Dickinson College protest ends as officials, students ink deal to improve handling of sex assault complaints

Student Rose McAvoy sparked the sit-in by airing her displeasure with how school officials responded when she reported being sexually assaulted in 2017.

  • Matt Miller/PennLive

(Carlisle) — A four-day sit-in by students at Dickinson College bore fruit Thursday evening when college officials signed an agreement vowing to improve the school’s handling of sexual assault complaints.

The accord came after negotiations with the protesters led by Rose McAvoy, the student who sparked the sit-in by airing her displeasure with how school officials responded – sluggishly, she insisted – when she reported being sexually assaulted in 2017.

“On behalf of President Margee Ensign, and the entire Dickinson community, I want to thank Rose and her fellow students for their conviction, for their courage and for bringing forward a series of proposals to improve our Title IX policies and practices,” college Provost Neil Weissman said in a statement after the signing.

“I also want to thank them for working so effectively with us to implement those proposals. As a result, we are a better and safer community,” he said.

McAvoy said she is pleased with the outcome and the fact that officials and students of the Carlisle college ended up working toward the same goal. Even though there were minor differences of opinion on some points, “they still addressed the issues that we wanted addressed,” she said.

Asked if she believes that taking her stand and publicly airing her own experience with sexual assault were worth it, McAvoy answered, “Oh my God, yes!”

Key points of the just-inked agreement include:

The minimum sanction for sexual assault must be a semester suspension. A second incident must trigger expulsion. Students who commit rape must be expelled.

Investigations of sexual assault complaints must be completed within 60 days. (McAvoy said the investigation of her case took seven months, during which time her attacker committed other assaults.)

Changes to the school’s sexual harassment and misconduct policy must be approved by students before implementation.

Complainants and the accused must be given access to and allowed to keep copies of investigative material. Weekly updates of investigations must be provided to the complainant and the accused.

Both parties must agree to the lifting of no contact directives.

Additional “blue light” emergency alarm boxes are to be installed on campus.

Sensitivity training for faculty must be increased.

Some of the agreement’s terms are to take effect this month. The full pact is to be in force by July 2021.


PennLive and The Patriot-News are partners with PA Post.

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