To: President Hanlon and the Trustees of Dartmouth College
From: DCGHSV, SPCSA, and the Dartmouth Chapter of the AAUP
Re: Call to Rescind Opposition to Pseudonyms
Dartmouth College has elected to challenge the use of anonymity by two new plaintiffs in the current class action against the Trustees of the College. Our organizations have clarified our positions on the lawsuit, and we are aware that the parties have recently entered into mediation-- however, this attempt to intimidate victims of sexual assault cannot go unanswered.
In a system that poses countless barriers to reporting sexual misconduct, anonymity can help survivors endure the accountability process. Anonymity literally keeps survivors safe as they pursue justice: survivors often face harm and threats of harm after reporting. Survivors who seek justice frequently suffer lasting repercussions, including bias and backlash in the workplace, and even further violence in their personal lives. In many cases, anonymity may often be the best, if not the only, option for survivors.
Dartmouth’s integrity has been called into question through the tactics it has deployed in its legal filings. The lawsuit complaints and Dartmouth's responses make apparent that institutional bullying and an attempt to silence complainants continues. Intimidating the plaintiffs by opposing anonymity constitutes not courage or leadership, but denial and betrayal. It sends a clear message to other Dartmouth victims that they risk aggressive treatment if they come forward. Moreover, given the information in the plaintiffs’ public filings and the size of Dartmouth’s community, it is likely that even pseudonyms cannot guarantee these individuals anonymity. For the College to imply that they are exploiting the principle of anonymity is insulting.
The College’s adherence to this harmful course diminishes trust in its ability to provide safe, just, and equitable educational experiences, and it imperils its academic reputation. Further, this course undermines the credibility of Dartmouth’s commitment to creating a more welcoming and inclusive environment for all students, faculty, and staff -- the whole of its community. Institutional statements and cosmetic efforts are not sufficient. The actions of Dartmouth leadership have yet to inspire confidence. Stewards of Dartmouth are responsible not only for its financial resources and now-embattled public image but also for upholding its fundamental values; today’s leadership must bring substance and action to otherwise unfulfilled promises.
We assert that the use of anonymity in this case is not only appropriate, it is necessary. This aggressive legal strategy contradicts the College’s initiative to address sexual misconduct. If we are to take seriously the stated intentions of the current administration to pursue meaningful cultural and institutional reform, as well as the mission of the College’s “Call to Lead,” then Dartmouth must radically recast its approach to the lawsuit. We call upon Dartmouth leadership to drop the challenge to the Jane Doe plaintiffs’ anonymity.