“Dartmouth has a problem!” came the heated protests from college students apart of an unaffiliated organization, Real Talk Dartmouth, just last week. The group of student protesters shouted jarring statistics such as 95% of sexual assault cases go unreported, only three rapists have been expelled within ten years, the existence of homophobic graffiti and racial verbal attacks. As a result of the protests, held at an assembly of prospective students on tour, Dartmouth has canceled classes for Wednesday to hold a day for campus-wide debate and discussion, as said by Dartmouth’s interim president in an email.
Reputation is more than likely the central reason as to why there seems to be developing tension and silence behind cases especially concerning sexual harassment and assault. While there appears to be backlash in how Real Talk Dartmouth decided to champion their cause, there is factual evidence available to back up some of the group’s claims. It was a smart decision on the college’s behalf to take a day off to bring students concerns into an environment open to conversation.
Despite the Sexual Abuse Awareness Program (SAAP) at the college, according to its newspaper, The Dartmouth, in 2011 an annual report showed that the number of forced sexual assault cases had risen from 10 to 22 compared to 2008-2009 and 2009-2010.
The caption of the YouTube video of the protest claims its purpose is not meant to scare away prospective students, but rather “to give a holistic and realistic prospective to counterbalance the flawed advertising that takes place during Dimensions.”
The video gained has more dislikes than likes, with comments such as these leading the fray:
The email sent out to Dartmouth students on the change of schedule for Wednesday read:
"This unusual action is being taken by the President and the Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences and is strongly supported by the Dean of the College, other divisions, and many students and staff. This has been prompted by a series of threatening and abusive online posts used to target particular students in the wake of the protest that disrupted the Dimensions Welcome Show on Friday evening. We feel it is necessary for the community as a whole to have the opportunity to learn about all that has transpired and to discuss further action that will help us live up to our mission."
It's clear that is there is an disturbing disconnect from how the protesters feel concerning the Dartmouth experience and how other students find the Dartmouth experience to be at large. The choosing of sides between victims in these incidents vs. perpetrators is a dynamic seen often in cases of sexual assault among other factors are at play. One side aims to aggressively protect its reputation while the other threatens to shatter it. It was seen at Steubenville, Horace Mann, and Occidental College. If educational institutions, and institutions beyond education were less preoccupied by maintaining a spotless record and did better acknowledging a problem before given the chance to escalate, sports scandals and protests in front of potential students would not have to be a necessity.
Dartmouth is taking a step in the right direction by addressing matters that do tend to go unreported at colleges across the U.S. It is hopeful that the wheels of understanding will foster change and growth campus-wide.