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Letter to the editor: Dissenting Voices statement of purpose and goals

Dissenting Voices is a student-driven campaign to end campus sexual violence. We are an activist group committed to educating students about their civil right to education free from sexual violence and harassment, while also pushing policy and legislative change at the college level for better administrative enforcement of that same right. Dissenting Voices aims to provide a checks and balance system between the law on the books, the College’s administration of those laws, and survivors on the ground. To that end, we work to educate our fellow students about their rights and empower them to take action for safety and equality on campus; we are committed to bringing students’ voices, experiences and concerns to the administration in order to implement better, more sustained practices that enforce Title IX, Clery Act and the Dear Colleague Letter. Our first priority is not to the College’s brand but to the best practices for prevention and, when that fails, reducing survivor trauma to the best of our ability. We have seen and personally experienced the failures of the administration in Title IX compliance, like most schools all over this country. We take the call of SGA’s recent “It’s On Us” campaign—also aligned with a national movement—quite seriously. Indeed, it sparked the formation of our group.

As dedicated students at Grinnell, we have tried for several years to work within the terms of “civil discourse” and “self-governance” to address our concerns about the College’s Title IX policies and enforcement. Many of us have been on relevant committees, met with administrators and written detailed opinion pieces for student publications that provide suggestions for improvement. Yet, we have seen little improvement in the experiences of rape survivors on Grinnell’s campus. For this reason, we want to provide students with accurate information about sexual violence on campus and work as a watchdog group to ensure that the College fulfills its legal obligation to protect survivors by complying with Title IX, current Clery Act revisions and the Dear Colleague Letter.

Dissenting Voices is committed to promoting awareness and student safety on campus. Like many other campus groups across the nation, we believe that continued activism is needed to end rape on campus: Our goals are simple: we expect the College, like every other institution in the country that receives federal funding, to comply with federal law, and in so doing, protect survivors of sexual assault, rape and sodomy, as stipulated by—and as the College reports every year in—the Jeanne Clery Act. We simply request that the administration take immediate steps to improve its Title IX compliance.

We ask that by Feb. 2, 2015, as per the Clery Act, that the College make all outcomes of sexual misconduct public knowledge, especially those that constitute crimes that the College may not pursue as criminal proceedings but nonetheless report according to the Clery Act. We believe that complying with the Jeanne Clery Act in this way will be a strong deterrent to future sexual assault, if students and their parents understand the outcomes of such actions. We believe complying with federal policy about clearly communicating outcomes will impel a college-wide dialogue about the benefits and shortcomings of punitive vs. educational sanctions.

We logically ask that students found responsible for sexual misconduct who do remain on campus have strident sanctions and not have paid positions on campus. To that end, we ask that by Feb. 2, 2015, the administration remove any students found responsible for “sexual misconduct” from positions directly responsible for student safety. It is reasonable to expect that students in even voted-in or appointed-to positions by student government must pass a background check provided by the Dean of Students. We are not asking for you to ‘out’ these students but simply provide necessary oversight in such cases, blocking appointments of students who have made serious violations of policy such as Title IX. This is in line with the most basic issues of accommodation for survivors, since survivors should be equally allowed to attend college events and access safety resources on campus without feeling intimidated by their assailants. By such appointments, the College rewards assailants and makes survivors feel unsafe on the campus, very likely prolonging the trauma of the assault.

While these are specific aims for the College, due to the immediacy of issues currently impacting survivors now, on the ground, we would also like to share with you our larger aims that align with the broader concerns of students nationally ( We hope you will take the time to follow the above link and read the goals that we will continue to pursue. We ask you to work with us in our efforts to make our campus safe for all students to have the best experience at Grinnell.

For a safer Grinnell,

Dissenting Voices

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  • D

    Dissenting VoicesDec 13, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    Dissenting Voices is merely asking Grinnell to reduce the amount of trauma that survivors undergo, and referring to survivors and their allies as throwing a “tantrum” indeed adds to this hostile environment. Ad hominem attacks are less useful than expressing solidarity and concern for survivors’ peace of mind and emotional and academic experience at Grinnell. Our coalition is not unique, we align with national movements across the country to stop sexual violence on college campuses and improve college compliance with Title IX such as, among countless others, “Our Harvard Can Do Better.” You are right, we are also Grinnellians, and we think Grinnell can do better to provide a safe and productive learning environment for all its students.

  • I

    In Case You're WonderingDec 12, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    CHB no longer hears Title IX/Sexual Assault cases, so you may want to consider changing your “Aims/Demands” section on your website to reflect that. Pleased to see that this article is a bit more diplomatic than this group’s other actions, but the aggressive and disrespectful approach to interacting with administrators on this issue is just plain shameful. We’re Grinnellians, we are better than temper tantrums and ultimatums.