Johnson: A Response to Hazing Allegations
By Charlotte Johnson, Guest Columnist
Published on Thursday, January 26, 2012
As many of you are aware, I sent a message to the community yesterday regarding Andrew Lohse’s column (“Telling the Truth,” Jan. 25), in which he alleges reprehensible behavior on the part of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and administrative inaction in response. Because this is such an important issue, I think much of what I said in that message bears repeating in this space.
Dartmouth strongly condemns hazing. Whenever hazing allegations are made, we take immediate action. That happened in the case of Andrew — as reported in The Dartmouth yesterday (“Student accuses frat of hazing violations,” Jan. 25) and expanded upon in my message — and it happens in every case.
In fact, Dartmouth has taken action in a number of cases involving hazing in the last year. In the fall of 2011, the Organizational Adjudication Committee 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, which means alcohol is prohibited in the public spaces of their houses. They also must complete extensive educational work before they can be returned to good status. Furthermore, we expect that an organization on probation will take time out of its regular activities to evaluate its purpose and responsibility.
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 intolerable behavior such as hazing. Our new Greek Letter Organization and Societies 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 make good members, not good pledges.
Furthermore, all potential pledges are required to sign a membership contract with the college saying that they understand the hazing policies and laws and will abide by them. They have also been made aware of an online resource on hazing that includes definitions and examples as well as an incident report form, and other information for house educators and victims.
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.
As I said in my message yesterday, 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 Johnson is the dean of the College.