A student at Dartmouth College who says she was sexually assaulted on campus last month has inspired nearly 50,000 activists to call on university officials to "take action immediately to curb the sexual assault crisis" on campus.
The student said she was raped at a fraternity party weeks after a a student-affiliated website published a "rape guide" providing her name and a series of "tips" encouraging students to assault her. The incident inspired the feminist advocacy group UltraViolet to start a petition demanding accountability from the Dartmouth administration, and the issue has generated an outpouring of support and demands for change from across the country.
“Student groups have asked the school to list expulsion as the punishment for rape in the student handbook and to block access to the ‘rape guide’ website on campus. But school authorities haven’t taken any of these recommendations seriously,” the petition states. “Usually, stories like this get little attention from the news media. But if all of us speak up, Dartmouth won’t be able to hide.”
As Tara Culp-Ressler at ThinkProgress notes, Dartmouth is currently under federal investigation for alleged Title IX violations, and students have also filed a Clery Act complaint stating that school officials have failed to properly report sexual assault and hazing incidents on campus.
UltraViolet campaign Director Karin Roland told ThinkProgress that she hopes the public outcry will lead to genuine reform. “Dartmouth has had a problem with rape and sexual assault for decades. They have a long history with this issue, and student groups on campus are finally fed up and are leading the charge,” she said. “With the help of an online network of members at Ultraviolet to capture the grassroots outrage, we can really make change on this right now."
She also said that online advocacy has helped the movement to combat sexual violence -- on campus and beyond -- reach a tipping point.
“Women are really fed up with rape being excused. I think that’s true on campuses, I think that’s true in our justice system, I think that’s true at the high school level, and I think that’s just becoming true across the country," Roland explained. "The ability to connect over online networks has really empowered women to stand up and do something. If you look at everything from the reaction to Todd Akin’s legitimate rape comment, to Steubenville, to Dartmouth, you can see that women aren’t putting up with it anymore.”
The outcry from activists across the country has helped keep Dartmouth in the headlines, but much of the work is coming from student activists and faculty members from the Dartmouth community.
An editorial from Women's and Gender Studies Professor Giavanna Munafo called on campus officials to institute policies that directly addressed sexual assault on campus. "Dartmouth has harnessed a great many resources in recent months to combat sexual assault, and this is, indeed, a good thing. But it is not enough," she wrote. "No bystander training program, no committee, no first-responder training or added staff positions will stop rape or transform a culture that accepts and even promotes it."
Dartmouth officials have responded to the petition by pointing out that the student responsible for the "rape guide" is currently facing disciplinary action, and it committed to making the Dartmouth community "better and safer.”
Dartmouth is just one of the 41 colleges and universities under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights for potential violations of Title IX.