Dartmouth College Announces Plan to Fight Sexual Misconduct

FILE- In this May 22, 2018 file photo, students cross The Green in front of the Baker-Berry Library at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)
FILE- In this May 22, 2018 file photo, students cross The Green in front of the Baker-Berry Library at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

In the wake of a sexual misconduct scandal involving professors, Dartmouth College announced plans Thursday for an outside review of all academic departments, a revisal of its sexual misconduct policy and other measures meant to create an environment free from “the abuse of power.”

President Philip Hanlon said the college plans to create a single sexual misconduct policy for faculty, student and staff and include “appropriate processes for adjudicating potential violations of this policy.”

It also will start mandatory training on Title IX, the federal law barring gender discrimination, put more resources into mental health, and convene a working group to come up with policies aimed at addressing issues between faculty and students that led to abuse allegations against several professors

The measures “aim to create a learning environment free from sexual harassment and abuse of power, where every member of the Dartmouth community can thrive,” Hanlon said.

“Powerful accounts of sexual misconduct and the surfacing of painful memories have had a profound effect on us all,” he said in a letter to the Dartmouth community. “While change does not come easily for any institution, and there are no easy solutions, the stories that brave members of our community have shared strengthen our resolve to ensure that our learning environment is safe and inclusive for all of its members.”

A group of nearly 70 Dartmouth alumni and students said they were hearted by some of the college’s proposals including an outside committee that will assess the administration’s progress. But they said the proposal was short on details, which made it difficult to assess the impact of most policies.

“Our demands derive from specific experiences of sexual violence and gender harassment at Dartmouth — and we firmly believe that they should elicit direct action and response,” Dartmouth Community Against Gender Harassment & Sexual Violence said in a statement. “The community deserves details and timelines from Dartmouth leadership.”

Dartmouth’s announcement comes nearly two months after seven current and former students sued the Ivy League college, accusing it of ignoring years of harassment and assault by former faculty members in the psychology department.

The women contend that professors William Kelley, Paul Whalen and Todd Heatherton harassed and touched women inappropriately, often while out partying at bars or at their homes where one hosted hot tub parties.

Kelley and Whalen are each accused of assaulting a student after a night of drinking, attempting to seduce women under their supervision and punishing those who rebuffed their advances in the Department of Psychological and Brain Science.

In October 2017, Dartmouth launched an investigation into the three professors. It never released the findings and was preparing to fire all three. But Heatherton retired last summer after being told he would be fired and denied tenure. Whalen and Kelley resigned soon thereafter.

The New Hampshire attorney general’s office has also launched its own investigation.

Whalen and Kelley have not commented on the allegations, and it is unclear whether they have attorneys to speak for them. Heatherton apologized for acting inappropriately at conferences but said, through a lawyer, that he never socialized or had sexual relations with students. He also said he wasn’t aware of the behavior of the other two nor would have he have condoned it.

Dartmouth said its new policy is the third pillar in a campaign aimed at creating a more welcoming and inclusive environment on campus. In 2015, it launched a policy aimed at combating sexual assault and high-risk drinking. A year later, it rolled out a policy aimed at diversifying its faculty, students and staff.

Several of the recommendations in the latest announcement were inspired by a report last year that found sexual harassment was rampant in academia, Hanlon said.

“We are confident that by working together, Dartmouth can be a place where_without exception and across all disciplines_members of our community can advance their careers in a campus-wide environment that is productive, nurturing, professional, and supportive,” Hanlon said.

SOURCE: MICHAEL CASEY, AP