Expanded hazing rules a possibility

by Wendy Yu | 11/24/99 6:00am

Administrators say the College's hazing policy should be expanded to include current prevalent behaviors for pledge period, such as wearing fraternity placards or unusual clothing.

The College's hazing policy defines student hazing as any act, intimidation or coercion directed to a student to participate in an activity which would cause physical or psychological injury as a condition or initiation into membership into an organization.

Under this definition, taken from the New Hampshire state legislature, popular pledge activities, such as wearing hats and carrying around objects like lunch boxes or backpacks, are condoned.

"There are significant [hazing] issues the Greek system here needs to address," Dean of Residential Life Martin Redman said, also mentioning athletic teams as a group that might engage in hazing.

Redman said the hazing policy of the College is much more lenient than the national definition fraternities and sororities use, which is more strict in terms of the kinds of activities it allows. He added he thinks that the New Hampshire legislature, being a conservative state, chose "a more conservative versus liberal approach."

"There's a pretty wide range of behaviors that fall in [the national definition of hazing] but not [ours]", he said, listing carrying lunch boxes and wearing name tags as examples. "I think we're behind."

According to Redman, less than two hazing charges have been filed in the last several years, citing the loose policy definition as one reason, and organizations' honest efforts to improve as another.

The secrecy of pledge activities and meetings make it difficult to fully grasp the extent of hazing, administrators say, although the College policy does compel witnesses of hazing to make a report to the Dean's Office.

Gabrielle Lucke, director of health services, said that anything which would make pledges stand out would be considered a violation of institutional and state laws at other institutions she has worked at, especially state schools, although things may be happening underground.

According to Lucke, alcohol violations are higher in the Fall term, when pledge period falls, but the overall increased number of students and the arrival of first year students are also significant contributions.

Lucke, who was a sister at Gamma Sigma Sigma and advises the College's secret senior society Abaris, admits that there are aspects of pledge activities that are positive, such as teaching humility by asking pledges to do anonymous volunteer work, but that when activities are harmful or dangerous, the activity should be banned.

Assistant Dean of the College Dan Nelson said that the visible pledge activities seen around campus concerns him, and that he thinks the current policy needs to be reviewed, although he believes that the hazing situation at Dartmouth is about the same as other comparable schools.

"There is reason to be concerned about any kind of behavior where students feel pressure to dress in ways they wouldn't ordinarily dress, behave in ways they wouldn't otherwise behave or do things they otherwise wouldn't do," he said.