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The Dartmouth
June 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

New hazing policy may be in works

The future of children's lunchboxes, giant pencils and "creative" haircuts on campus may be in jeopardy as a committee will soon begin reviewing the College's hazing policy -- which Dean of the College James Larimore said is currently inadequate and "fairly narrow."

Members of the Board of Trustees announced in their April Initiative decisions that the administration must "develop a hazing policy that is more stringent than current College policy."

Larimore said he agrees with the opinion of the Board, saying that the College's current approach to hazing on campus was developed in order to reflect New Hampshire state law, which he says is "fairly narrow in comparison to other college and university hazing policies around the country."

Some visible campus activities linked with pledge periods -- including the carrying of backpacks or lunchboxes -- are not specifically considered illegal under state law, but may be considered violations under what Larimore hopes will be the College's new, "broader" definition of hazing.

The organization of the committee will be more finalized by the end of the week, Larimore said, saying that the students chosen and elected for the positions would represent many different areas of student life at Dartmouth, including Greek houses, athletic teams and nominees of the Student Assembly.

"Students will have a pretty major role," said Larimore. "We hope that this will be a way to involve students in developing some educational programs [with regard to hazing on campus]."

Larimore added that Safety and Security serves as a tool for the College to "look into any areas of concern when there's something to be concerned about."

He added that students should bring to the administration's attention any incidents of improper conduct.

"We would hope that students themselves would voice their concerns to us as well," he added. "Typically in my experience that's how colleges learn about hazing."

Under the College's policy, a student can be found guilty under the hazing policy if he or she does not report harassment to authorities or to College officials.

The state policy is too loosely defined, Dean of Residential Life Martin Redman told The Dartmouth in an interview last November. There is a wide range of behaviors that fall in the national definition of hazing, but not Dartmouth's, according to Redman.

"I think we're behind," he said then.

This March, the College derecognized Phi Delta Alpha fraternity, alleging the fraternity had "used methods of coercion and harassment as part of the peer relationship to continue membership," according to Redman.

However, the house was found not guilty of hazing under the College's policy.

"Quite honestly, in most of the country, the activities that took place that we were told about" would have classified as hazing, Redman said in March.

Student hazing, a misdemeanor in New Hampshire, is defined by state law, and also Dartmouth policy, as "any act directed toward a student, or any coercion or intimidation of a student to act or to participate in an act, when (1) such act is likely or would be perceived by a reasonable person as likely to cause physical or psychological injury to any person; and (2) such act is a condition of initiation into, admission into, continued membership in or association with any organization."

No one at Dartmouth has ever been prosecuted under the New Hampshire State hazing law, which mandates that offenders pay up to $2,000 in fines and face jail time of up to one year.

The lack of enforcement with regard to hazing should not necessarily be placed on the College's shoulders, said Sean Gorman, acting counsel for the College.

"I don't know of any instance state-wide, where that statute has actually been used," he said.

Gorman likened the dearth of actual prosecutions under the state law to cases involving child abuse or speeding.

"A tiny minority of (those) who exceed the speed limit are prosecuted -- not even one percent," he said. "The information is not easy to find, and the people involved very often are reluctant to come forward."

"Someone gets prosecuted when information comes to a prosecutor's attention and when he or she believes that there is a basis to prosecute, and until those things fall into place, there is no prosecution," he said.

Gorman added that there is a fine line between hazing and criminal offenses, and that often a transgression of the hazing laws may be labeled under a different ordinance, especially in cases where serious violence, such as the death of a student, occurs. He said that this may be one of the reasons that no one has been prosecuted under the state's law.

He said however, that "when really terrible things happen, there clearly are ramifications to that, whether that happens to fall under a hazing statute or a manslaughter statute -- there is a consequence."

College administrators told The Dartmouth in November that due to the secrecy of Greek pledge periods and meetings, it is difficult to "fully grasp the extent of hazing," and that this may be another reason so few cases are brought to prosecution under state law, let alone under the College's disciplinary system.