Verbum Ultimum: A Hazy Punishment

by The Dartmouth Editorial Board | 1/17/13 11:00pm

The College recently announced that it will release termly reports on closed Organizational Adjudication Committee investigations of potential hazing cases. The first of these reports, which details the allegations against Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, was made public on the Undergraduate Judicial Affairs' website on Wednesday. While we hope that this measure will improve transparency by punishing violators and creating strong incentives to curb hazing, we wonder whether this is a true exercise in accountability or simply another effort by the College to keep up appearances.

We are cautiously optimistic that these reports reflect progress in the administration's campaign to hold fraternities, sororities and other organizations to higher and clearer standards. We applaud the College for acting on the hazing allegations detailed by Yesuto Shaw '15 in The Dartmouth Mirror last October ("Through the Looking Glass: Let the Hazing Begin," Oct. 19). Moreover, public reports will encourage openness from both students and the administration while promoting more constructive dialogue. They will help clarify important questions, such as how hazing allegations are assessed, how the College arrives at punishments and why hazing remains an endemic problem on our campus.

At the same time, we wonder if potential college probation is a harsh enough punishment to represent a credible threat to campus organizations that routinely haze new members. As Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity president Michael Fancher '13 noted yesterday, his fraternity's probationary period imposed after SAE was charged with violating Standard I of the College Student Handbook was "worded to sound worse than it actually was" ("Alpha Phi Alpha to face hazing sanctions," Jan. 17). The fraternity faced six weeks of social probation and two further terms of supposed extra vigilance from the College. However, we are not convinced that prohibition on social events truly discourages the sorts of behaviors that the College is trying to prevent.

That the terms of Alpha Phi Alpha's punishment will still allow the fraternity to recruit new members next fall strikes a peculiar chord. The College has previously threatened that, if Greek organizations are charged with hazing, they will be barred from rush. Nonetheless, the College has yet to show that this proposal has any teeth. If the physical abuse of new members by brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha is not enough to warrant such punishment, then where will the College draw this line?

Ultimately, we remain unsure of the administration's motives in its handling of the Alpha Phi Alpha case. While the punishment handed down appears to be a loud defense of its hazing policies, we question whether this is another attempt to mitigate public criticism. Concern for student welfare and the fight against hazing, on the one hand, and the upkeep of the College's reputation, on the other, are certainly not mutually exclusive goals. But if the College's decision to release these reports stems primarily from its desire to declare publicly that the administration is actively combating hazing, then we have to wonder how effective these changes will be in preventing future incidents.