COLLEGE SHUTS DOWN ZETA PSI
By Alice Gomstyn, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, May 11, 2001
Earlier this afternoon, the College announced its official derecognition of Zeta Psi fraternity effective immediately.
"As of today, Zeta Psi fraternity at Dartmouth no longer exists," Dean of the College James Larimore told The Dartmouth.
The decision to shut down Zeta Psi follows the exposing of internal newsletters, produced by house members. The letters, detailing the sexual exploits of the brothers, came to light last month.
In a press statement released soon after the decision, Zeta Psi president Gener Boyle '02 called the decision unjustified.
"This action was not justified on the merits. The penalty imposed was overly harsh and grossly disproportionate to the offenses charged," the statement said.
The ultimate responsibility to determine the fate of the fraternity rested with Dean of Residential Life Martin Redman. Redman's decision to derecognize Zeta Psi came after a five and a half hour hearing last Sunday -- intended to determine whether or not the fraternity had, through its newsletters, violated codes of conduct.
"[The decision] primarily had to do with issues surrounding the harassment of individual students and allegations of the violation of several of [the College's] coed, fraternity and sorority minimum standards," Redman said.
During the hearings, evidence was presented that indicated the existence of at least one more newsletter, in addition to the two originally exposed to the community, Redman said.
Days following the conclusion of the hearing, Redman found that Zeta Psi had, indeed, violated three standards of conduct -- one involving harassment and two others pertaining to the fraternity's own local and national ethical codes.
Given the recent violations and the organization's previous history (in 1987, Zete was temporarily derecognized by the College for the publication of similar, sexually explicit newsletters), Redman determined that the appropriate sanction to impose on the fraternity was permanent derecognition.
Redman said a fraternity's recognition by the College, "is a privilege, not a right." By continuing a tradition that had already been deemed unacceptable by the College, Zete violated a principle of trust existing between itself and Dartmouth and is no longer deserving of this right, he said.
Despite speculation by some, Redman said that Zeta Psi's behavior could not be defended on the grounds of free speech. Under College policy, Dartmouth students and organizations are free to express opinions that may be contrary to those of the College; however, they are to be held accountable if, through their activities, they violate rules regarding items such as harassment and ethical conduct. Zeta Psi, according to Redman, was guilty of just that.
Zeta Psi denied these charges.
"Psi Epsilon [the local Dartmouth chapter] of Zeta Psi did not threaten or harass any women," the Zeta Psi statement said.
The statement also contradicted Redman's claim that free speech was not an issue in the case.
"Dartmouth College has chosen to interpret harassmentin this case so widely that almost any type of speech deemed offensive by some member of the Dartmouth community can now result in severe sanctions. This action threatens the free speech rights of all students and organizations ..." it said.
Press statements released by the administration, in addition to announcing the Zeta Psi sanction, also spoke of the achievement of the Student Life Initiative -- a report compiled by a steering committee containing recommendations to the College on how to improve and restructure all social life, including Greek life, on campus.
Despite suspicions evoked by the original SLI announcement and recent disciplinary actions taken by the administration against other Greek houses, Redman denied that Zete's derecognition was part of any broader, covert scheme by the administration to eventually disband the entire Greek system.
"There is no plan by myself or anyone else here to eliminate Greek organizations on this campus either wholesale or one by one as far as I'm aware of," he said.
In fact, recent media attention has focused on the administration's apparent failure to institute meaningful reforms within the Greek system. An article in The Boston Globe -- which flashed the headline "Dartmouth president under fire" -- criticized College President James Wright for allegedly bowing to pressures placed upon him by donors to the College, many of whom are supporters of Greek life.
When asked what role, if any, national coverage has played in the College's actions against Zeta Psi, Larimore said the media circus had not affected the outcome.
Larimore did say that the discussion engendered by the Zeta Psi scandal incited "spectacular" dialogue that was played out on the editorial pages of The Dartmouth and elsewhere. Redman agreed, saying that the conversations about gender relations and other issues stemming from the controversy were among "the few positive things about this experience."
As according to College policy, Zete has seven calendar days to submit a "request for reconsideration" -- an appeal of the sanctions imposed upon them -- to Redman.
At least one of three conditions must be proven for the request to be considered viable: that not all relevant information was presented during the initial judicial process, that procedural errors were made during the process or that the imposed penalties are too severe relative to the determined violations.
According to its press release, Zeta Psi "will consider its appeal rights and whether further legal action is merited."
Redman would not comment on the likelihood of Zeta Psi attaining a successful repeal of the sanctions, although he did say that he believed that the judicial proceedings were conducted without error.
Barring any success on the part of the fraternity to reverse its derecognition through an appeal, the College will allow members of Zeta Psi currently living in the house to continue to reside there until June 10.