(Host) The Dartmouth College newspaper published a letter a month ago detailing a student’s allegations of hazing at the fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
Now, 27 members of that fraternity have been charged with violating school policy.
As VPR’s Charlotte Albright reports, the controversy is renewing calls for the end of single sex fraternities on campus.
(Albright) This is not the first time allegations of hazing have stirred debate at Dartmouth. But this time, the incident has drawn national publicity.
The college newspaper, "The Dartmouth," published a letter on January 25 by Andrew Lohse, who claimed pledges were required to swim in a kiddie pool of excrement and chug cups of vinegar.
Lohse is on leave this semester and is now telling his story exclusively to the magazine Rolling Stone.
But Theater Professor Peter Hackett says the allegations have the ring of truth.
(Hackett) "I don’t know Andrew. I have never met him. I don’t know whether what he’s saying is accurate or not accurate. But I do know that the kinds of things he’s talking about do take place. And in fact the most interesting thing to me was, after his letter was published, the editors of the Dartmouth came out a few days later and said -a letter from the editor signed off on this – saying, ‘He’s right. We can’t speak to the specifics of this particular episode. But hazing does exist on this campus. We all know it. It’s not a very well kept secret.’ And that’s the students who run the newspaper."
(Albright) The administration’s response has been to form a task force to study not just hazing, but other behavior, including sexual assault and heavy drinking.
Hackett welcomes the study. But he wrote his own letter to Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim, which was co-signed by more than a hundred other faculty members, suggesting more needs to be done.
They urged the college to allow only co-ed fraternities on campus. And they would like to see the president take a higher profile stand against hazing.
But college spokesman Justin Anderson defends the administration’s approach. He says similar problems can be found at many colleges and universities.
(Anderson) "What makes Dartmouth unique is our willingness to take this on. This is something that Dartmouth wants to take on."
(Albright) Anderson says the college did not charge the fraternity sooner because there was not enough evidence. He says a witness has recently come forward.
The president of SAE has told the school newspaper that he cannot comment on the charges against individual members, but that he has been working with the college administration to reform the pledge process.
Meanwhile, it’s a hot topic of discussion in the library lounge, where freshman Adam Fishman says he’s hoping to join a fraternity.
(Fishman) "I’m already close with the fraternity I plan on pledging and I know those extremes are not part of it whatsoever."
(Albright) Across from him, senior Veronica Haakonsen, who belongs to a co-ed fraternity, calls the hazing allegations appalling:
(Haakonsen) "I think it’s unacceptable to treat other human beings that way."
(Albright) Local police say they have also opened an investigation into the hazing. But they tell the Valley News that, so far, they have been unable to get Andrew Lohse, who made the original allegations, to cooperate.
For VPR News, I’m Charlotte Albright