January 25, 2012
Dear Members of the Dartmouth Community,
I would like to address a topic that I know is troubling anyone who read Andrew Lohse's graphic allegations in today's D: hazing on campus. Hearing a description of such reprehensible actions is understandably upsetting and concerning.
I want to make one thing clear: Hazing is strictly prohibited at Dartmouth, by both College policy and New Hampshire law. Whenever we are confronted with hazing allegations, our staff takes immediate action. That happened in this case, and it happens in every case. Let me give you some background on this issue.
Andrew shared some of the same allegations laid out in his column today with the administration in November of 2010. This information prompted us to immediately alert the Hanover Police Department. However, our college disciplinary process and the criminal justice system are reliant on witnesses willing to come forward and share evidence, which wasn't the situation here. In any case, both the administration and the police department forged ahead and used his information anonymously to take action. In addition to the surveillance operation reported in today's D, the administration confronted SAE and the national organization with the anonymous allegations. SAE denied them and the national organization told us they planned to take action internally.
In the ensuing months we continued our conversation with Andrew, and in July 2011, we received positive feedback from him that our efforts were making a difference.
Dartmouth has taken action in a number of cases involving hazing. For example, in the fall of 2011, the Organizational Adjudication Committee (OAC) determined, based on evidence, that two fraternities had hazed new members. It's worth noting that these infractions were far less egregious than Andrew's allegations. Each fraternity is currently on social probation.
We realize that just telling students they can't do something is not enough--we have a responsibility to provide education to help address or prevent any such actions. Our new GLOS director Wes Schaub has actively engaged in a campaign of new fraternity member education, holding meetings this past fall with chapter presidents and pledge educators during which he made our position on the issue clear. He also covered components of an acceptable pledge program and detailed what constitutes hazing. Wes's objective, and our goal, is for the pledging process to be focused on developing thoughtful and engaged members of these organizations -- not on demeaning activities.
I also want to dispel the notion that hazing is limited to the Greek community. The abuse can and does happen in various types of organizations and teams, particularly those for which membership is selective. Two recent cases in which students were sanctioned for hazing activities -- one involving members of an athletic team and one members of a singing group -- are evidence of our commitment to stop the abuse and address hazing incidents through our judicial process, a process that promotes fairness for both the accused and the accuser.
Finally, we emphasize that we continue to encourage the entire community to come forward with such allegations, whether they wish to file formal public charges or not. We understand the complexity of these issues and why some students do not want to press charges. Despite the complications this inevitably creates, we will do our utmost to protect privacy as well as investigate hazing.
The dialogue across campus created by Andrew's column provides an opportunity to address the issue of hazing, as a community. It is an opportunity we should seize.
Charlotte H. Johnson
Dean of the College
Last Updated: 3/30/12