Hazing at Dartmouth
Recently, Rolling Stone published an article on a sordid affair involving a Dartmouth fraternity member, Andrew Lohse of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and his efforts to shut down heinous hazing practices. These practices include, but are not limited to, eating “vomlets,” fried mixtures of egg and vomit, and swimming in kiddie pools of vomit, urine, feces, alcohol, sperm and whatever other fun treats brothers can think of. What this episode reveals, more than anything, is the ineptitude of the Dartmouth administration and the need for law enforcement to step in, if not take further action.
While I fully support the right of individuals to do what they will with their bodies, hazing is coercive, psychologically damaging and has led to a few infamous deaths; its ban at Washington University and most peer institutions is entirely justified. Fraternities that haze need to be harshly punished, and the attitude of Dartmouth’s administration toward hazing, for this incident and throughout its history, has been appalling. It has charged Lohse, as well as 27 other SAE members, with hazing, but given that Lohse’s estranged brothers categorically deny any involvement in hazing, it is very possible that Lohse, who brought the evidence to light, will be the only one to suffer.
Dartmouth’s failure to curb the outrageous practices of its fraternities is not new. In 1999, then-president James Wright attempted to end the established Greek system by forcing fraternities to go coed to halt the abusive pledging practices occurring at the school. A year later, he was forced to scuttle the plan in the face of fierce opposition from students and alumni. The current president, Jim Yong Kim, claims to have little power over the university’s fraternities, and upon becoming president, assured the organizations that he would make no attempt to change them.
Dartmouth, it seems, is incapable of stopping the abusive nature of fraternities. Administrators do not want to, and when they do, the power of fraternities and alumni renders them inadequate. This isn’t surprising; at a school where around 25 percent of graduates accept jobs in business and finance, many of whom later donate significantly to their alma mater, it is difficult to alter an institution that is so central to the student experience. Still, the risk of reduced income should not be enough to deter the administration from cracking down on fraternities that practice hazing. Indeed, the fact that administrators won’t risk the school’s cash flow is appalling, suggesting that Dartmouth’s morals can be bought.
Clearly, another force is necessary to correct the wrongs committed at Dartmouth. The school is impotent, and fraternities show no desire to change; many members who have graduated fondly recall their days of “doming,” a drinking game in which two people compete to be the first to throw up on the other. Given the frequency and magnitude of complaints, legal forces that prosecute for hazing crimes have an obligation to investigate Dartmouth. Of course, this may not be enough. Dartmouth’s abusive fraternities are so institutionalized that alumni—many of whom are executives on Wall Street—are known to return to their old frat houses and hang with new brothers while pledges regurgitate vomlets. More than a legal crackdown might be required; given the embedded nature of physical and sexual assault at Dartmouth fraternities, it might behoove higher powers to remove them entirely.