Hazing scandal draws media attention

by Diana Ming | 3/26/12 10:00pm

On the heels of hazing allegations leveled by former Sigma Alpha Epsilon member Andrew Lohse '12 in a January opinon column in The Dartmouth, numerous national media outlets have covered the ensuing campus reaction and College response including the Associated Press, The New York Times and The Boston Globe, which focused on hazing at Dartmouth in an editorial that criticized the College's actions regarding hazing on campus.

"For the sake of its students, who could be injured by hazing, and its reputation as a broad-minded institution, Dartmouth should send a strong message against such behavior," The Globe's editorial board wrote.

Vice President for Alumni Relations Martha Beattie '76 sent an email obtained by The Dartmouth to members of Dartmouth's Alumni Council on March 13 addressing potential concerns about hazing at the College and the recent increase in national press coverage of the issue. The email included links to articles from The Globe, the AP and a letter to the editor submitted by College President Jim Yong Kim to The Globe.

National news outlets including CBS News, Fox News and ABC News picked up the article written by the AP, which summarized Lohse's allegations and the subsequent College and media responses. The article also included interviews with Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson, Hanover Police Chief Nicholas Giaccone and two Dartmouth students, as well as an email from SAE president Brendan Mahoney '12 discussing the administration's response.

The story has also been featured in news outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The Huffington Post.

The national media coverage of the hazing allegations has not affected College policy but has provided an opportunity to foster discussion on hazing in a "productive manner," Director of Media Relations Justin Anderson said in an interview with The Dartmouth.

"The media is going to focus on what it chooses to focus on, and [the College] will not let the media dictate policy," Anderson said. "Hazing is an incredibly complicated and complex issue and it merits serious and thoughtful consideration and policy, and that is how [the College] has approached it."

Anderson said that interest in the hazing allegations might have grown nationally due to the initially intense coverage of the story by local news outlets such as the Valley News and The Globe, two publications that frequently publish College-related news.

"I do find it interesting that [hazing] occurs everywhere, and it has been reported about Dartmouth sometimes in a way that makes it seem unique when it's not," he said. "But I understand that there are aspects of [Lohse's] story that lend themselves to sensationalism and can make for a good story."

Despite the growing national attention on the hazing allegations at the College, Anderson said that the administration's "quick" response to the issue reflects its commitment to addressing student issues such as hazing and high-risk drinking. Anderson cited the campus-wide email sent by Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson on Jan. 25, the day that Lohse's op-ed appeared in The Dartmouth, as well as an email from Kim sent on March 22 that announced the creation of the Committee on Student Safety and Accountability.

"Hazing is prohibited by Dartmouth and the law and when met with allegations, the College is going to act," he said. "I think it was pretty clear right away before there was any media coverage that Dartmouth takes hazing very seriously."

The media coverage of the hazing allegations has not impacted how the College has acted in terms of policy decisions, according to Anderson.

"Dartmouth has an internal disciplinary process when allegations are made and found to be worthy of a charge and that's what happened in the case of SAE," he said. "The internal process is playing itself out, and that would have happened if there wasn't media coverage."

Students interviewed by The Dartmouth said that the national spotlight on the College's hazing allegations reflects the highly controversial nature of the issue.

"I think it's positive in that it brings attention to hazing which is an important issue that needs to be addressed," Chloe Moon '13 said. "But it's unfortunate that Dartmouth is getting negative attention in response to the coverage."

Eirik Voll '14 said he believes that the media response to the story has been "blown out of proportion."

"Whatever happens here on campus, I can't understand how all of the media attention is justified," he said.

Andrea Jaresova '12 said that the College does not typically address issues until they are highly publicized.

"I'm frustrated that the main reason we are talking about hazing on campus is because of Lohse's article, but I understand that the more publicity there is on the issue, the more the College can be pushed to act," she said.

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