The Alumni War of Words on “Hazing” Continues

Defining hazing isn’t a black and white affair.

With all the furor that’s come up over Andrew Lohse ’12’s accusations of hazing at SAE, not to mention Ravital Segal KKG ’09’s story in The Huffington Post, one might get the feeling that Dartmouth Greek life is nothing more than Thunderdome writ small to weed out those not deserving of getting a free ticket to the 1%. The losers who get no bid or depledge are relegated to occupying a school provided tent in front of Collis, just like the rest of  the 99%. Any defense has been derided by outside observers as proof that such practices are commonplace, and a method of culling the American elite of the future.

However, two defenders of the Greek system aren’t taking the usual tack. Over the last several days there’ve been articles from Ariana Dugan ’09 and Snowden Wright SAE ’04 who put a different spin on their defense of Greek life.

They make two primary points: first, nobody is forced to join a Greek organization against their will. If you don’t like it, leave, but don’t sit there and behave like you’re a victim. Grow a spine and do something about it, or don’t whine about it later.

Second, while what Ms. Segal experienced is almost certainly criminal, it was an aberration, not the norm. The most disgusting acts Wright endured were getting pelted with mashed potatoes and gnawing the head off a fish. Ms. Dugan was asked to drink, but “only if [she wanted] to.”

Goofy? Sure. Disgusting in some cases? Yeah. Ultimately, though, these were harmless (though if Ms. Dugan was underage at the time, that would also be criminal, Dartmouth’s blind eye towards underage drinking notwithstanding). 

The problem, then, is twofold.

There are occasional excesses, but we might as well try to regulate when it snows in Hanover. People are people and people occasionally do stupid things. You can punish it, yes, but you’ll never be able to stamp it out fully. It’s ultimately up to the people who compose an organization to determine what sort of character said organization will take on. 

The other part of the problem is properly defining “hazing.” While the New Hampshire defines hazing as:

“Student hazing” is defined as “any act directed toward a student, or any coercion or intimidation of a student to act or to participate in an act, when (1) such act is likely or would be perceived by a reasonable person as likely to cause physical or psychological injury to any person; and (2) such act is a condition of initiation into, admission into, continued membership in or association with any organization.” The implied or expressed consent of any person toward whom an act of hazing is directed is not a defense to a charge under this anti-hazing statute.

All’s well and good, except we run into the problem of what a “reasonable person” would decide was hazing. Forced alcohol consumption, yes. Dodging mashed tubers? No. There is no bright line, so individual interpretation is the dominating factor in determing whether or not something is hazing. Is it a perfect law? Hardly. It leaves a lot open to interpretation, but then again, Greek houses can be pretty creative, necessitating a gray area. 

The solution, then, is people. Greek organizations would be well advised to be judicious and choose their members based on the content of their character. Also, avoid admitting as members people who make a habit out of mistreating the opposite sex, have an illicit substance problem, or a history of stabbing groups in the back with whom he/she has had a falling out.

Sterling C. Beard