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Work continues after Dartmouth summit ends

Participants in Dartmouth College’s recent summit on sexual assault will continue their work in the coming months.

Representatives from more than 60 colleges and universities attended the summit earlier this month in Hanover. There, they were divided into five working groups that will continue working together to develop recommendations that can be shared with their peers. While several institutions have said they would be interested in hosting another summit in a year, others want to reconvene in six months.

“These are complicated issues that don’t lend themselves to long-distance discussions,” said conference co-organizer David Lisak, a psychologist and national expert on sexual assault.

The five working groups are focused on legal issues, investigation and accountability, research and assessment, direct services, and prevention and education. Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson said the summit laid the groundwork for a coordinated national effort to confront the widespread problem of sexual violence on campus.

Dartmouth is one of 55 colleges and universities being investigated by the federal Education Department for how it handles sexual harassment and assault complaints. The Ivy League college – which reported 24 sexual assaults in 2012, compared with 15 in 2011, 22 in 2010 and 10 in 2009 – has been working on multiple fronts to prevent sexual assault, encourage reporting and hold perpetrators accountable.

In April, Dartmouth President Philip Hanlon called sexual assault one of three critical issues – along with high-risk drinking and lack of inclusion – that are compromising the school’s core mission. Two months later, the college implemented a new system for handling sexual assaults that includes harsher sanctions and having a trained external expert investigate allegations and determine responsibility.

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