Students at Dartmouth College have filed a federal complaint alleging that the school charged them with violating the student code of conduct for staging a protest against sexual assault.
“At least two thirds of the protesters have now received
disciplinary letters, and it seems random — some people who were
featured prominently in the protest didn’t, and others did,”
Karenina Rojas, one of the protesters and a college senior, told
On April 19, a group of sexual violence prevention activists
held a rally in which they accused the school of underreporting
cases of sexual assault, racism and homophobia. A student group
called Real Talk Dartmouth interrupted an event called
Dimensions, which is held annually to attract prospective
students. One student was carrying a sign that stated, “I Was
Called A ‘Fag’ In My Freshman Dorm”.
“We were protesting sexual assault on this campus, and the
administration’s failure to respond to homophobia and racism on
campus,” Nastassja Schmiedt, a sophomore at Dartmouth, told
The Huffington Post. “We were informally informing the college
of civil rights violations.”
School officials tried to prevent the protesters from entering
the area where the event was held, but the students violated the
orders and disrupted it anyway, giving prospective students a
glimpse of sexual assault and homophobia on campus.
Some of the protesters subsequently received rape and death
threats from other students. When these threats were reported to
the school, Dartmouth College officials said that the ‘public
disruption’ caused by the protesters was equally as serious as
the rape threats they received thereafter.
“I don’t understand it at all because not following directions
seems like something incredibly benign,” Rojas told the
campus newspaper, The Dartmouth.
This week, at least 10 students who were involved in the protest
received letters informing them that they may have violated the
school’s code of conduct for their refusal to follow college
officials’ instructions to avoid the 1953 Commons, the dining
hall where the event for prospective students was held.
A group of students, seven of which received letters from the
administration’s Judicial Affairs Office, have now filed a
federal Clery Act complaint against Dartmouth, claiming that the
school is retaliating against them. The complaint, which has been
sent to the US Department of Education, includes testimonies from
more than 30 students and alumni, which claim that the
administration is creating a hostile environment by failing to
address cases of sexual assault, racism and homophobia.
“Dartmouth is a business, and it runs like a business selling
its prestige,” Anna Winham, a college junior, told the campus
newspaper. “Its prestige can be threatened by lawsuits
against it such as the Clery Act complaint against it. It’s a way
to force Dartmouth’s hand and make it change.”
Rojas told ThinkProgress that the administration’s actions
against the protesters are more drastic than previous responses
to student uprisings.
“I was a member of Occupy Dartmouth, and we occupied the
student center for months… We definitely failed to comply with
directions, and we were never disciplined like this,” Rojas
said, adding that the United Students Against Sweatshops group
was never drastically punished either.
In the end, the sophomore said she wants Dartmouth to address the
issue of sexual assault in the same way that it is addressing the
issue of violating school officials’ orders to avoid disrupting
“If we broke a rule, we should be punished — but we ask the
administration to also punish serial rapists,” Rojas said.
“The fact is that Dartmouth is punishing protesters who are
very visible, but won’t punish students who commit assaults.”
This article originally appeared on: RT