Verbum Ultimum: Good Sham
Dartmouth must reconsider the repercussions associated with Greek houses using the Good Sam policy.
This column is featured in the 2023 Winter Carnival special issue.
It’s a typical Friday night at any given fraternity, and the house is buzzing. The hallways are chock-full of students thrilled to have the week in their rearview mirror — and more than ready to blow off some steam. Drinks are flowing, music is bumping and the vibes are good. Not so much, though, for the freshman repeatedly throwing up in the first-floor bathroom. Concerned, a brother asks their friends if they’re alright. “Yeah,” they say, “they’ve had a little too much to drink, but we’ll get them home fine.” 15 minutes later, the same freshman falls face down on the frat’s front lawn, and it’s obvious that they’re not going anywhere. “Hey, it’s okay,” their friends reassure themselves, “good thing Dartmouth has a policy created for this exact case!” But as they move to call the College’s designated Good Sam number, the same brother comes sprinting over once again — only this time, he isn’t so nice.
The concept behind Dartmouth’s Good Samaritan policy is certainly logical. In an attempt to create a safer atmosphere for students on alcohol-saturated nights out, Dartmouth offers students the opportunity to call for help should they find themselves or a friend unsafely impaired. If a Good Sam is called, Safety and Security officers will arrive on scene and escort the student back to their dorm or, if needed, a medical facility. Importantly, they also won’t get the student in trouble for their behavior. According to the Student Affairs website, “Students and/or organizations that seek assistance… will not be subject to College disciplinary action with respect to violation of the Alcohol Policy and/or the use of other drugs.” This is, of course, fantastic. Students are given a way to ensure the safety of their friends (and themselves) without the fear of College repercussions — making the campus a safer and less stressful place to both work and play. Unfortunately, while this policy is great in theory, there’s one serious problem preventing Good Sam from being used to its full potential: affiliated members of Greek houses don’t want their guests to use it.
Here’s the issue: let’s say a Safety and Security officer picks up a random student from a random Greek house. Upon arrival, it’s probable that the student is very intoxicated — hence the call to Good Sam. In all likelihood, the officer will inquire about the events leading up to the distressed student’s current situation. Thanks to their sky-high BAC, they probably won’t hesitate to divulge all information regarding where they were drinking, what they were drinking and how many rules were probably violated in doing so. When a drunk student is “Good Sammed” and accidentally ends up blabbing about the cup of batch they drank at a fraternity, Safety and Security may launch an investigation — thereby putting that Greek house at risk of severe consequences. In many cases, these calls are blamed on the Greek house even if the distressed stranger showed up already intoxicated. The house may not have provided a single drop of Keystone to the student, and the consequences are still the same — or at least, that is what is broadly assumed. Whether factual or not, the effects of this assumption are the same. It’s no wonder why many Greek houses will do whatever they can to stop Good Sams from being called on anyone on their premises.
Granted, this may be an issue of transparency. But if true, this is a massive blind spot. For members of Greek houses, there exists a frustrating double bind — either look out for the safety of their peers and risk the consequences, or play it safe, and in doing so, actively neglect peers’ well-being. This fundamentally undermines the safety that the Good Sam policy is supposed to offer. Though you may think the choice should be obvious — protect your fellow student over your house — when this peer is a complete stranger, in reality, the choice is not so simple. Instead of being a way to offer assistance without fear of backlash, the Good Sam policy now sports the same backlash that it was designed to omit. This inevitably means fewer Good Sam calls — and, as a result, a less safe campus.
Of course, we’re not asking the College to totally disregard any connection to Greek life that the subjects of Good Sam calls might have. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask questions about who’s been serving alcohol and in what manner. However, this policy disregards the fact that in many cases, the person does not get Good Sammed in the location they were drinking — since the body does not even metabolize alcohol for roughly an hour after it is consumed. As it stands, the same places that are sometimes distributing alcohol in the least responsible ways can get away with it scot-free. Why? Because that person chugging drinks at Greek house A might not feel the effects for 30 minutes, when they’ve already moved down Webster Avenue to the next stop of the night. Even worse, some chapters may force the distressed student to leave their property before they call a Good Sam — counting on another Greek house to take the fall for the student’s overconsumption. Without a logical method of notifying and working with the Greek house that person originated from, this problem will still exist.
We propose that after every Good Sam call, Safety and Security should immediately provide the person the assistance they need, and if appropriate, locate where they spent the majority of their night and/or ingested the majority of their alcohol. This may be the Greek house that they were Good Sammed at, or it may be their dorm, a different house or countless other locations on or off campus. If this intel is available, Safety and Security would notify the location where the student spent the majority of their night, which would be expected to provide an honest account of that night’s activities. However, providing this information would be contingent on the Greek house’s immunity — at least in the short term. If Safety and Security has reason to suspect activity clearly beyond the realm of a typical night out, such as hazing or other overtly dangerous drinking activities, it is then welcome to inquire further and potentially bring disciplinary action towards the Greek house.
However, without these hazards, the College must acknowledge that on any given night, there is a percentage of students who set out with the intention of getting very drunk — and it does not do anyone any good to punish a Greek house for making sure this person gets the help they need. These Safety and Security officers weren’t born yesterday, and Phil Hanlon certainly wasn’t either. No matter what sort of illicit activities Greek houses host, Dartmouth students will continue to need this kind of help — barring a systematic overhaul of the deep-rooted drinking culture we have at the College.
It’s time we focus on preventing real harm instead of gingerly avoiding administrative snares. If the College were to recognize that events like tails occur and hard alcohol exists, they can accomplish the first step in creating a better, more sustainable system that results in a safer student body — especially for the underclassmen who do not yet know their own limits when it comes to alcohol and drug consumption. The Good Sam policy is a fantastic idea in concept, but just like all other policies, it’s not above revision. Now is the time to revise it.
The editorial board consists of opinion staff columnists, the opinion editors, the executive editors and the editor-in-chief.