College alumni spurn Rolling Stone portrayal
By Claire Groden, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Wednesday, April 11, 2012
In the wake of a March 28 Rolling Stone article lambasting Dartmouth’s Greek system, at least four alumni have responded with articles published in various news outlets. The alumni, who had differing relationships with Greek organizations during their times at Dartmouth, agreed that hazing is a serious problem at the College but focused on different aspects of the piece, written by Rolling Stone contributing editor Janet Reitman, including its poor representation of the student body and its portrayal of women.
Most writers said that although the Rolling Stone article created negative press for a school they remember fondly, they hope the media will encourage the administration and student body to examine hazing practices more seriously.
“Despite my objections to Reitman’s reporting and incomplete representation of Dartmouth, I hope her article motivates fraternities on campus to take a step back and reflect on what traditions need to be changed,” Caroline Esser ’10, who responded to the article’s depiction of Dartmouth women in a piece for Slate’s XXfactor blog, said.
Esser, who was a member of a sorority while at the College, said in an email to The Dartmouth that she received an “amazing” amount of positive feedback from other alumni.
Reitman overemphasized the presence of “privileged white frat boys” in the Dartmouth student body, neglecting other points of view, especially those of women, Esser said in the email.
“I was insulted that in a 17-page article, Reitman somehow only mentions Dartmouth women a handful of times, and when she does, she paints us as the helpless victims of sexual assault, zombies who accept the frat culture and all that comes with it,” Esser said.
In her own piece, she highlighted the strong voices of women on campus, mentioning events like “The Vagina Monologues,” Women of Dartmouth panels and a 2008 protest to demand more social spaces exclusively for women. Although Esser said she believes the Rolling Stone article was an “incomplete representation of Dartmouth,” she also said that hazing on campus is a legitimate problem that needs to be addressed.
Gina Barreca ’79, who was not a member of a Greek house and later wrote a book, “Babes in Boyland,” about being a female at Dartmouth, said she also took issue with the portrayal of women in the article. Her piece on the The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Brainstorm Blog also criticizes the character of Andrew Lohse ’12 — the subject of Reitman’s article — who “oozes entitlement,” she wrote.
Barreca said in an interview with The Dartmouth that although she supports the abolishment of the Dartmouth Greek system, she does not sympathize with Lohse, whose self-comparison to F. Scott Fitzgerald in the Rolling Stone article is reflective of his “pretentious white guy” status.
“We might come to the same conclusion, but it’s not necessarily true that the enemy of your enemy is your friend,” Barreca said.
She said she does not expect the College to abolish the Greek system, particularly given the power held by the many alumni who maintain ties with their fraternities and sororities. Despite her anti-Greek views, Barreca said she received positive responses from numerous alumni who read her article. Many who contacted her were disappointed with the Rolling Stone piece, she said.
Referring to a video of Reitman interviewing Lohse posted on the magazine’s website, Barreca said Lohse is a “parody of a Dartmouth student” and does not serve as a true representative of the student body.
“I just remember shaking my head and being glad I didn’t have this guy in my class,” she said.
Frank Santo ’11, a former fraternity member, described Lohse as a “living, breathing parody of a loutish Ivy Leaguer” in his April 2 New York Daily News article. Santo said in the piece that he agrees that hazing practices at certain fraternities need to be reformed, but that he takes issue with the one-sided description of Dartmouth’s student body as a collection of “corporate vomit-eaters.”
“What I do object to is the specious link Reitman tries to force between hazing and elitism, which relies on the false characterization of Dartmouth students as universally piggish in order to conjure up enough populist moral outrage in the reader to make him or her buy a copy of Rolling Stone,” Santo said in the article.
Ravita Segal ’09, who was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority before de-pledging later in her Dartmouth career, said in an April 9 Huffington Post article that hazing took place in her sorority, leaving her hospitalized with two broken teeth, a blood alcohol content of .399 and unidentified cuts and bruises. Although she testified at a Dartmouth judiciary hearing that the incident was not hazing, she said in the article that she did so to avoid social ostracism.
Segal said in the article that she hopes the discussion about hazing prompted by the Rolling Stone article will create an opportunity to “initiate change,” criticizing the tendency of many alumni to protect the College against hazing allegations.
“Denial is not the way to protect Dartmouth,” she wrote. “Instead, we need to confront our Dartmouth experience with honesty.”
Segal declined to comment on The Huffington Post article.
Thomas Wise ’65, whose letter to the editor was published in The Dartmouth on April 2, said he believes the hazing accusations “may have been greatly exaggerated.”
Reitman seemed “anti-Dartmouth,” and binge drinking rather than hazing constitutes the College’s largest problem, according to Wise.
“The first step is to acknowledge that there is a problem with the excess drinking rather than any highly improbable myths about hazing,” he said in an email to The Dartmouth.
Santo could not be reached for comment by press time.