Hundreds of Hamilton College students, faculty, and staff gathered just before noon on Friday, April 19, to express solidarity against the use of date rape drugs.
The demonstration, which was held in front of the College’s main administration building, was a response to two reports received by Campus Safety, nearly simultaneously on April 14 from friends of students who said they had been given drinks laced with a date rape drug following their attendance at off-campus parties sponsored by Hamilton student organizations.
The campus was alerted to the reports the next morning in an email from Vice President and Dean of Students Terry Martinez. She said the incidents were being investigated as criminal acts and that Hamilton has requested assistance from law enforcement. She also provided precautionary steps students could take when attending a party or visiting a bar.
In addition to speaking out against date rape drugs at Friday’s demonstration, dozens of students also expressed concern with the College’s response to the situation, support for survivors of sexual assault, and the need for more mental health services on campus, among other topics.
Martinez and Hamilton President David Wippman also addressed the gathering. They said the College’s top priority is the health and safety of its students and that the College has zero tolerance for those who use drugs to facilitate criminal acts.
Those points were also expressed to the campus in a second email from Martinez on Wednesday, April 17, updating the campus on the investigation.
“Based on what we have learned thus far,” she wrote, “we believe ketamine may have been used on several occasions at the Breakaway Lounge, at two separate parties sponsored by student organizations. It is possible the drug or a similar substance has been present elsewhere as well, including at the Village Tavern or on campus, so we encourage students to remain vigilant and immediately report suspicious activity to Campus Safety or the New York State Police, which has opened an active investigation at our request.”
The dean’s second message also reiterated the seriousness of the allegations, cited possible New York State and College sanctions “for a person who engages in this type of criminal activity,” provided a list of resources available to students who may have experienced sexual assault, and asked anyone with information to contact Campus Safety or the New York State Police.
Speaking at the demonstration, Wippman affirmed that the College is doing everything possible to identify the person or persons responsible and had requested assistance from the New York State Police.
“We are also asking for your help,” Wippman said. “We encourage anyone with information to come forward so that we can identify and prosecute the persons responsible.” Both Wippman and Martinez answered students’ questions for more than an hour.
The demonstration was organized by the student organization SMART (Sexual Misconduct and Assault Task force), with support from dozens of other student groups.
The College and the State Police are continuing their investigations.