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The Scarlet & Black

Letter to the Editor: The College must protect victims

Dear Grinnell College Trustees,

When Dissenting Voices first published its Aims & Goals in 2014 in response to Grinnell College’s mishandling of sexual assault, we pushed for strong and clear educational outcomes as a measure of prevention. We observed that Grinnell College rarely, if ever, expels students found responsible for “non-consensual sexual intercourse.” In fact, in our years at Grinnell, the number of survivors that have left campus before completing their degrees far exceeds the number of rapists that have left. There is a crisis in campus safety when there are rapists found responsible for non-consensual sexual intercourse who are allowed to remain on campus, especially considering that, according to “Know Your IX,” 9 out of 10 campus rapes are perpetrated by serial rapists.

Because research shows most rapists are repeat offenders, they pose an active threat to campus safety. The Jeanne Clery Act requires colleges to give timely warnings whenever a campus crime presents an ongoing threat to the community.

However, at Grinnell we rarely receive warnings about sexual assault. During the spring semester of 2016, we received multiple warnings about “a male, late 20s/early 30s… with his penis exposed.” Why is a flasher deemed a threat to campus safety, whereas someone reported as a sexual assailant is not? If we are truly concerned with acts of sexual violence, we should take them all seriously, including when they are done by fellow students. It’s unsurprising that Grinnell continues to frame people outside the college as threats to campus safety.

Just this week, Andrea Connor sent out a “Safety Alert” about an individual in the town who was “served a campus no-trespass order.” Connor even attached a picture of the individual. While we find this emails helpful for maintaining the safety of the students, we wonder why these emails never address students who pose a threat to the campus at large. Perhaps the College has more concerns about protecting its image, whereas there are no consequences to demonizing people from the town or outside community.

As an elite college that prides itself on being progressive, we continue to attempt to separate ourselves from the outside world, as if we are somehow immune to sexual violence and rape culture, rather than complacent in its perpetuation.

Additionally, since research shows that those found responsible for sexual assault are likely to be repeat offenders, the College must remove those found responsible for nonconsensual sexual intercourse from campus. This is important not only to survivor and campus safety, but also in terms of prevention. If colleges made it clear that there are strict consequences for sexual violence, perpetrators will be less likely to commit these crimes. Decades of research show that rapists rape when there are no strict consequences for their crimes. Diana Scully’s study for the US National Institute of Mental Health revealed that “most of the college-age rapists studied were not only unafraid of punishment, but blissfully unaware that what they did was criminal.”

The college has already established a conduct process for sexual assault, but the next step is to define minimum outcomes for this process. As of now, the language on the College’s website regarding education outcomes for students found responsible of sexual misconduct is very unclear. The College states that, “Any student who is determined to have engaged in non-consensual sexual intercourse may receive educational outcomes ranging from suspension to dismissal.”

What does it mean to engage in non-consensual sexual intercourse (or, rape, if you will)? This passive language is vague enough to implicate both the rapist and the survivor with the use of the word “engaged.” Considering that the College has forced survivors to take a leave of absence for failing to perform academically, as well as a result of inadequate treatment by the College for sexual trauma. Huffington Post writer Tyler Kingkade, who reported on sexual assault on the Grinnell campus back in March 2015, found that this may not be far from the truth. By providing clearer outcomes with more transparent language, survivors and perpetrators will better understand the potential results of the conduct process.

Grinnell should take a strong stance against sexual and dating violence by outlining strict and standard outcomes. We can increase efforts to educate students about the sexual misconduct policy by having every student read and become familiar with the standards of sexual respect outlined in the Student Conduct Handbook. This should happen in NSO or tutorial classes, where students will be required to read relevant sections of the sexual respect policy, especially on potential outcomes.

As trustees invested in the Grinnell College community, we wanted to raise student concerns about campus safety and provide ideas on how we can directly address these issues.

Thank you,

Dissenting Voices

Work Cited

“Know Your IX Basics.” Know Your IX. Accessed November 08, 2016.

Tyler Kinkade. “Why Even Small, Progressive Grinnell College Has Trouble Dealing with Sexual Assault on Campus,” March 3, 2015,

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