team.

An attorney representing the seven women who filed the November lawsuit issued a statement Thursday criticizing the plan. 

"To the extent that Dartmouth now seeks to conform its policies to the requirements of federal law, we certainly support this long overdue step,” wrote Deborah Marcuse, with the firm Sanford Heisler Sharp. “Until Dartmouth commits to making the women whose ‘courage’ President Hanlon claims to ‘admire’ full partners in crafting and implementing reforms, each new ‘comprehensive initiative’ will continue to miss the mark."

Members of the group Dartmouth Community Against Gender Harassment & Sexual Violence (DCGHSV), representing about 70 current students and alumni, were more measured in their criticism. “I do see this as a step in the right direction,” said alumna Diana Whitney, “and yet it’s not specific enough.”

She would like to see a commitment to greater transparency in the form of more frequent public reporting, she said, as well as more mental health and support resources put toward helping survivors navigate the reporting process.  

DCGHSV plans to meet with Dartmouth administrators in the coming weeks.