Student accuses frat of hazing violations

by Laura Bryn Sisson | 1/24/12 11:00pm

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Andrew Lohse '12 has accused the College of taking inadequate action in response to his allegations of hazing at his former fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
by Samantha Oh and Samantha Oh / The Dartmouth
said in a statement

Associate Dean of the College for Campus Life April Thompson said the administration took every possible action when Lohse presented the allegations a year and a half ago, but could not do more given Lohse's insistence that his complaint remain anonymous.

Lohse first spoke to Thompson directly about hazing in November 2010, a year after his own pledge term, Thompson said, though they spoke "informally" before that time. Lohse requested anonymity and did not provide physical evidence, Thompson said.

"I was a member of a fraternity that asked pledges, in order to become a brother, to: swim in a kiddie pool full of vomit, urine, fecal matter, semen and rotten food products; eat omelets made of vomit; chug cups of vinegar, which in one case caused a pledge to vomit blood; drink beers poured down fellow pledges' ass cracks; and vomit on other pledges, among other abuses," Lohse told The Dartmouth.

The allegations originally presented to administrators were similar to those detailed in Lohse's statement to The Dartmouth, Chief of Staff David Spalding said. Spalding said he did not recall seeing photographic evidence of hazing in a November 2010 meeting with Lohse and that Lohse did not present him with videos of alleged hazing incidents.

"It is most beneficial for us in these situations for a student to be willing to speak on the record, speak as a witness, identify individuals and provide evidence on that basis," Spalding said. "[Lohse] was not willing to do that."

Administrators also discussed plans for "Hell Night," the culminating event of pledge term, with the then-president of SAE to ensure that the event would not violate the College's hazing policy, Spalding said.

Hanover Police received information from the Dean of the College's Office that hazing might take place near Bartlett Tower and the Bema on Dec. 1, 2010, and "staked out the area" on the night in question, Hanover Police Chief Nicholas Giaccone said in an interview with The Dartmouth.

"One of the officers had night vision equipment, and we did follow and see people leaving from SAE, and they were found in the Bema area," Giaccone said. "What we observed did not reach the level of hazing."

Officers stopped and questioned a group of SAE pledges but found no evidence of hazing, Giaccone said.

Hanover Police also inspected SAE's physical plant and interviewed its president that night, determining the tip they received was false, SAE president Brendan Mahoney '12 said.

Lohse, however, said he felt the College's response to his allegations was inadequate.

"They have yet to take decisive action to diagnose and cure the abuse that plagues Dartmouth," Lohse said.

Claims in Lohse's statement that suggest inactivity on the part of the College are "completely false," Mahoney said.

Under New Hampshire state law, "student hazing" is defined as "any act directed toward a student, or any coercion or intimidation of a student to act or 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," according to the College's Student Handbook.

The College defines hazing as "any action taken or situation created involving prospective or new members of a group or as a condition of continued membership in a group (fraternity, sorority, team, club or other organization), which would be perceived by a reasonable person as likely to produce mental or physical discomfort, harm, stress, embarrassment, harassment or ridicule," according to the handbook.

As such, the College maintains a lower threshold for hazing than state law, Giaccone said.

The College has a legal obligation to report hazing to the state, as it is a violation of New Hampshire law, Thompson said.

Since the investigation into the December 2010 "Hell Night," "there have been other reports of hazing in the Greek system in general from the College, and we have looked into them," Giaccone said. None of these complaints, however, have spurred investigations of the same extent, he said.

Lohse sent an email to Mahoney indicating his intent to de-pledge SAE on Jan. 20, Mahoney said. Following the exchange, Lohse ceased to be a member of the fraternity, according to Mahoney. Lohse gave no reason for his resignation of membership, Mahoney said.

"We give [our new members] the resources to report any hazing violations," Mahoney said. "We would never put someone's membership in question for reporting violations."

Mahoney also said he had not personally experienced any of the hazing practices described in Lohse's statement.

A preliminary draft of Lohse's opinion column, published today in The Dartmouth, was in the process of being fact-checked by The Dartmouth when it was posted on the Dartblog website, an alumni-operated blog independent of the College, on Tuesday. The column posted was not the version Lohse intended to publish in The Dartmouth, according to Lohse.

During the 2011 Summer term, Lohse stated his approval of the response to his allegations in an email to Thompson.

"I think the hazing question at SAE has been answered word got backchanneled through National that what was happening had to stop, scaring everyone, and now giving me and others who didn't like hazing a big amount of leverage from the inside with which to end the practices once and for all," Lohse said in the July 11, 2011 email.

In an Oct. 6, 2011 opinion column in The Dartmouth, Lohse cautioned readers against "thinking that Greek life will alter you deeply." He urged students considering entering the Greek system to "remember that your brothers or sisters, and friends regardless of affiliation, will be there for you without fail."

When Lohse originally brought his hazing complaint to the administration, he was not an enrolled student at the College, according to Spalding. His enrollment status, however, did not affect the administration's treatment of the issue, he said.

Spalding and Thompson said they could not comment on Lohse's current standing with the College.

Lohse pled no contest to charges of cocaine possession and witness tampering and guilty to a charge of unlawful possession and intoxication on July 14, 2010. The no contest plea legally states that a defendant will neither challenge nor claim guilt for a charge.

The incident occurred after another member of SAE reported seeing Lohse and several other students using cocaine at the fraternity's physical plant. Lohse allegedly spat on the witness and poured out a beer on the door of his room following the initial incident.

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