Verbum Ultimum: Sensationalizing the Truth

by The Dartmouth Editorial Board | 10/4/12 10:00pm

In January, a column published in these pages about fraternity culture and hazing not only sparked a campus-wide discussion about hazing, but also fueled a media firestorm focused on the College's social ills. In the column, former Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity member Andrew Lohse '12 described the hazing he allegedly endured as a pledge at the fraternity ("Telling the Truth," Jan. 25). In late March, Lohse was featured in a Rolling Stone article that sensationalized Dartmouth's Greek culture and pushed the school further into the national media spotlight ("Rolling Stone article targets College culture," March 29).

Although many members of the Dartmouth community, including current students and alumni, were quick to criticize Lohse an undeniably controversial figure to lead the crusade against hazing and denounce his allegations, the column sparked a substantive discussion on campus about new member activities. The widespread scrutiny and conversations about our social culture caused some fraternities to reevaluate their pledge terms and forced the administration to establish more serious policies that directly address dangerous hazing. Lohse framed his initial column as a criticism of the administration for failing to address hazing on campus, and the administration has certainly taken an increased interest in hazing since the column's publication.

However, while Lohse's original article was presented as an attempt to foment an honest discussion about the reality of hazing, the leaked proposal of his upcoming book "Party at the End of the World" indicates his desire to run a smear campaign against the College ("Lohse book proposal leaks online," Oct. 4). The document leaves text redacted that presumably will include students' names and appears to take substantial liberties in its accounts of Lohse's "coke-addled" time at Dartmouth. What supposedly began as an effort to "tell the truth" about a serious issue at Dartmouth and effect meaningful change has been bastardized into an effort by Lohse to draw attention to his sensationalist, ludicrous memoir.

While students, administrators, alumni and Hanover Police may legitimately disagree about what activities constitute hazing and how hazing should be addressed at Dartmouth, few would deny that serious hazing in some form has taken place consistently at many Dartmouth Greek organizations throughout recent College history. Any student would be correct to publicly criticize that culture. However, we have little hope that a sensationalist, self-serving book like the one that has been proposed will achieve the kind of change that Lohse once claimed to desire. If anything, such a book will only solidify divisions within our community about this important topic, encourage defensiveness on the part of students and displace the substantive discussion taking place with a renewed focus on criticizing the individual who brought these topics to the forefront of discussion.

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