Dartmouth Quick to Punish Rape Protestors Instead of Actual Rapists

News & Politics

It's been a tumultuous spring semester at Dartmouth College, thanks to a highly publicized student protest and widely supported Clery Act complaint, both of which accused the college of mishandling violations of sexual assault, homophobia, and racism. This week, Dartmouth responded by...charging undergrad protesters for rallying in a dining hall. Somehow, we're not surprised.

To recap: in April, a group of Dartmouth undergraduates interrupted a presentation for 550 accepted students to protest the above issues, among other grievances. Both administrators and fellow students were pissed, since it's not fab PR to tell prospies that the college they're considering has larger problems than a disappointing cafeteria salad bar. Some of the upset Ivy Leaguers responded by posting online death and rape threats about the protestors — a few suggested lynchings and public executions.

Afterwards, Interim President Carol Folt and Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson cancelled classes for a day to soothe campus tensions and, according to Dartmouth senior Karenina Rojas, promised several protesters that they wouldn't receive disciplinary action. Rojas said local police also claimed Dartmouth College wouldn't press charges.

On May 23, over 30 students and alums filed a Clery Act complaint with the Department of Education, alleging that Dartmouth College was in violation of the Clery Act, citing "violations of sexual assault, LGBT, racial and religious discrimination, hate crimes, bullying and hazing," according to The Dartmouth. Things were heated, but moving right along!

Until May 28th — the day before the last day of classes and right before The Dartmouth winds up for the academic year — when around two-thirds of protesters at the prospie student show received an email from the head of Undergraduate Judicial Affairs letting them know that they were being charged with a violation of "Standard IX - Failure to Comply: Directions," because college officials told us not to enter the dining hall where the protest was held.

The possible repercussions — a letter of Warning, Reprimand or a maximum sanction of probation — aren't huge, but protesters believe it sends a clear message about whose side the administration is really on. "There is a belief among some of the protesters that the Dartmouth administration finally caved in to pressures to punish us, despite the fact that no one, to our knowledge, has been punished for harassing us or for publishing threats online against us," Rojas told Jezebel in an email, citing "calls from prominent alumni to punish us, particularly at a conference that they just held two weekends ago" (Here's aDartmouth article with some pretty ignorant alumni quotes.)

Rojas has reported homophobic harassment and said the perpetrators received no punishment, and "certainly" no disciplinary hearing. Yet: protestors are in trouble for entering a dining hall. "Several people I know have been sexually assaulted, went through the official college disciplinary process, and the perpetrators were found guilty—yet no disciplinary action beyond a warning or probation was taken against them," Rojas added.

Will this story blow up like UNC student Landen Gambill's, who was punished by the Office of Student Conduct for "intimidating" her rapist by speaking to the press about her sexual assault earlier this year? Her case was eventually dropped by the chancellor's request — and after #standwithLanden trended nationally. It seems by the timing of Dartmouth's response that they're hoping it doesn't.

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