As summer term winds down, we are gratified to witness a surge of engagement with our committee work on campus. Student groups have been reaching out to us with regularity to ask how they can be involved in the effort to address extreme behavior on campus. The recent marathon half-day conference on sexual assault hosted by Bones Gate fraternity, which drew approximately 130 Dartmouth men and ended with a candlelight vigil on the steps of Dartmouth Hall, was testimony to the sincere interest and concern felt by many on campus about the complex problem of sexual assault. Thanks are due to the organizers of this conference. We hope their investment, and that of many other students in making Dartmouth safer, healthier, and more inclusive, will continue into the fall and beyond.
Our committee is currently in the midst of examining best practices at other institutions regarding binge drinking, sexual assault, and lack of inclusivity. This is an important step in our process, for these are complex problems on a national scale that affect not just our peer institutions but almost every institution of higher learning in America. The recent hand-wringing in the national media about the value of an Ivy education implies that elite students are different from others in their behavior and sense of impunity. Experts around the country suggest that this is not necessarily the case, and that most schools are grappling with the same problems that confront us at Dartmouth. If you are interested in finding out more about the scope of these issues at Dartmouth in comparison to national trends, you may want to look at two recent surveys done by Dartmouth in the past year that are linked on our website: https://forward.dartmouth.edu/resources/.
Drawing on the expertise of other institutions is opening our minds to many possible means of intervention. But figuring out what will work at Dartmouth is another issue. As we talk to experts in student behavior, we are constantly evaluating what makes sense for our campus and its future. Our goal, above all, is to present recommendations to President Hanlon that will work.
Quality of process, not haste, is what’s important. Looking forward to the fall, we are increasingly aware of the need for more time to accommodate the surge of student interest and to be able to share the broad parameters of what we’ve learned with the community. Alumni engagement continues to be strong, and we want to keep those conversations going as well.To that end, we have chosen to extend our timeline by several weeks, presenting our final report in January 2015. We will, as planned, spend the months of September and October discussing our thinking with the community.