Search and Seizure

Imagine this scenario: you are in your apartment, Greek organization or other privately- owned building. The fire alarm goes off and you must leave the house; you lock your door behind you. Safety and Security enters the premises, somehow gains entry through the locked door and confiscates something violating Dartmouth College regulations (this could be as simple as a bottle of alcohol in an underage person’s room, a lit candle, drug paraphernalia, anything). The College then seeks to charge you with a violation of College standards for the illegally- confiscated item. During your hearing, the College refuses to hear the testimony of several witnesses who have evidence suggesting that S&S illegally broke into the room and suspends you for the violation.

Now, in any court of law, this would be an illegal search and seizure, criminal trespassing and violation of state law. In fact, the officers in question could even be arrested for their illegal actions. Additionally, your constitutional rights to a fair defense would have been violated, as you were not allowed to fully defend yourself with all available witnesses and evidence. However, this is exactly what happened recently in an alarming incident and cover-up by Safety and Security and the Dartmouth administration.

On the evening of Oct. 3, Safety and Security officers entered Bones Gate fraternity in response to a fire alarm. During their search of the premises, the S&S officers broke into a locked basement closet in order to procure a source of alcohol. It is outrageous that S&S would have the gumption to break a lock in order to gain entry into a closet in which clearly nobody resides. The action of these officers was a blatant violation of fundamental property rights not to mention an affront to the sense of community that Dartmouth strives to foster. Several responsible brothers either participated in locking or witnessed the locking of the closet and were the last people to leave the basement when the fire alarm sound. These are students bound by the Dartmouth College Honor Principle and were willing to testify in an OAC hearing had the committee allowed their testimony. The next people to enter the basement were two S&S officers, who emerged with a source of alcohol. When brothers were allowed to re-enter the house, we discovered the broken lock, called the police and filed a report detailing the broken lock and damage to the door.

The ramifications of these actions are enormous: if Safety and Security officers are allowed to show such blatant disregard for personal property, what is to stop them from entering other locked rooms in privately owned organizations, off-campus apartments, etc.? Perhaps most troubling is their outright dishonesty with Hanover Police officers — yet another illegal act — in denying that they broke into a locked closet, despite the obvious evidence of forced entry. If we as students can’t trust those who are supposed to be protecting us, whom can we trust?

As an organization, we are very displeased with the behavior of S&S that evening. It is unethical and disrespectful for officers — whose job it should be to look out for the safety and well-being of students — to deliberately destroy private property and perform an illegal search and seizure. S&S broke and entered a locked closet within a private house on private property. We are outraged by this obvious disregard for College standards and principles (and New Hampshire state law). In addition, we are very concerned with the effects that this action may have on future relations between students and the College and the reputation of S&S officers. We hope that in bringing light to this incident we may encourage positive discourse among students, administrators and S&S officers.

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