College charges SAE for hazing violations
By Ashley Ulrich, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Monday, March 5, 2012
The College has charged Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity with allegedly violating hazing regulations, but charges have not yet been finalized, according to Justin Anderson, director of media relations for the College. The College is also creating a task force to address hazing and its relationship with binge drinking and sexual assault on campus, College President Jim Yong Kim said in an interview with The Dartmouth.
The task force, which is still being formulated and will likely be finalized “within the next couple of weeks,” will consist of students, faculty and staff, with “no one from the outside,” Anderson said. The committee will, however, consult outside experts, according to Anderson. The group will work to “tap out the issues of hazing, binge drinking and sexual assault together,” Kim said.
SAE leadership has also met with faculty and staff members to consider potential changes to the “pledge process” for 2012, seeking input from both other fraternity members and members of the community, according to Anderson, who said their initial proposals are “promising” and could potentially be applied to other student groups.
The organization’s leaders hope to create a more “transparent” program in cooperation with faculty and staff who study and improve group dynamics, Michael Fancher ’13, who will become the president of SAE in the spring, said in an email to The Dartmouth. Fancher said he has also met with several administrators.
“By tapping into their expertise, we believe that SAE can create a well-structured, safe pledge program with little ambiguity about what does and does not take place,” he said.
The process through which SAE is being charged with hazing violations is the same process through which both Alpha Delta and Theta Delta Chi fraternities were found responsible for hazing infractions during Fall term, Anderson said. The charges against SAE are more severe than those against AD and TDX in the fall, according to Anderson. Both fraternities received probationary sentences, which ended this term. SAE will face a hearing chaired by a member of the Dean of the College office during Spring term. Anderson declined to comment on the specific events and their timing that led to the charges.
“There is a judicial process that is underway that will determine whether or not the organization that is charged will be held responsible based on the evidence,” he said.
Anderson declined to comment on whether individual members of SAE will be facing charges, citing College policy and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which prevents educational institutions from disclosing information about students’ academic and disciplinary records.
“It’s not our policy to comment on specific charges,” Anderson said. “This is an ongoing investigation related to potential hazing activity.”
In January, former SAE member Andrew Lohse ’12 accused the fraternity of hazing during his pledge term and condemned administrators for what he saw as their inadequate response the his allegations. Before making his allegations public in a Jan. 25 opinion column in The Dartmouth, Lohse brought his complaints to Associate Dean of the College for Campus Life April Thompson and Chief of Staff David Spalding, who said they were unable to thoroughly investigate Lohse’s claims due to a lack of evidence and Lohse’s initial desire for anonymity.
The allegations have garnered attention in other Ivy League newspapers and national news sources, including The Boston Globe, Bloomberg and The Huffington Post. Kim said he is aware of the recent local and national press coverage of hazing at Dartmouth and that the appropriate judicial response is underway.
“It’s really important, and I hope that people know that this administration has taken a very aggressive approach to student safety,” he said. “That is my first and foremost responsibility, so I could not possibly take it more seriously.”
Kim said that the College’s current hazing rules and judicial system are adequately prepared to handle student safety and the issue of hazing.
“I just want to make clear that we have very stringent rules against hazing,” Kim said. “We have a disciplinary system that has filed charges against four organizations in the last couple of years.”
Kim said he is as committed to preventing hazing and sexual assault on campus as he is to addressing binge drinking, an issue on which he has focused since becoming president of the College. Dartmouth has already begun collecting information about best practices regarding handling hazing on college campuses, according to Kim.
“We need to get a lot of information,” he said. “Our intention is to be a leader.”
Kim said his own ability to confront hazing issues within the Greek system is limited by his functional role within the College and the need for coordination between himself, other administrators, members of the Board of Trustees and faculty, which must be combined with input from students and staff.
“This is not a monarchy,” Kim said. “I barely have any power — I’m a convener, and I’m a convener of people with very different views of where we should go. But the one thing that I will not compromise on is student safety.”
Kim said hazing must be addressed from the perspectives of both administrators and students.
“Things that are as deep as getting rid of the [Greek] system that’s been here forever — that’s not something that I can do by fiat, nor that I would ever think to do by fiat,” Kim said.
Students must join the effort and report any hazing violations they may experience or witness, Kim said. Since the problem is not confined solely to the Greek system but also involves other student organizations and sports teams, the solution requires coordination and commitment among all students and student groups, he said.
“Some people want to talk about changing the Greek system fundamentally,” Kim said. “That’s a discussion that they want to have, and that’s a discussion that we can have, but you have to look at everybody. This is not just the Greek system that does [hazing].”
In the long run, students need to think hard about fundamentally different ways of initiating their peers into organizations, he said.
“Some people are saying, ‘Well, the administration should do more,’” Kim said. “We’re trying to understand what more we can do.”
Kim said Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson’s legal experience and experience working at Colgate University, which also has a large Greek system, are invaluable, enabling her to “take the lead” on hazing issues at Dartmouth.
“These are legal issues that are complicated, and she’s taken the lead on something that I think is appropriate,” Kim said. “I’ve taken the lead on binge drinking and sexual assault because those are public health problems. Hazing can be thought of as a public health problem, but it’s very much a legal problem.”
Faculty and alumni have also mobilized to express their condemnation of the Greek system’s habitual hazing violations and their frustration with the way the administration has addressed the situation.
On Feb. 2, 105 faculty members signed a formal letter to the administration that referred to hazing as an “open secret for decades ... in opposition to the values that the College holds dear.”
A small group of alumni also responded on Feb. 18, pledging to stop donations to the College until administrators increased their efforts to curb hazing at the College.
SAE president Brendan Mahoney ’12 did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Lohse declined to comment for this article, citing an exclusive arrangement with Rolling Stone magazine.
The original version of this article incorrectly stated that SAE is facing charges similar to those faced by AD and TDX in the fall when in fact the process by which the fraternity is being charged is the same. Additionally, while no outside experts will sit on the College hazing task force, outside experts will be consulted.