Political Animal


April 28, 2013 10:04 AM Dartmouth College equates rape threats with anti-rape protests; threatens to discipline the anti-rape protesters

By Kathleen Geier

Dartmouth College administrators deserve to go to the back of the class for the way they’re dealing with misogynist rape and death threats on campus.

ThinkProgress reports that the school’s Board of Trustees chair

appeared to equate the actions of sexual assault protesters with the subsequent death and rape threats made against them by several other Dartmouth students on anonymous online forums and message boards.

As if that wasn’t enough, Dartmouth is threatening to discipline both the anti-rape protesters and the students who have made rape and death threats against those protesters. Nice!

I’d love to believe that rape-friendly campus cultures were limited to Dartmouth. Dartmouth, after all, has long had the reputation of being the most wingnutty of the Ivy League schools. It is, for example, the place where those lovely people Laura Ingraham and Dinesh D’Souza got their start in the 1980s, becoming darlings of the right by, among other things outing LGBTQ students without permission in the campus right-wing rag.

But campus rape culture is by no means restricted to Dartmouth. Last week, for example, the New York Times reported that complaints were filed against Swarthmore and Occidental Colleges for mishandling sexual assault cases. Here’s what one Occidental student had to say:

Carly Mee, now a senior, said, “When I told an administrator that I did not feel safe, I was told that I had nothing to worry about, that she had met with my rapist, and that he didn’t seem like the type of person who would do something like that.” She said that even after the man was found responsible for assaulting her and two other women, he would be allowed back to Occidental, while she was afraid to return.

And here’s what a Swarthmore student alleges:

Hope Brinn, one of those who filed the complaint against Swarthmore, said that a fellow student repeatedly sexually harassed her and broke into her room in the middle of the night. Ms. Brinn, a sophomore, said that college administrators tried to dissuade her from making a formal complaint, made light of what had happened, said that she was partly to blame, and in their official records, inaccurately described her allegations to make them seem less serious.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has also been accused of covering up its rape problem and mistreating sexual assault victims. As Jessica Valenti has reported, UNC administrators

pressured the dean [Melissa Manning] to underreport sexual assault cases and harassed her when she wouldn’t. Manning also alleges that when she didn’t change the statistics, others did.

Valenti also reports that rape victims at UNC have been mistreated. There is, for example, this disgusting incident:

Annie Clark, who graduated in 2011, alleges that when she reported her rape in 2007 she was told by an administrator: “Rape is like a football game, Annie. If you look back on the game, and you’re the quarterback and you’re in charge, is there anything that you would have done differently in that situation?”

There are several issues here. One is that college administrators seek to cook the books by misreporting campus rape statistics (which they are required by law to make public). In addition, as Valenti notes, rape victims are often directed to rape counselors (who are not required to disclose rape incidents) rather than to campus police, who are. Finally, rape victims are often mistreated by campus officials and harassed by fellow students if they complain — while the rapists frequently get no more than a slap on the wrist, if that.

The Obama administration is to be commended for instituting tougher standards for reporting campus rapes (which they did in 2011), but the law should be changed to make reporting even more stringent. There also appears to be a desperate need for more sensitivity training for administrators who handle rape cases. Victims should never be shamed, blamed, or dissuaded from going to the police.

Finally, we desperately need more anti-rape education in the schools, at the elementary, secondary and college level alike. One of the most horrifying things about the Steubenville rape case is that students witnessed the victim being assaulted but didn’t do or say anything to prevent it. Among the reasons they failed to act is that they didn’t recognize that what they were witnessing — the penetration of a young woman who was too inebriated to be capable of consent — was rape.

Studies show that “cultural opposition to rape myths makes men less likely to commit assault.” Given that we’re all marinating in a pop culture environment that continues to deny, downplay, excuse, and make ugly jokes about rape, interventions like anti-rape education could be a powerful rape prevention tool.

Back in the stone age when I was in college, campus anti-rape Take Back the Night protests were common. It depresses me that, all these years later, in spite of all that activism and all those protests, so many college administrations are still failing to take rape seriously.

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee


  • R on April 28, 2013 12:48 PM:

    Why is the chair of the Dartmouth Board of Trustees involved at all? He's not involved in the day-to-day operations of the college, I hope.

    It may be that the protestors violated some campus rule, in which case there should be a hearing of whatever campus judicial body (including students and faculty as well as administrators) exists on campus. If they're found guilty, let's hope that they get at most a reprimand.

    The threats of violence, however, are violations of the law beyond the campus. Those who made those threats should be charged in court, as those who committed rape earlier should have been. A campus judicial process is no place to adjudicate a felony.

  • jjm on April 28, 2013 12:57 PM:

    Given the track record of university, college and prep school administrations on all matters sexual, I would say this is just par for the course.

    I would go so far as to say that right now, virtually ALL educational administrators deem themselves employed 1) to protect the interests of the 1%; 2) to protect and re-invigorate white male privilege against assaults by women and people of color.

    Face it folks: administrations used to be in synch with national politics, especially the president. (I recall my very liberal Dean saying back in the day that our university was going to have to invest in engineering missiles, because "Reagan likes nothing better than missiles.")

    Now they work directly for the 1% and/or the GOP. Consider the mediocre studies out of Harvard. This morning on Up with Steve Kornacki an assistant professor of Political Science from Harvard spoke of a study he authored of how white liberal suburbs of Boston immediately switched from supporting immigration reform to being against it, when he hired two "immigrants" to stand on the train platform. (Not to mention the 1% bootlickers Rogoff and Reinhart.)

    That study is NOT proper social science. It's ridiculous. Did he say what he had these pseudo immigrants DO to earn the fear and loathing of white liberals??? No. Such a study, so-called, is reprehensible and indefensible.

  • emjayay on April 28, 2013 1:06 PM:

    "virtually ALL educational administrators deem themselves employed 1) to protect the interests of the 1%; 2) to protect and re-invigorate white male privilege against assaults by women and people of color."

    I assume another primary motivation (actually, the one overall primary motivation) is to protect the reputation of the university, which impacts on enrollment of good students (further enhancing the reputation) and full tuition paying American and particularly rich foreign students, which all keeps the place afloat and affords their own salaries.

    Being known as number one in rapes isn't a great marketing tool.

  • c u n d gulag on April 28, 2013 1:27 PM:

    "Being known as number one in rapes isn't a great marketing tool."

    It sure as hell is, if you're a rape-inclined HS boy.

    I lived about a mile from the UNC campus, in Chapel Hill.
    For such a beautiful campus, in a charming town, there are a lot of nasty things that go on there.
    A lot of rape, a lot of violence. And more murders over the years, than a town that size should have.

    New Paltz, NY, was a comparable town - though now smaller, since Chapel Hill, the UNCCH itself, and the Research Triangle boomed back in the 90's and early 00's - was the center for all sorts of illegal pharmaceuticals, back in the 70's and early 80's.
    But there wasn't much that I ever heard about, as far as rape and murder.
    But I'm pretty sure that if there was, they were even better at keeping it under wraps, than they are now, with social media, and every cell-phone having a camera.

    But there should be some requirement for colleges to display the bad, with the good.

    In other words, don't just show prospective students graduation rates, and how great the sports or arts at that school are - show how many robberies, and rapes, and murders, took place on, or near, campus.

  • 14All on April 28, 2013 1:59 PM:

    Education: another arena where the profit motive inspires ugliness and corruption.

  • RLW on April 28, 2013 2:02 PM:

    Thanks for the solid overview of these recent events. The Center for Public Integrity in DC has done some fantastic investigative work around this very topic. In the following link you can find stories from a few years ago of women describing their horrifying experiences with college administrators. it's a nationwide epidemic.


  • dept_chair on April 28, 2013 2:27 PM:

    Your column strikes home. I am a middle-aged male professor and chair of a smallish department at a middling university and this last term two of the female graduate students in our program came forward and alleged that one of the male graduate ('Tom') students had sexually harassed and assaulted them. I turned the matter over to the University office responsible, but since the complainants were unwilling to lodge a formal complaint, nothing was done. Indeed, nothing could be done. The young women involved were (obviously) disturbed by this, sufficiently so that they did in fact they lodge a formal complaint. Within hours of the complaint being lodged 'Tom' was banned from campus and the police were called. Not long afterwards, he was charged with sexual assault, and he is currently awaiting trial.

    Much about what happened was quite disturbing. But one of most disturbing aspects is the fact that if a formal complaint had not been made, nothing could have been done, and if this had been known by the young women at the beginning, they probably would have never brought this to our attention.

  • Josef K on April 28, 2013 3:26 PM:

    “Rape is like a football game, Annie. If you look back on the game, and you’re the quarterback and you’re in charge, is there anything that you would have done differently in that situation?”

    Words fail.

    My own thought, being the father of two daughters, is rather straightforward in terms of sanctions in this matter:

    The accused will be either expelled (if this is their first offense), or have select portions of their anatomy removed (if this is their second or higher).

    The school administration meanwhile will be forced to wear a scarlet "R", and themselves be subjected to the kind of physical abuse involved in the accusation.

    I'm a little too angry with the above quote to care whether or not the innocent be harmed with these harsh penalties, so you can safely ignore this response entirely. I just needed to vent a little as I feed my newborn.

  • Anonymous on April 28, 2013 3:53 PM:

    My sister was raped while a student at Dartmouth.
    I am not in the least surprised that Dartmouth is still not taking rape on campus seriously.

  • FlipYrWhig on April 28, 2013 4:36 PM:

    What this version of events downplays is that the anti-rape protests took place during an event for prospective students. I do think that's a breach of "civility." That should never be equated to rape or rape threats, mind you, and I'm not sure I care that much about "civility," but it was an inflammatory tactical decision, along the lines of ACT-UP going to St. Patrick's Cathedral, so I'm not surprised that the powers that be want to make everyone cool off for a while, even the ones who are on the right side as matter of principles, and re-boot the dialogue.

  • Scott Milner on April 28, 2013 5:01 PM:

    Kathleen -- if you would take the time to read the reportage in the Dartmouth student paper, which is neither a tool of the administration nor a right-wing mouthpiece, you will find that the situation is far from what your inflammatory article describes. The "rape threats" the protesters claim, are in fact anonymous comments on a *non-Dartmouth online chatroom*. Take a few minutes and read what is posted by the protesters themselves as evidence of threats:


    Disgusting and sophomoric, certainly, as is the content of any number of online chatrooms. Serious threats, not in the least. It serves the protesters' egos to regard them as such, and your article uncritically feeds the fire.

    There is no doubt that Dartmouth, like many other universities, has problems with a spectrum of unwanted sexual attentions among its students, up to and including sexual assaults. But these protesters are mainly just reveling in the attention their notoriety brings, and your article adds nothing to the discussion.

  • R on April 28, 2013 7:29 PM:

    Scott Milner, I agree that it's worth examining the complexities of this situation. However, as a regular reader of a college student newspaper, I would be careful about relying on the reportage of novices who are carrying full course loads while putting out a newspaper. I would also hesitate to judge the motives of the protesters. Might they be actual rape victims or friends of actual rape victims who felt let down by the college and sincerely thought that the only path to a better outcome for future victims was some form of civil disobedience? Again, we're talking about late adolescents/very young adults here. Thanks to KG for bringing our attention to this and providing a larger context. Thanks also to RLW for the link to the C.P.I. story.

  • Diana W on April 28, 2013 9:54 PM:

    Just came back from a conference where part of the program included a viewing of the Oscar-nominated film "Invisible War", followed by a discussion with one of film's participants. This film discusses the prevalence of rape (both male and female) in our military system. It was depressing to come from that conference and see this discussion and find that the issues are absolutely identical. What's even more frightening is the global acceptance of this paradigm concerning "anti-rape" rhetoric. India is the most recent glaring example, but there are many others. What does "anti-rape" even mean? It implies that somehow, it is ok to be "pro-rape?" Everybody, men and women, need to fight back against this.

  • Dartmouth student on April 29, 2013 9:28 AM:

    This article is a depressing bit of reporting. The "anti rape" protesters were violent and have been harassing the student body and administrators for over a week. They have openly flaunted college policy in their attempt to protest things they see as wrong with the college such as rape and capitalism. While the actions of the select few who chose to threaten the protesters was despicable and will no doubt get the punishment they deserve, that doesn't excuse the protesters actions. Breaking into meetings, harassing tour guides, illegally recording discussions and assaulting students deserves punishment, if to a lesser degree of severity than the people who responded with threats. .

  • salinc on April 29, 2013 10:28 AM:

    This article--and the thinkprogress article on which it is based--simply misstates the facts. The "protesters" in this case knocked down a college employee, broke into an event, and have violated several other college disciplinary rules, not to mention the law. *Regardless* of what else has happened, those actions merit some form of college discipline. To portray this as "innocent protestors vs. violent rapists" gives a misleading picture of what has happened.