Stricter alcohol plans outrage Greek orgs.
By Marina Villeneuve And Emma Fidel, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, February 5, 2010
During a tense meeting with Greek organization leaders and advisers Thursday evening, Hanover Police Chief Nicholas Giaccone announced plans to launch compliance checks, or “sting operations,” in the coming months to combat a perceived rise in alcohol use and abuse by underage individuals. The announcement quickly incited shouts of frustration from Dartmouth students, many of whom said the policy will force the Greek system to be less welcoming and will increase the dangers associated with drinking.
In a joint letter to acting Dean of the College Sylvia Spears and Senior Vice President Steven Kadish, several student organizations responded to the announcement late Thursday night. The letter — signed by Palaeopitus Senior Society, the Co-Ed Council, the Greek Leadership Council, the Inter-Fraternity Council and the Panhellenic Council — asked the College to “work with students to protest the police department’s new tactics.”
Hanover Police plans to send non-police operatives posing as underage individuals into Greek organizations’ physical plants to try to procure alcohol, Giaccone said. Hanover Police could use information obtained by the operatives as cause to arrest individuals or bring legal action against Greek organizations, he said.
The planned compliance checks will combat underage drinking and the unsafe alcohol consumption that Greek organizations facilitate, Giaccone said.
An operative can currently legally enter any Greek organization as long as he or she is not carrying surveillance equipment and “enters through normal egresses,” Giaccone said in an interview with The Dartmouth. If asked, underage operatives would need to present a form of identification that provides their true identity. Operatives over 21, however, could present a “fake I.D.” that would not have to contain accurate personal information, Giaccone said. Giaccone declined to specify if the operatives would be Dartmouth students or individuals outside the Dartmouth community.
A Greek organization can be tried as a corporation and charged with reckless conduct — a felony-level fine — for providing alcohol to minors, according to a 1997 state Supreme Court decision regarding a fraternity at the University of New Hampshire.
If the police obtain evidence that Greek organizations supply alcohol to minors, the organization can be fined from $2,000 for a misdemeanor to $100,000 for a felony, according to Christopher O’Connor, a Grafton County prosecutor who helped lead the meeting.
“We have given you the [information], now you can decide what to do with it,” O’Connor said, explaining why Hanover Police called the meeting with Greek leaders.
Joe Asch ’79, a petition candidate for the upcoming Board of Trustees election and a Hanover resident who attended the meeting, said Giaccone and O’Connor remained “rigid and inflexible” throughout the meeting, and they did not directly address many of the audience’s questions.
“There was a great deal of anger in the room,” Asch said in an interview with The Dartmouth. “It was a very angry and contentious audience. I think people felt blind-sided.”
Students, alumni and advisers at the meeting called compliance checks “counterproductive” and pointed to the increased dangers that the policy would spark.
“This will drive drinking underground,” said John Alekna ’10, president of Phi Delta Alpha fraternity.
At the meeting, Asch asked, “How does this help kids deal with over-consumption? This will make kids hide. They’re not going to stop.”
Greek leaders and advisers said they feared the effects the new policy may have on Dartmouth Greek life.
John Engelman ’68, who is Alpha Delta fraternity’s adviser and who attended the meeting, said he worries that Greek organizations would be forced to solely hold members-only events as a result of the policy.
“Maybe all your events have to be invitation-only now,” Engelman said in an interview with The Dartmouth. “I think that would be terrible for the social fabric of Dartmouth College, the social life at Dartmouth College.”
Students have quickly responded to news of the policy change. A few hours after the meeting, students created a Facebook group called “Students Against Hanover Police Alcohol Policy,” which had 778 members by press time.
An emergency meeting of Greek organization presidents is scheduled to take place Friday afternoon, according to the Facebook group.
Students at the Thursday meeting said the Hanover Police Department should work with students to create campus dialogue about the issue.
“This is not a way to effect change — change comes from intrinsic motivation,” said Zakieh Bigio ’10, the president of Kappa Delta Epsilon sorority. “We should be partnering up, coming together, addressing issues because we want to and not because we’re afraid. This is squashing the momentum of what we’ve been working on.”
The Dean of the College’s Office will work to facilitate discussion between Hanover Police and students, interim Associate Dean of the College Harry Kinne said in an interview with The Dartmouth. Giaccone also said that Hanover Police and the College must work together to address the problems surrounding alcohol consumption.
Safety and Security is willing to work with and assist organizations to achieve compliance with police standards, Kinne said. Kinne previously served as director of Safety and Security.
Engelman said he had spoken with Bob Donin, the College’s general counsel, Deb Carney, director of Greek Letter Organizations and Societies and assistant dean of Residential Life, and Kinne, none of whom had been alerted about the policy change prior to the meeting, Engelman said.
“I think they were equally surprised,” Engelman said. “They all said the only information they had on this was the same information that was sent to students asking them to come to the meeting.”
Giaccone cited increasing instances of alcohol-related arrests and sexual assaults at Dartmouth as motivations for the compliance checks.
Seventy-five students have been arrested for alcohol-related issues since September 2009 and 47 have required medical treatment — an increase from past years — Giaccone said. He did not specify the number of individuals who received medical treatment for alcohol-related problems before then, but said that from July 2008 to June 2009, there were 162 alcohol-related student arrests.
Eleven students were victims of alcohol-related sexual assault in 2008, Giaccone said.
Alcohol-related arrest statistics supplied by Hanover Police may reflect students’ increased use of the College’s Good Samaritan Policy rather than an increased use of alcohol, according to Co-ed Council President Reyna Ramirez ’10, who attended the meeting.
In the letter to Spears and Kadish, the student organizations wrote, “Chief Giaccone was unable to address the likely possibility that this increase was driven instead by an increase in the number of students who felt comfortable calling for help. As such, we feel that the potential impact of this initiative has not been adequately evaluated and fear that it will negatively impact the safety of Dartmouth students.”
Through the Good Sam Policy, intoxicated students can receive assistance from Safety and Security officers, who transport students to medical facilities. Neither the student nor those who place the Good Sam call are subject to College disciplinary action, but if a student is so intoxicated that he or she must go to the hospital via ambulance, the student is generally arrested.
Alcohol-related arrests increased between 2007 and 2008 only because of a single incident involving eight students who were arrested, Giaccone said in a previous interview with The Dartmouth.
Students present at the meeting said they felt the “sting operations” will punish them for compliance with the Good Sam Policy.
Ramirez said compliance checks may diminish students’ use of the Good Sam Policy.
“I think Good Sam saves life, and apparently [Hanover Police] disagrees,” Ramirez said.
When Greek leaders asked Hanover Police officials for a breakdown of the arrests data, Giaccone said they did not have sufficient information to distinguish between arrests that resulted from Good Sam calls and arrests that did not.
When contacted by The Dartmouth, College Director of Media Relations Roland Adams said he had not previously been notified of the policy change.
College President Jim Yong Kim was unavailable for comment.