White Hats Deny Claims of Sexual Assault

Jessica Sykes ’16, Co-Editor-In-Chief

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The Dickinson Title IX Office wants to “learn more” about alleged incidents of assaults involving members of Ravens Claw, a campus honors society for senior male athletes known informally as the White Hats.

A spokesman for the White Hats who asked to remain anonymous says these claims are “certainly not true.”

The issue arose at a discussion of the Sexual Assault Climate Survey on April 27 when Professor of Sociology Susan Rose said she had received reports from alumni, both White Hats and alleged victims, about an alleged tradition where members invite “certain freshmen women to wear white dresses” that includes “a higher degree of violence.” Rose says the practice “seems to be part of a cyclical ritual from year to year.”

Rose says that some of the reports come from “alums two, three, four years ago who are still struggling…a few years out…and not all of whom were victim survivors, [but] those who were aware in varying degrees.”

The White Hat spokesman says the organization held three social events this year, where they invited male and female guests and asked them to wear all white as a “reference to the name” of the society. He says there is “no tradition or ritual behind it.”

Dickinson’s Title IX Coordinator Donna Greco, Assistant Title IX Coordinator and Director of Prevention Education and Advocacy Center Kelly Wilt and Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Resource Center Donna Bickford say in an email that “the college has not received formal reports of sexual assaults involving the White Hats. By formal report, we mean specific incidents, names and dates.”

Following the concerns expressed by Rose, however, “The college is taking steps to learn more about the nature of this concern,” the Title IX Office says. “If such a ritual exists, it would be extremely harmful to the community.”

Greco explained that her office is involved because Title IX of Educational Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination in all educational programs and activities.

“Sexual harassment, including sexual violence, is considered a form of sex discrimination,” she said. “The Violence Against Women Act requires campuses to also prevent and address dating violence, domestic violence and stalking.”

The White Hat spokesman says that of the three events held this year, “None of them were even close to the beginning of this academic year. None of them have included a single first-year student…. All the people we have always invited have all been our good friends and close friends, and it has simply been just a social gathering and party like any other party.”

The spokesman also says that he cannot speak for previous years because “it’s seven different guys every year.” He says, “I can’t speak for past classes, [but] we’ve never invited a first-year student. None of that has ever occurred. For the organization as a whole, it has never been told to us or been considered a ritual of any type to invite first-year women or we have never heard of accusations that were described.”

Cameron Siems ’16, who has attended White Hat events, says “with assurance” that she has “never seen or experienced what they are being rumored of” and that she has “always felt comfortable and excited to be there.”

“Wearing white dresses and attending these events is completely my choice,” Siems says. “These men do not inflict pressure on anyone to partake in anything they do not want to do. In my experience, they have always illustrated genuine behavior and positively uphold their traditions and values.”

Rose explains that she has not heard from students that this alleged “ritual” occurred in the fall 2015 semester, but has received reports from 2013 and 2014. Efforts by The Dickinsonian to reach White Hat alumni from those years were unsuccessful.

The spokesman hopes that “hearsay from alumni…is not the basis for painting a larger image that is completely false.”

“Our organization prides itself on being leaders in all aspects of Dickinson life and that entails preventing these things from occurring, which is why it is shocking to hear what was mentioned at the meeting [by Rose],” the spokesman said in an email to a Dickinsonian reporter.

Rose distinguishes between cases where groups were involved as opposed to individuals. She wants “a much more open conversation” specifically about sexual assaults by multiple perpetrators, 21 cases of which were reported in the 2015 Sexual Assault Climate Survey.

“How do we prevent not just respond,” she asks.

The spokesman echoes these concerns in an email. “The topic of prevention is of great importance and it is critical that there is a dialogue on our campus as well as campuses across the country,” he says. “I hope that continued discussion and awareness will improve the lives of many on our campus and make Dickinson a better community.”

Greco, Bickford and Wilt say they “hope that any student with information about any form of gender-based harassment would come forward and report by talking with the Title IX Office or the Department of Public Safety.” Non-emergency and anonymous reports can also be made at http://www.dickinson.edu/info/20247/department_of_public_safety/1012/anonymous_tips.

The White Hats’ faculty advisor is scheduled to meet with the Title IX Office this week, and the members of the White Hats have asked to have a meeting of their own as well.

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