HLS Prof Slams Assault Adjudication

Nov 21 2014

Janet Halley.jpgIn an extended memorandum, Janet Halley, the Royall Professor at Harvard Law School, excoriates the sexual assault enforcement procedures recently enacted at Harvard. The policies are similar to those at Dartmouth, having been guided by regulations and non-binding publications issued by the federal Departments of Justice and Education. Halley's introductory paragraph:

Today colleges and universities around the country enjoy a moment of special opportunity: a chance to change slipshod, dismissive and actively malign handling of sexual harassment claims, and to offer genuine remedies for victims. But it is also a moment of danger: because one such remedy involves discipline for wrongdoers, the rules must define misconduct to include the conduct we want to sanction and deter (and not socially valuable or unharmful behavior), and to process complaints in a way that is fair to all parties. The new University Policy and Procedures realize these dangers: they provide an overly broad definition of sexual harassment, far beyond anything that federal courts recognize; they trench directly on academic freedom and freedom of speech; they threaten stigmatized minorities with unjustifiable findings of responsibility; they will rush low-income students who cannot afford counsel to unfair judgment; and they are defective on every known scale of equal procedural treatment of the parties and due process. [Emphasis added]

In addition to bringing to bear her legal scholarship on sexual harassment, Halley draws on her "own service as a sexual harassment enforcer in a university setting." The memo is well written and easily accessible to non-lawyers.

The piece appears to be a detailed follow-up to an open letter to the Boston Globe in which twenty-eight members of the Harvard Law faculty denounced the myriad unfairnesses of Harvard's new assault policies.

The fact that the procedures are entirely out of touch with traditional notions of legal and adjudicatory fairness illustrates a larger problem in the academy. How is it that Harvard administrators can draft such policies without consulting members of their university's own Law School faculty? As we have noted in the past, educational administration has become a world of its own, entirely divorced from the learning and experience of scholars. Johns Hopkins Professor Benjamin Ginsberg has written a book on the subject: The Fall of the Faculty, The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters.

Addendum: Former Yale quarterback Partick Witt, now a student at Harvard Law and previously the object of sexual assault accusations while an undergraduate, has written a piece in the Boston Globe deriding the prosecution of assault charges.

Addendum: The New York Times published a lengthy report in the same vein last Sunday entitled: Mishandling Rape, and it followed up on Wednesday with another piece headlined: New Factor in Campus Sexual Assault Cases: Counsel for the Accused.


Phil Klay '05 Makes NBA

Nov 20 2014

Uh, that's the National Book Award for fiction, which Klay won last night in NYC. NPR reports:

Former Marine Phil Klay took home the National Book Award for fiction, winning the prize for his debut short story collection Redeployment.

Klay, who had been deployed in Iraq, appeared taken aback by the honor on stage.

"I can't think of a more important conversation to be having -- war's too strange to be processed alone," he said in his acceptance speech. "I want to thank everyone who picked up the book, who read it and decided to join the conversation."

Across a dozen stories told in first-person, Redeployment is at its heart a meditation on war -- and the responsibility that everyone, especially the average citizen, bears for it. The book beat out a shortlist that included Marilynne Robinson, one of literature's most celebrated living writers and the favorite coming into the night. Also on the shortlist were Emily St. John Mandel, Anthony Doerr and Rabih Alameddine.

We've written about Klay's fine work twice now (here and here). The '05 who wrote to me with the news noted, "Some good news for a change."

Addendum: The College's press release also gives background on past Dartmouth winners of the National Book Award.


An Underlying Mental Health Crisis?

Nov 20 2014

A persistent student complaint over the years has been the lack of availability of timely mental health counselling at Dick's House. I've always wondered about the perceived need for this kind of support; I guess that the pressures of modern student life are intense enough that many more students need assistance than in my day. But just how bad is this situation? Are we in some kind of invisible crisis?

We've writen about the widespread abuse of cocaine at the College, and The D has reported extensively on student use of Adderall and othe stimulants. And while we are on the subject of excesses, there is no need to provide citations to confirm undergraduate overuse of alcohol. But a question needs to be asked: are we dealing with no more than youthful experimentation/exuberance with regard to such substance abuse, or can this behavior fairly be described as self-medication? In his book Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life, William Deresiewicz suggests the latter possibility:

Deresiewicz Mental Health.jpg

The extent of the mental health problem at Dartmouth became more apparent to me via a recent comment on the Improve Dartmouth website by Heather Earle, Director of the College's Counseling and Human Development service:

As many of you may know, more and more students are feeling increased pressure in many areas of their lives. While many students work at trying to find solutions to these pressures through help from friends and other support systems on campus, increasingly large numbers are seeking counseling assistance. As one example of this increase: in October 2013, CHD had 976 student encounters; in October 2014, CHD had 1355 student encounters. [Emphasis added]

Come again? That's 1,355 "encounters" last month alone -- for a student body of 4,276 undergraduates, not all of whom are on campus for the term, and many of whom, freshmen I expect, have not learned to avail themselves of Dick's House. So what do you figure? A quarter of our undergrads received mental health counseling in October?

All is not well in Hanover.

Addendum: A recent graduate of the College writes in:

Yes, it really is that bad. "Invisible crisis" is not an overstatement. Many of my friends sought counseling during my time at Dartmouth. And these are just the people who were willing to talk about it -- needless to say, sadly there's a significant stigma associated with mental health issues. Couple the high-achieving Dartmouth student with the general reluctance to ask for help (for fear of seeming weak) and you have a very real problem.

Even more absurd is when students fail classes due to mental health issues, the College politely asks them to take a leave term. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess. Sound like anything else the College deals with?

Addendum: A concerned '15 offers a comment:

I read your most recent Dartblog post and I felt compelled to write to you, particularly in light of the SA fleece snafu. While "jacketgate" has left many questioning SA's role on campus, it is important to recognize that they are, in fact, working tirelessly to tackle some of the most pressing issues at Dartmouth -- namely, the mental health crisis that you describe. The "I'm Here For You" initiative that Casey and Frank launched recently has been met with significant enthusiasm, in addition to the "It's on Us" campaign to combat sexual violence on campus.

While SA misstepped seriously in their use of student funds, let's not rush to peg them as incompetent and corrupt. This year is the first in my time at Dartmouth when SA engaged seriously with campus issues and made itself a legitimate presence in campus discourse.

Addendum: Look at the size of College's Counseling and Human Development service: nine psychiatrists/psychologists, three counselors, two nutritionists, five psychiatry/psychology residents/interns, and two administrators.

Addendum: A reader sent in a link to a column in the Dartmouth Mirror by Annie Fagin '15 in which she recounts her struggles with depression:

I'm that girl you see in Collis, the one with the starry jeans and the big glasses. If you've ever spoken to me, you probably thought I had my act together.

But mental health problems can and do touch many of us here at Dartmouth. My story is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg that is our community's silence on mental health issues. Our peers and classmates suffer from anxiety, learning disabilities, eating disorders, PTSD, addiction and more. And my perspective is only one of many.

In the November 7 issue of the Mirror, Abigail Hartley '16 shares five rules on "Maintaining Sanity" at Dartmouth. One of them is:

See a therapist. I've heard the counselors at Dick's House are a mixed bag. I got lucky and found one I really got along with, but there are also multiple places in town where you can go to dump your problems on someone else for 45 minutes every week. Even if you just don't feel "right," talking to a trained professional -- not your roommate/best friend/Tuesday night hookup -- can totally help.