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Message on Hazing and Student Safety

March 22, 2012

To all students, faculty and staff,

Over the past month, the Dartmouth community has been involved in discussion and debate over the practice of student hazing. These events have highlighted concerns that are of fundamental importance to all of us.

Not only does hazing interfere with our educational process, but it has the potential, in its most extreme forms, to destroy lives. While the facts concerning the specific charges against Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) remain to be determined through Dartmouth's internal process, our policy is clear:  hazing is strictly prohibited at Dartmouth, by both College policy and New Hampshire law. Violation of the student hazing policy may subject an individual or recognized organization to disciplinary action. The College has systematically addressed and investigated all actions that have been brought to its attention, and will continue to take appropriate measures against all those who perpetrate or participate in student hazing.

There is no greater priority for me, or for members of my administration, than the health, safety and well-being of Dartmouth students. We will therefore continue to take firm action to remedy what is wrong in our community and the necessary steps to ensure that all students have the opportunity to learn in a safe, open, and respectful environment.

A number of initiatives have already been launched to reduce the incidence of the high risk behaviors that, regrettably, continue to occur both at Dartmouth and on other campuses across the country. During my first months as president, discussions held with students, faculty, and staff led to the creation of student-run committees to prevent sexual assault and high risk drinking. As a result of this work, we founded the National College Health Improvement Project which, in its initial undertaking, has brought together 32 colleges and universities in a common effort to reduce high risk drinking.

We have appointed a national expert as our new director of Greek Letter Organizations and Societies, and created an online process to encourage the reporting of hazing. Last month's hazing forum, co-sponsored by a number of student groups, and the recent student-organized hazing awareness day are further positive signs of student commitment to creating a campus culture where safety is a priority.

But we must continue to do much more to reduce these disturbing incidents, to promote a culture of shared accountability among all members of our community, and to instill our core values of individual responsibility and mutual respect.

After consultation with faculty, I have therefore proposed the establishment of a Committee on Student Safety and Accountability, under the leadership of Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson, which will serve as an advisory body to the
College.  The Committee, composed of students, faculty and staff, will work in consultation with national experts to identify the most effective ways of tackling the problems of hazing, high risk drinking and sexual assault in an evidence-based approach.

These are challenging and complex issues. I would, however, ask all of you to express your concerns openly and to engage constructively in our efforts to address these problems.  If we are to make real progress, we must all take an active part in uncovering the problems that exist and bringing new ideas to the table. We need to counter the reality of the potentially coercive nature of certain group behaviors and better understand how individuals form and manage perceptions of risk.

At the same time, however, we must also look to preserve the positive side of our traditions. We must find ways to promote more effectively the bonding, trust and sense of belonging that are an essential part of collaborative achievement and community life, while ensuring that such activities do not entail exposure to emotional and physical harm or duress.

Every day, I am struck by the intelligence, talent, and commitment that exist in this institution.  This has been what made Dartmouth great, and will continue to do so.  I am convinced that, together, we have the ability to put an end to the harmful and destructive behaviors that are so distressing to those who have had to endure them.  These behaviors have no place in our community.

Sincerely,

Jim Yong Kim
President, Dartmouth College

Last Updated: 3/22/12