Themed party sparks anger, discussion

by Taylor Malmsheimer | 8/15/13 10:00pm

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by Madison Pauly and Madison Pauly / The Dartmouth
posted a picture of the event's invitation

At the party, some attendees dressed in either blue or red clothing, AD summer president Mike Haughey '15 said. He estimated that fewer than 50 individuals attended the event, advertised in an email sent to the fraternity's social list.

Haughey said the party's theme was decided the day of the event and some fraternity members raised concerns.

"It became more of other people saying, I don't think it will cause problems,' and then, unfortunately, we did not pursue it further," he said.

Several days after the event, AD was alerted that some individuals had been offended by the party's theme. Representatives met with those who had voiced concerns to discuss personal experiences with gang violence, the origin of the party's theme and the best way to move forward, Haughey said.

AD alumni advisor John Engelman '68 received an email from Greek Letter Organizations and Societies director Wes Schaub about the party's theme a few days later, then contacted Haughey to learn more details.

When he first reached out to Haughey, Engelman said he was under the impression that the party was still in its planning stages. When he found out that it had already occurred, Engelman asked Haughey whether he understood why the theme was "inappropriate and ill-conceived," he said.

Fraternity members subsequently began working internally to prevent a similar event from occurring.

"My feeling is that if the undergraduates can settle these differences and tensions among themselves, without getting the administration involved, that would be ideal," Engelman said.

Shortly after the party occurred, several members of the Afro-American Society articulated their concerns to president Bennie Niles '15, who said he was shocked that the party had taken place.

"There was a triggering for me in that they were characterizing realities that I had to deal with back home," Niles said. "For gang violence to be made fun of and parodied was really hurtful for me."

Around the same time, Niles said members of Tri-Delt contacted him about remedying the situation.

The Afro-American Society decided to work with the College's NAACP chapter to inform people of the party. The Afro-American Society also signed a "Call To Action" that circulated on campus.

The Call To Action, also signed by the NAACP, the Women of Color Collective and La Alianza Latina, includes a link to the College's bias incident reporting form.

Both the NAACP and Niles confirmed that bias incident complaints have been filed.

On Thursday evening, the Dartmouth chapter of the NAACP hosted a discussion, attended by over 100 individuals including members of AD and Tri-Delt, to discuss the party's theme. Office of Pluralism and Leadership staff facilitated discussions at the event.

Niles said the discussion allowed participants to display a "range of emotion."

"It was positive that it was mentioned that this was a forum for articulating anger," Niles said. "A lot of people have felt angry on this campus for a number of years and I think it's always good to talk about it and not be bottled up."

The Afro-American Society plans to meet soon about how it wants to proceed.

Haughey said he appreciated listening to different opinions at the event.

"I spoke a few times but tried to listen," he said.

OPAL and GLOS released a joint statement expressing support for Greek organizations to develop policy or member education activities to reflect a commitment to inclusive events. The Greek Leadership Council is now working on a potential policy for themed events.

GLC moderators did not respond to requests for comment.

Dartmouth does not have a policy prohibiting themed events but requires all organizations to comply with the College Standards of Conduct and registration requirements for events that involve alcohol, and is investigating the event, representatives from the Office of Public Affairs said in a statement.

The College's NAACP chapter has yet to receive an official statement from administrators condemning the event, according to a statement.

Tri-Delt plans to work with the College and their executive office to continue educating its members about cultural sensitivity and awareness, according to its statement.

AD reworked its theme approval procedure for parties so that multiple members, including the executive committee, must approve a theme before the event can take place, Haughey said. The fraternity also plans to include sensitivity training as part of new member education.

The summer leaders of AD and Tri-Delt are introducing a proposal to implement preventative and responsive measures for these types of events, Haughey said. The proposal will be submitted to GLC for review by Wednesday.

Haughey said he hopes to host a similar forum in the fall to continue discussion.

In the past year, AD has received significant media attention for incidents regarding alcohol provision and public urination.

On July 26, a member of AD from the Class of 2015 turned himself in to the police after urinating from the fraternity's second floor balcony onto a 27-year-old woman working on a film crew at the fraternity.

Hanover Police received a complaint on July 6, conducted an investigation and issued an arrest warrant on charges of public urination on July 25.

In January, AD was indicted for providing alcohol to a 20-year-old female and 18-year-old male last fall. The fraternity accepted a fine of $15,000 and a $3,600 penalty assessment fee from the Grafton County Superior Court in June after pleading guilty to the two charges.

AD will be required to pay 50 percent of the fee, or $9,300, as long as it meets state requirements. AD was also required to complete 300 hours of community service and create a management plan for social gatherings.

In 1998, Chi Gamma Epsilon fraternity and Alpha Xi Delta sorority sponsored a "ghetto party" during which students wore Afro wigs and carried toy guns. This event prompted demonstrations among hundreds of Dartmouth students, The New York Times reported.

In February, Kappa Sigma fraternity's parent organization suspended its Duke University chapter after it hosted a party called "Kappa Sigma Asia Prime." Several students posted fliers across campus containing printouts of emails with racially insensitive language and Facebook photos of costumed students at the party.