EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

December 9, 2012

Dartmouth praises new hazing policy

HANOVER, N.H. (AP) — A recent surprise inspection of a Dartmouth College sorority house turned up Alexandra Essey and her roommate baking a pie.

It was a far cry from the so-called “vomlets” described in a former fraternity member’s graphic hazing allegations earlier this year. Though a judicial panel found there wasn’t enough evidence to back up the student’s most egregious violations, including that he was pressured to consume vomit, his public airing of the allegations accelerated efforts to crack down on hazing at the Ivy League school.

The college implemented several changes to its hazing policy this fall, including the random walk-throughs of Greek housing and dormitories, and more are on the way. And while not every inspection has uncovered scenes as wholesome as Essey and her pie, college officials say the changes appear to be working.

For example, there were a record number of participants in Homecoming activities in late October, but the lowest number of alcohol-related incidents in years. And there’s been a notable increase in the reporting of hazing allegations, which is significant given that such activity occurs in the “deep, dark recesses” of fraternities and other organizations, said Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson.

“By its very nature, it’s clouded in secrecy, and I think the challenge Dartmouth and many, many institutions face is getting students to come forward,” she said.

The new hazing policy encourages that by offering limited immunity to individual students who report hazing activity. Such students won’t face college disciplinary sanctions even if they participated in hazing, as long as the conduct did not cause harm.

The new policies also include a “fresh start” amnesty program for fraternities, athletic teams or other groups that disclose hazing behavior will get help developing a plan to stop it. In both cases, individuals and groups still could be subject to criminal and civil penalties.

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