Mahoney: How Not to Combat Hazing
By Brendan Mahoney, Guest Columnist
Published on Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Dartmouth College is at a crossroads. Will it have the wisdom and courage to respond rationally and constructively to allegations that threaten its reputation? Or will it panic and go off the deep end, like Duke and other universities before it? In January, Andrew Lohse alleged in this paper that disgusting acts of hazing occurred at Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity during his pledge term in 2009. A few weeks ago, he told the Dartmouth administration and the Hanover police that he had witnessed some of the same practices in fall 2011. Based solely on his allegations, the Undergraduate Judicial Affairs Office has charged SAE as an organization and 27 individual brothers with “serious” acts of hazing during the 2011 pledge term, threatening all with suspension or separation.
I have been open and honest with the College throughout my term as president of SAE, so these allegations are particularly disheartening. In a response letter to the College, I did not wholesale deny all charges brought against my fraternity; I candidly admitted to certain practices from 2009 that were in violation of College policy (though to be clear, Lohse has invented and exaggerated a large number of claims against my fraternity). Starting in the spring of 2011, I had numerous conversations with administrators about student safety in Greek houses. In the fall of 2011, I worked with Wes Schaub and brothers in my own house to design a better pledge program and eliminate any house “traditions” that we deemed at all problematic. In response to Dartmouth administration inquiries, SAE’s goal has not been to cover anything up but to provide evidence of what did and did not occur. SAE’s incoming president this spring has met with half a dozen administrators already with a goal to make fraternity pledge terms safer and more transparent. The College deviated from this constructive approach when it responded to Lohse’s new allegations by charging 27 brothers without a shred of real evidence.
Why is the UJAO proceeding against us? We cannot read the minds of administrators, but one thing is clear — Lohse’s allegations have been a public relations headache for the administration. They have energized the anti-Greek faction of the faculty, prompting a petition to the administration demanding that Dartmouth administrators “act now” against hazing. President Jim Yong Kim admitted Monday in these pages that he cannot and should not get rid of fraternities ("College charges SAE for hazing violations,” March 5). But the administration seems to feel it must show it is “doing something,” even if 27 students end up as collateral damage.
The UJAO’s tactics are equally troubling. Some of the individuals charged are not even alleged by Lohse to have participated in hazing. It would be a tragedy if the effect of its actions is persuading an innocent student to “confirm” Lohse’s outlandish claims in return for a dismissal of charges.
In the last month, my brothers and I have submitted over 100 pages of evidence, statements and interviews to the College. All of our pledges from fall 2011 who are on campus were contacted by Safety and Security for interviews, and 100 percent of them cooperated. I provided documentation from our internal meetings and even offered to call Wes Schaub as a witness to testify to our progress. In addition to the now-infamous Hanover Police “night vision goggles” stakeout, Safety and Security did an unannounced walkthrough of our pledge meetings last year and found that no hazing was taking place. Despite these developments, the UJAO has told us it will press on with the charges. I hope the administration will not ignore the evidence just to avoid criticism.
Only as a last resort, and with considerable reluctance, have I decided to respond in this public venue. We ask every Dartmouth student, alumnus, alumna, trustee and faculty member to contact the administration to declare: Do not let Dartmouth’s name be tarnished by another Duke lacrosse episode. Instead of blindly proceeding against students, seize your opportunity for progress and continue the conversations that SAE is eager to have about hazing.
Brendan Mahoney ’12 is the president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.