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If There’s a Will, Maybe There’s a Way

English Professor Barbara Will led a discussion yesterday at Bones Gate on sexual assault. The brothers chose the witty title, Respect Works, for an event that drew approximately 120 students, mostly men. That figure is about a quarter of the male sophomores on campus for the summer.

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Professor Will began her talk by reading the narrative of a college rape victim whose life had been irremediably altered for the worse by an assault at the hands of an experienced predator. Will then engaged the men in attendance in a thoughtful, respectful fashion, and the students who spoke responded in kind. (As an aside, the cogency and intelligence of her remarks illustrated to this viewer the wide intellectual chasm between members of the faculty and the College’s army of administrators.)

Will’s initial topic concerned the elusive nature of consent in sexual relations between students. She moderated a good discussion of Yale’s Sexual Misconduct Scenarios, inquiring whether the College should provide incoming students with similar descriptions of ambiguous sexual situations, and she asked her audience if, when and where such a document might be given to Dartmouth students. A half-dozen students answered her question, opining that such information would be useful if offered to students in small groups during freshman fall.

The consensus in the discussion was that safe sex — in the legal sense of the term — was only possible when a man received clearly expressed consent from his partner.

In response to her question as to how to “fix the Greek system,” only two responses were forthcoming: encourage upperclassmen to provide examples of good behavior; and require houses to elect an officer who would monitor and educate fellow members.

A lucuna in the discussion concerned the profile of students who engaged in sexual assault. While Will’s prefatory narrative clearly noted that the rapist’s skill was the result of past experience — a serial predator at work — the point was never built upon.

Will is the chair of a Presidential Steering Committee entitled Moving Dartmouth Forward, that includes Professor of Mathematics Craig Sutton; Professor of Physics and Astronomy Ryan Hickox; Senior Assistant Dean, Student Academic Support Services Deborah Tyson; Senior Associate Athletics Director for Peak Performance Drew Galbraith; Frank Cunningham III ‘16; John Damianos ‘16; Kayla Wade ‘16; Kelsey Weimer ‘16; Association of Alumni President Susan Finegan ‘85, and John Osborn ‘88. The Committee’s report on ending sexual assault and alcohol abuse, and improving inclusiveness, is expected in the fall.

Addendum: Barbara Will has been a Dartblog favorite ever since she came to Paris to promote her revelatory and controversial book on Gertrude Stein’s wartime years in Occupied France. That Phil has chosen a serious scholar to play a leading role in the reform of campus life says good things about him.

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