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The Dartmouth
April 19, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

N.H., College hazing rules differ

Hazing traditions are impacted differently by state and College policy.
Hazing traditions are impacted differently by state and College policy.

Disciplinary committees' rulings that Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority had not violated College Standards of Conduct regarding hazing despite "threatening or causing harm" to new members has brought the definition of hazing at Dartmouth into question.

The Student Handbook defines hazing as any behavior included as initiation into an organization that "produces or could be expected to produce mental or physical discomfort, harm or stress, embarrassment, harassment, or ridicule" or that "violate[s] College policy, fraternal/sororal policy or law" either on or off campus.

"I think hazing is a major problem at almost all colleges and universities. It's a major problem in high schools, it's a major problem in many, many institutions that have organizations that take in new members," Acting Dean of the College Dan Nelson said. "It's not a problem with each and every one of those organizations, but it's a problem because across the country for decades and longer people have been seriously injured and in some instances killed."

College policy and New Hampshire state law differ in the emphasis they put upon reporting the crime of hazing. While the Student Handbook mentions no punishment for failure to report hazing, state law makes failure to report student hazing, either on the part of an individual or an organization, a misdemeanor.

When asked about this difference in College and state policy, Director of Undergraduate Judicial Affairs April Thompson said she was unfamiliar with New Hampshire state law.

Definitions of what constitutes hazing also vary between the state and College level.

A notable difference between Dartmouth's definition of hazing and New Hampshire state law is the notion of consensual hazing. Whereas the implied or expressed consent of a suspected victim of hazing is insufficient as a defense against hazing charges under state law, the Student Handbook definition makes no reference to consent.

"Consent is not part of the definition of hazing," Thompson said of College policy. "It's not part of the conversation about whether or not hazing occurred."

Speaking from outside a policy standpoint, assistant director of Coed, Fraternity and Sorority Administration Megan Johnson also noted that consent is difficult to determine in hazing.

"A lot of times I hear Dartmouth students say, 'This is optional,'" she said. "You can tell me it's optional but if I opt not to do it, what are the consequences there?"

When asked why the overt new members practices of certain CFS organizations, such as Psi Upsilon's pledge uniform or Alpha Delta's mustaches and lunchboxes, were not considered hazing, Thompson said that she was shocked that anyone would believe them to be.

Thompson went on to reiterate that determining if such practices are in fact hazing is a matter for the College's disciplinary committees.

"I don't have a complaint and I don't have the facts for the Committee on Standards or the Organizational Adjudication Committee to review," she said. "If we get facts about that, it would be the committee that decides if that meets the behavior of hazing."