Dartmouth College students pressing a federal complaint claiming the school underreported sexual assaults said Dartmouth is retaliating by charging them with violating the student code of conduct for an April protest.
At least 10 students involved in the April 19 demonstration were notified this week that they face adjudications for a possible violation of the Dartmouth standards of conduct for failing to follow college officials' instructions, according to letters from Nathan Miller, director of the Undergraduate Judicial Affairs Office. Seven students who received letters were either public complainants or were involved in preparing and processing a federal Clery Act complaint filed against Dartmouth last week, alleging the school failed to prosecute and report sexual violence on campus, said Dartmouth senior Lea Roth.
"We were protesting sexual assault on this campus, and the administration's failure to respond to homophobia and racism on campus," Nastassja Schmiedt, a Dartmouth sophomore, told The Huffington Post. "We were informally informing the college of civil rights violations."
Schmiedt, who is among the students accusing Dartmouth of violating the Clery Act, which requires full public disclosure of campus crime, said the code of conduct charge further violates federal law because it is retaliation against whistleblowers.
Dartmouth spokesman Justin Anderson declined to comment, citing an ongoing investigation.
The protest was staged by a student group called Real Talk Dartmouth, which interrupted a popular event for prospective students called Dimensions. The student activists declared that Dartmouth does not address problems on campus, including sexual assault, racism and homophobia. One carried a sign reading "I Was Called A 'Fag' In My Freshman Dorm." College officials attempted to prevent the students from entering the 1953 Commons, where the Dimensions show was held, but group members disobeyed.
Protesters said they later received death and rape threats on an anonymous online Dartmouth message board, bored@baker. The Dartmouth administration canceled classes for a day of dialogue in response, but faculty and students said tensions remain.
Screenshots of bored@baker this week show threats are still being posted:
No one has been charged in the threats, said Roth, who also joined in filing the Clery complaint against Dartmouth.
"We believe this is retaliation for our Clery complaint and an attempt to quiet the lynch mobs" on the campus message board, Roth said of the code of conduct charges.
Nina Rojas, a Dartmouth senior involved in the protest and the Clery complaint, told the Dartmouth newspaper she believes Dartmouth is unfairly applying its rules.
"If there's a rule that I broke, I should be punished for it, but if other people break rules, especially if they involve violence or sexual violence, they should be punished as well." Rojas said. "Punishment and accountability is done in a selective way, and that is a huge problem."
Alumni Council president John Daukas has openly criticized the Real Talk protesters, and said their claim that 95 percent of sexual assaults go unreported was "preposterous." (U.S. Department of Justice research published in 2000 concluded that fewer than 5 percent of campus rapes and attempts are reported to authorities.) Dartmouth trustees chairman Steve Mandel equated the rape and death threats with the anti-rape protest at the "Dimensions" show in a campus email.
The conduct violations against the students will be decided in a hearing by a Dean or official from Judicial Affairs. Potential punishment may include a warning, a letter of reprimand or college probation, the letter said.
The Clery Act complaint will be reviewed by the U.S. Education Department, which may investigate. If the department finds the complaint founded, It may impose sanctions that include the loss of federal financial aid.
CLARIFICATION: This post has been updated to clarify the students' adjudication will be decided in a hearing by a Dean or official from Judicial Affairs, not by a jury of students, faculty members and administrator, as the protesters previously thought.