Johnson hosts forum to address policy concerns
By Tyler Bradford, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, August 3, 2012
Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson hosted a forum on Wednesday to address student concerns about the proposed alcohol and hazing policy reforms slated to take effect in the fall, especially regarding proposed random walkthroughs. She responded to criticism raised in the Greek Leadership Council’s July 17 forum and announced that 12 or 13 additional policies are also being considered for the 2012-2013 academic year.
Johnson’s publicized proposals include random walkthroughs in residence halls and Greek houses, increased punishments for organizations found serving “punch” and the requirement of state-licensed bartenders at parties serving hard alcohol.
In addition to the three main policies that have been publicized, there are additional policies under consideration, according to Johnson. Of the new policies, only two apply exclusively to Greek houses — approval of pledge term plans by the College and the required social event registration process, Johnson said.
Based on questions posed at the forum, students seemed most concerned with the proposed random walkthroughs. Students feared that fraternity common areas will be considered public spaces at all times.
“Fraternity first floors and basements are public spaces only when a party is being held, and when you implement random walkthroughs, you turn a private home into a permanently public space,” Alpha Delta fraternity member Michael Saltzman ’14 said. “This move is a dangerous departure from merely changing the alcohol policy and is a fundamental breach of trust.”
Other students were concerned that behaviors that violate the new College policies will move to private spaces.
“The ultimate goal is harm reduction, but I’m afraid that her policies will only push binge drinking and other harmful activities out of the public eye and behind closed doors, like upstairs rooms in the fraternities,” Alpha Xi Delta sorority summer president Katherine Dwyer ’14 said.
Johnson responded by noting that there is already a large amount of high-risk behavior happening in private spaces. Johnson also cited the success of random walkthroughs at peer institutions in acting as a deterrent to harmful behavior.
Students raised concerns about the timeline of the policies’ implementation, but Johnson said that policies will still be flexible even after they are implemented during Fall term. Johnson said that she and students she has consulted agree that any policy concerning alcohol must be implemented with great care to ensure its effectiveness.
Case studies with Greek houses have further underlined the importance of transparency between students and the administration, Johnson said.
“If you are willing to share information about how alcohol is used in your houses, we welcome that information,” she said.
Johnson also explained the logic underlying her proposals.
“We want to increase responsible self-governance,” Johnson said. “When we have these policies in effect, they are not meant to be draconian. Our goal here is student wellness and safety.”
In response to a student’s question about the College’s reorganization of Green Team funding, Johnson emphasized the importance of registering social events with the College. “Overreliance” on Green Team can come at the expense of other harm reduction policies, she said.
“Allowing Green Team to work unregistered events undermines the comprehensive approach to safety and accountability of these events,” Johnson said.
Under the new policy, Green Team may continue to monitor unregistered events but College funding for the group will no longer cover such events.
Addressing concerns raised by students about the inevitability of underage drinking in fraternities, Johnson advocated usage of the Good Samaritan policy. She also said that the newly created BASICS program — initially tested in the Spring 2012 Russell Sage pilot program and now implemented campus-wide — focuses on education rather than punishment of those who do get caught breaking College policy. BASICS, which stands for Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention of College Students, is a twenty-minute online alcohol survey and thirty-minute meeting with a community director to address drinking habits for students reported by their undergraduate advisors.
While all the policies are aimed at reducing harm overall, Johnson said several are aimed explicitly at hazing. Supported by student consensus, Johnson stressed the importance of reaching a clearer definition of hazing. Johnson also suggested amnesty for those who choose to report hazing but did not elaborate on the degree of immunity that would be granted.
Dwyer said that students must continue to participate in the ongoing discussion, regardless of whether or not they feel targeted by the policies.
“Even though these policies are less targeted at national sororities, I really hope that female students still remain active in this ongoing discussion because they are also affected by the policies, not only fraternity brothers,” Dwyer said.
Clifton Lyons contributed reporting to this article.