Valley Information – Jim Kenyon: Lawsuit exhibits issues with intercourse assault probes and race at Dartmouth
Dartmouth College quickly opened an investigation after a student received a complaint that she was sexually assaulted by a soccer player in her dormitory over the weekend of the Winter Carnival last February.
Dartmouth was right to respond promptly, both legally and ethically. Far too often, allegations of sexual misconduct are not taken seriously or covered up in colleges across the country, especially in cases involving sports students.
Why is Dartmouth’s treatment (or mistreatment, depending on your point of view) raising red flags in this case?
The accused student is black and the investigation reek of racist bias – so much so that the NAACP weighed in. But at a predominantly white college where only 6% of 4,200 students are black, that might be territory.
In September, Dartmouth suspended the defendant for two years for violating college guidelines on sexual misconduct. I suppose the Dartmouth administrators could argue that at least they were willing to give the male student a second chance by allowing him to eventually complete his Ivy League education. Even so, it is likely harmful for him to apply for graduate schools and interviews.
From the start it seems to me that Dartmouth, despite its wealth and resources, has failed to honor its obligation to incorporate racial prejudice in its investigation.
The attorney the college hired to investigate? Kristi Clemens, Title IX coordinator at Dartmouth, whose office was overseeing the investigation? The college’s associate general counsel, Dana Scaduto, who was involved in the case? College dean Kathryn Lively, denying the black student’s calling? They are all white.
And the kicker: the three Dartmouth administrators who were originally appointed as the jury for the case were all white too.
It was only after the black student questioned the panel’s racial lack of racial diversity that college admitted that he might have a point. “We have no one I know identifies as African American for this hearing body,” replied Clemens in an email to the defendant in September.
Dartmouth’s Cure? It replaced the panel’s white male administrator with a color male administrator – but not a black person. Call me a skeptic, but I find it hard to believe that low and middle-level administrators whose paychecks are signed by college will eagerly reject the findings of Dartmouth’s appointed investigator.
The investigation is governed by Title IX of the 1972 Civil Rights Act. Under President Obama, the federal government warned universities that they must step up their investigations into sexual misconduct or face the loss of funds.
The Trump administration followed suit with a new set of rules that strengthened litigation protection for accused students. In the past few years, dozens of students have won lawsuits against their colleges for violating their Obama-era rights, the New York Times reported in 2020.
Last month, the black student athlete filed a lawsuit in the US District Court in Concord in this column alleging that Dartmouth’s “inappropriate, inappropriate, and biased investigation and hearing process” was racial and gender discrimination.
The lawsuit also alleges that this case is not a premiere for Dartmouth. Since 2005, Dartmouth has suspended or expelled at least eight other black football players under the Title IX procedure. During this period, no Title IX investigations were initiated against white football players.
On Thursday, Dartmouth spokeswoman Diana Lawrence emailed me that “we will dispute the allegations in the complaint and will take our responses to court”.
Amy Spencer, an attorney for the Concord-based law firm Shaheen & Gordon, represents the Dartmouth student athlete. Citing privacy concerns, the suit does not name any of the students involved. The student’s race is also not mentioned.
After the lawsuit:
The two students became friends after arriving in Dartmouth in the fall of 2018. As freshmen, they engaged in “consensual sexual activity” at least three times, but stopped before intercourse.
On February 9, 2020, around 1:30 a.m., the woman called the black student who was sleeping in his room. The woman had consumed a “significant amount of alcohol” at a campus party and, according to the students, could not remember where she lived.
The soccer player, who is over 6 feet tall and weighs over 250 pounds, met her on the street and helped her back to her dormitory.
What happened is controversial, but at some point the male student took off his jacket. According to the lawsuit, Dartmouth’s investigators pointed out several times in their report that the black man was shirtless under his jacket “without pointing out the undisputed fact that he was asleep when (the woman) called and normally sleeps shirtless, like many men do it. ”
The lawsuit argues that “much of the investigator’s conclusions from the evidence was based on this biased and stereotypical view (of the defendant) as an aggressive, hypersexual black man, and particularly as a black male athlete”.
In a statement included in a Shaheen & Gordon media release, the New England Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said the allegations against Dartmouth “involve a college trial that is in direct contradiction to the NAACP’s work of extermination Systematic racism appears to exist in all areas of society, including science. “
I don’t suppose I know what happened that night. But it comes down to how Dartmouth handled the case over the months that followed, and whether black students of any gender can count on a racially sensitive investigation that is fair and impartial.
Jim Kenyon can be reached at email@example.com.