Student Backlash Following Email Notifying of Sexual Misconduct

Jacob DeCarli '22, Associate Managing Editor

An email sent by the Department of Public Safety (DPS) following incidents of sexual misconduct has sparked backlash from students after the email did not identify the perpetrator.

According to the email, which was sent to the Dickinson community at large on Monday, May 6, the incidents, which occurred on and off campus, were perpetrated by a former Dickinson student that is “now prohibited from being on college property.” Immediately following the release of the email, many students posted via Instagram a screenshot of the email with “Say his name” as the caption in response to the anonymity of the accused person.

Students are frustrated by DPS’s language of the email. According to Caroline Strapp ’22, the email made the incident feel “unimportant” and her feel “unprotected.”

“Knowing that there are sexual predators on campus isn’t news,” Strapp said, “…when an incident does get reported…it usually is just a blanket statement like this one.” Strapp explained that the anonymity of the perpetrator helps to keep his life uninterrupted while the “assaulted person has to live with the trauma inflicted on them.”

Emma Latham ’22, who also posted the email and caption on her Instagram, said she agrees with the “say his name” argument because, “by DPS keeping the perpetrator anonymous he’s able to get away with it which is so problematic.”

Other students want more information about the perpetrator, due to the email only addressing him as a former student. Caroline Walworth ’22, said she wants to know the perpetrators age and if he resides in Carlisle. “I was disturbed by this incident,” Walworth said, “and [I] hope that more information will be released to the community rather than just the standard email notification.”

Dee Danser, assistant VP of compliance and campus safety, she said she would not release the information of the perpetrator because she, “was not going to put out so much information so somebody could identify who those victims are,” she said, “then I [would] feel like I was not doing my job.’’ Additionally, Danser explains that DPS balances the protection and best interests of the victims by, “letting the community know something did happen, but to do it in a way where the privacy of these two women is paramount.”

Apart from protecting the victims, the investigation is ongoing and under student conduct. According to The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), student education records are protected on federal law, so the names of the victims and the perpetrator cannot legally be released to the public. According to Danser, names will not be released of people involved in crimes unless there are arrests placed against those involved. She also explained that students have the option to report incidents to the Title IX Coordinator, Kat Matic, if they do not want to report to DPS or have not reported yet, or the students can report to Carlisle Police Department.

According to Matic, she was “disheartened” by the perceived backlash because of her goal as Title IX Coordinator to inform the community on safety incidents. “I certainly understand once you give out information, people want to know the details,” Matic said, “But, it’s very important because I really want individuals to understand there [are] a lot of different competing interests.” Additionally, Matic explains that there are behind the scenes processes with the victims, as she works with victims on options regarding their cases and provides resources for support, prevention and remedy after assault. “This is a good educational moment to relay to our community that our focus is truly what those victims want to do,” Matic said, “no matter what we may personally want to happen.”

Students also criticized the language of DPS’s email. According to Natasha Handler ’22, she felt that labeling those impacted as victims and not survivors was “distressing.”

“It’s hypocritical due to the fact that there was an entire meeting on campus (with DPS) that stated not to call those who go through sexual assault “victims”,” she said.

Additionally, the email addressed different “strategies” for students to engage in to ensure their safety on campus which also drew in criticism for students because of the vague language of the email. “Sometimes I think there’s a need for clearer language,” Danser said, “this sounds very legal, like the concept of risk reduction, sometimes we just need to get rid of the legal language and tell people to watch out for each other.” Danser and Matic explain their openness for students’ suggestions during these processes of information sharing. “I do listen to what students are saying,” Danser said, “it’s really clear that there’s some room for improvement in the language, and I definitely take that into account.”

In terms of handling the case, Matic praises the students for their help with the investigation. “I was very impressed with our students…assisting DPS,” Matic said, “we took immediate and prompt action which is exactly what I want to see with any case, especially this.”