External investigator to look into hazing allegations against 13 student groups

by Amanda Zhou and Zachary Benjamin | 10/12/18 2:37am

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by Oliver Byles / The Dartmouth

Updated: Oct. 14, 2018 at 2:45 p.m.

The College will hire an external investigator to look into hazing allegations concerning 12 student organizations and the Dimensions performance group, senior associate dean of student affairs Liz Agosto ’01 said on Thursday evening. The Hanover police department is also looking into possible cases of criminal activity.

The College's decision, which was made this week, came after the College received an increased number of reports this term about hazing incidents, including kinds that could threaten the health and safety of students.

The organizations include five fraternities, three sororities and co-ed Greek houses, three athletic teams, one student life organization and the Dimensions performance group, which is a student-run organization that performs songs and dances about the College in front of prospective students in the spring.

The organizations will be informed whether they are under investigation next week, Agosto said.

Four presidents of Greek organizations confirmed that leaders of Greek houses on campus met with Office of Greek Life director Brian Joyce on Thursday afternoon, when Joyce informed them that the investigation would be taking place. Agosto said that similar meetings will occur later in the week with members of other student organizations.

Agosto emphasized that currently, the investigation will be conducted purely for the purpose of fact-finding. If organizations are found guilty of hazing or other infractions, punishments will be determined at a later date, separate from this investigation.

“There is not a conversation that is happening right now about the end of Greek life as we know it, or any of those things,” Agosto said.

The investigation will consist of interviews with Greek house presidents and, in the case of suspected hazing, new members and new member educators.

The decision to hire an external investigator came after many anonymous and official reports were made through the LiveSafe app, which allows students to submit reports to the College; Safety and Security reports; first-hand accounts; and an op-ed briefly published on the Dartmouth Radical’s website, Agosto said.

She added that the number of incident reports submitted during the fall term had increased significantly compared to the past, sparking the investigation. The external investigator will focus on reports that concern a student’s health and safety — specifically forced alcohol consumption and sexualized behavior.

Reports of incidents like students wearing “unicorn costumes” will be investigated internally by the College — not by the external investigator.

“If we get a report that’s [about seeing] five girls dressed in leotards doing a dance, that doesn’t rise to an issue where we’re concerned about the health and safety of our student organizations,” Agosto said.

She noted that while the Dartmouth Radical op-ed was not the impetus of this investigation, the article did provide some of the information taken into consideration.

The article, titled “Beyond the Basement: Understanding the relationship between hazing and sexual violence,” was published on Oct. 1 and made specific hazing allegations toward specific fraternities, sororities and the Dimensions program, citing first and second-hand sources anonymously. The article has since been removed, with a note indicating that at least one allegation was determined to be false.

While the College is in communication with a potential external investigator, no formal hire has been made, Agosto said. Information was also shared with the Hanover Police Department.

Hanover police chief Charlie Dennis confirmed that the department was looking into the information they had received to determine if criminal activity had taken place. The investigations began about two to three weeks ago, he said.

Agosto, the Judicial Affairs Office and the College’s general counsel will work together with the College's external investigator.

Agosto declined to speculate on a timeline for the investigation.

Presidents of Greek houses — including sororities, fraternities and gender-inclusive houses — were informed on Tuesday of the meeting with Joyce through an email, which The Dartmouth later obtained.

“I need to pull this group together to discuss some on-going safety concerns,” Joyce wrote in the email. “This is an important and timely meeting and attendance is mandatory.”

Multiple Greek house leaders confirmed that the Greek Leadership Council has called a president's meeting on Sunday to further discuss the investigation.

Alexa Green contributed reporting.

Clarification appended (Oct. 12, 2018): This article has been updated to reflect that the meeting called by the Greek Leadership Council will be a president's meeting, as opposed to an ordinary GLC meeting.