Alpha Delta will not be re-recognized

by Anthony Robles and Erin Lee | 4/25/17 2:10am

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Alpha Delta will not be considered for re-recognition but is continuing to discuss and negotiate with the College and will continue to exist as a private organization.

by Paula Kutschera / The Dartmouth Staff

The College notified derecognized fraternity Alpha Delta last month that the organization will not be considered for re-recognition, a move that concluded over 18 months of negotiations and discussions.

A confidential letter, sent March 13 and signed by Board of Trustees chair Bill Helman ’80, stated that although many derecognized organizations have been re-recognized in the past, going forward, the College’s policy will be clarified to specify that derecognition is permanent.

“There’s been all kinds of different actions taken as a result of derecognition,” Helman said in an interview. “In a post-[Moving Dartmouth Forward] world, 2017, permanent derecognition means permanent derecognition.”

The letter stated that the Board had to choose between “harming the College’s relationship with a group of alumni who have contributed a great deal to Dartmouth” and undermining the Moving Dartmouth Forward initiative, an effort implemented in January 2015 to target “high-risk behavior.” The MDF plan states that “moving forward, student organizations will be held to a much higher standard than they have in the past … individuals and organizations that choose not to fulfill these higher standards will not be a part of our community.”

Chair of the Alpha Delta board Lionel Conacher ’85 wrote in an email statement to The Dartmouth that AD has been working with College President Phil Hanlon and administration to find a “mutually agreeable structure” for AD. He added that though AD hopes to become a recognized organization, the organization will continue to exist regardless.

“We hope we will be recognized, but if not, we will continue on as a private organization,” he wrote.

Derecognition

AD was derecognized in April 2015 over branding allegations following several years of disciplinary sanctions. From September 2011 through November 2014, AD had been under sanctions of varying degrees for 11 of 14 terms. In September 2014, AD was suspended in relation to two incidents earlier that year involving unregistered parties and serving alcohol to minors.

The College extended the suspension indefinitely in March 2015 over allegations that members of AD branded new members the previous fall. At the time, attorney George Ostler ’77 released a statement acknowledging that branding had occurred but claimed it represented “self-expression,” was not a requirement for membership and was limited to a small group of members.

On April 13, 2015, the College derecognized AD as a student organization in relation to the branding allegations. After a finding that officers and older members had branded 11 new members, the Organizational Adjudication Committee determined that the branding constituted a violation of the Standards of Conduct and a violation of the terms of AD's suspension, both of which were causes for derecognition, according to a letter sent April 13, 2015 from Judicial Affairs to AD. A report released by Judicial Affairs states that the brothers described personal knowledge of the practice dating back a decade and that this was an “open secret” of the fraternity. 

In an interview, interim director of Judicial Affairs Katharine Strong said the decision to derecognize an organization is “entirely context dependent.”

“The OAC is making that decision based off of the context of the situation, [such as] other responses to similar situations in the organization’s judicial history,” she said.

OAC sanctions include warnings, fines of up to $100 and alcohol or College probation, which restrict the privileges of organizations. Derecognition is the most severe disciplinary sanction.

As of July 1, 2015, the Office of Judicial Affairs defines loss of recognition as “permanent revocation of recognition as a student organization by the College community and loss of all privileges of such status.” In June 2014, then-interim Dean of the College Inge-Lise Ameer reinstated the policy that students may not live in a Greek Letter, undergraduate or senior society facility that is not recognized by the College, which only affected AD at the time.

However, after an investigation by the Hanover Police Department that concluded in summer 2015, no criminal charges were filed against either AD or any individuals involved. The OAC also found AD not responsible for hazing, according to its April 2015 letter to AD.

Ostler, who represented AD in the police’s hazing investigation, said that the criminal statutes have specific definitions of what kind of conduct violates the law, which may differ from the College’s policies.

“It’s a relationship between private entities, and so the College can set their rules,” he said. “The College sets their rules, they review the facts and they make the determination. It’s different from in court where you have a neutral arbiter, the judge, determining whether a law has been violated.”

Ostler noted that College hazing policy at the time referenced the New Hampshire hazing statute.

“Certainly I thought it was a good argument … hazing policies weren’t violated because there was no violation of the state criminal law, but the College found otherwise,” Ostler said.

According to Dartmouth’s hazing policy, as of July 1, 2015, the College’s definition of hazing “includes but is not limited to activities that would fall within New Hampshire statutory definition of hazing.” If occurring as part of initiation or admission into an organization, the consumption of alcohol or drugs, removing or destroying property or violating any Standard of Conduct or College policy can be defined as hazing by the College.

AD unsuccessfully appealed the derecognition on April 20, 2015 and encountered several legal setbacks regarding the use of its house over the course of that year. Following AD’s derecognition in April, the town of Hanover notified AD that the use of the property as a student residence violated zoning ordinances, a decision that AD appealed later that month. In June 2015, the Hanover Zoning Board upheld its decision from April, and in September 2015, AD then appealed the case to the Grafton County Superior Court, which ruled in favor of Hanover. AD appealed the case once more to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, which came out with a decision on April 11, 2017 upholding the ruling in favor of the town. As a result, AD is unable to use its house as a student residence as long as it is unaffiliated with the College.

Re-recognition discussions and a change in policy

Over the course of 18 months, starting in June 2015, AD and the College explored whether there was a path to re-recognition, a plan that was ultimately rejected through the Board of Trustees’ letter sent in March.

According to the letter, “some of the communications between the College and the [AD] corporation stated or implied that re-recognition was possible if the corporation undertook certain changes, including forming a new board, identifying a faculty advisor, closing the house for a period of time and shutting down unauthorized rush.” AD met all of these criteria — according to the AD board’s email, alumni leadership changed completely, members eventually vacated the house and AD did not recruit new members that fall. AD also selected new faculty advisors, including economics professor Maura Doyle, Geisel School of Medicine professor of microbiology and immunology Maureen O’Leary and economics professor Charles Wheelan ’88.

In December 2016, Helman and Nate Fick ’99, chair of the trustee committee on student affairs, took over discussions on the College side over concerns that Hanlon, as a former AD member and current member of the AD corporation, could have a conflict of interest. Following an initial call between Helman, Conacher, president of the AD board Chris Niehaus ’81 and Fick, the Board of Trustees discussed AD during its meeting in March. The subsequent discussion resulted in the Board of Trustees’ letter and both a call and an in-person meeting between Hanlon and AD leadership.

“During the process, it became clear that a bunch of statements, processes, etc. were not clear,” Helman said. “So one of the things we wanted to do is overcommunicate, be crystal clear and be sure all of the written materials were consistent.”

The Board of Trustees’ letter specifies that “organizations that have been permanently derecognized will not be considered for re-recognition.” The letter also notes that the Greek Letter Organizations and Societies handbook and student handbook will be amended to reflect this policy.

In an email statement, College spokesperson Diana Lawrence confirmed the authenticity of the letter and wrote that the student handbook has always stated that derecognition is permanent and language was added to the GLOS handbook to further clarify derecognition.

The letter went on to state that the administration would consider an application for a new student organization to be housed in AD’s house, though current steps AD has taken to create a new organization are not sufficient.

“AD as AD is not consistent with the kind of change and guidelines that President Hanlon has put forth,” Helman said.

The letter and the Board of Trustees’ decision came as a surprise to AD leadership. According to an email sent on April 12 from the AD board to organization members, AD felt it had reached an understanding with College administration on a path to re-recognition and was surprised when the path was rejected in the letter.

“That we had done everything that the administration had requested of us over the past 18 months makes it even more disheartening,” the AD board wrote.

In the past, several derecognized fraternities have been allowed to come back to campus. In 2004, Phi Delta Alpha fraternity returned to campus after being derecognized in 2000. In 2008, Beta Theta Pi fraternity returned as local fraternity Beta Alpha Omega after being derecognized by the College in 1996. Most recently, in 2011, Zeta Psi fraternity returned after being derecognized by the College in 2001.

“At Dartmouth, ‘permanent’ has not always meant permanent, and all, or nearly all, organizations seeking re-recognition have eventually been re-recognized,” the Board’s letter reads, acknowledging that College administrators “clearly sent mixed signals” to AD regarding re-recognition.

Helman said that the main goal of the letter was to provide clarity.

“I think that was part of the problem — because nothing had been written down,” Helman said. “Sometimes writing things down is what’s part of providing clarity, so we felt it was time to do that, and we did it.”

In the AD board’s email, the board expressed frustration with the College.

“Like many of you, we feel that we are part of a Dartmouth family and are deeply loyal,” the email reads. “This experience strains our loyalty deeply. In reviewing the last 18 months in total, the College Administration and Trustees have been bureaucratic and adversarial with us despite our every effort to be collaborative and creative … We have been ready to invest in AD for the future and instead been stifled. It is a sad state of affairs.”

Conacher wrote in an email that AD believes it has presented a plan in line with the goals of MDF and continues to work with Hanlon to reach an agreement, though it will continue to exist as a private organization if it cannot be recognized.

“Regardless of the outcome of those discussions, we intend [to] re-organize and create a thriving organization that will positively contribute to undergraduate life at Dartmouth within the goals of Moving Dartmouth Forward,” he wrote.

Looking ahead

Helman said that the policy of permanent derecognition applies to all organizations going forward, not just AD.

“It’s our view, it’s the [Board of Trustees’] view, that we all as a community committed to that behavior [as outlined by MDF], to the ideals and principles in that report, and we need to live by it,” Helman said.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity was derecognized by the College in February 2016 after it was suspended by its national organization for five years. At the time, then-director of Judicial Affairs Leigh Remy wrote in a statement that while the chapter will not be re-recognized as a local organization because of misconduct, SAE could return to campus after its five-year suspension passed.

AD is discussing potential changes to its proposal to form a new organization with Hanlon and is developing a new proposal. AD continues to own its house at 9 East Wheelock, but the building cannot operate as a student residence and thus does not have a permitted use. According to the email from AD leadership, AD is exploring zoning options that do not involve recognition, which could include a special exception for a private club use or potential upcoming changes to the zoning ordinance at the town meeting on May 9.

“These have been dark times for [AD] at Dartmouth,” the email concludes. “We are painfully reminded every time we visit campus that our house is silent and decaying and in spite of our best intentions for it to be vibrant, renovated and making progress for Dartmouth. We hope we have better news soon. Until then, we will strive tirelessly towards our goals.”

Correction Appended (April 25, 2017): The original version of this article did not mention that the OAC did not find AD responsible for hazing at the time of AD's derecognition. The article has been updated to clarify this point.