The Plot to Kill Tubestock

The Review has learned that the College and several governments in Vermont and New Hampshire are collaborating to end Tubestock, an annual tradition in which Dartmouth sophomores raft down the Connecticut River. This has been controversial previously because alcohol is usually involved.

In the past, an event like Tubestock has been technically illegal. However, according to state law, the organizers are held accountable (not the participants), and, technically, no one organized Tubestock. In the eyes of the law, students spontaneously congregated. The idea is to introduce a law in the New Hampshire state legislature that would make participants legally accountable. Students would be videotaped, and the College has agreed to help identify participants, who could then be arrested. Another option is to require a permit. The event could take place in theory if the government grants a permit; however, the permit will require that the event be insured, and Hank James, the College risk manager, thinks no one will insure the event, hence denying the students a permit and killing Tubestock.

Julia Griffin, town manager of Hanover, New Hampshire wrote the following document:

Problem Statement – Tubestock is a dangerous event, mixing large numbers of participants and “rafts” with of age and underage alcohol consumption. It puts Dartmouth students, Dartmouth itself, the State of New Hampshire, the Town of Norwich and the Town of Hanover at substantial risk. Our concern is with protecting the safety of participants and we do not feel we can do so effectively. As such, we want to take steps to abolish the event or to so constrain the event that it is substantially changed, involving no alcohol, no rafts or floating objects of any kind, and that any party with jurisdiction is completely absolved of any liability.

Background – Tubestock falls under the jurisdiction of four different legal entities. The State of New Hampshire has jurisdiction within the Connecticut River and enforcement is taken by the Marine Patrol. The Town of Norwich has jurisdiction on the Norwich side; the Town of Hanover has jurisdiction on the Hanover side. Dartmouth College owns the property abutting the river at the current location, which also places them in both the liability chain and enables them to prevent launching of the event from the Hanover side.

Dartmouth has declined to have any responsibility for the event given the danger it poses and the illegal alcohol consumption that typically happens during the event.

The State of New Hampshire requires that an event like Tubestock be permitted. According to the Marine Patrol, the event has not received a permit and so, legally, the event sponsors are in violation of state law. Dartmouth students have specifically avoided obtaining permits because no single individual or group wants the responsibility for being the permittee.

Alternative Solutions:

1. State law can be modified during this legislative session to make it illegal to “participate” in a non-permitted event on a State waterway. Currently only the responsible event organizers or sponsors can be arrested for participating in a non-permitted event; the participants cannot be arrested. Marine Patrol has not been able to arrest any individuals because Dartmouth students have refused to obtain a permit. By modifying the law, every participant could be arrested, also resulting in implantation of academic sanctions by Dartmouth. Under this scenario, if the event were to proceed, law enforcement authorities would videotape and photograph the event and then seek Dartmouth’s assistance in identifying all of the participants, rather than attempting to prevent entry into the river for the event itself. Collectively, the three enforcement agencies involved simply do not have the manpower required to effectively arrest everyone at the scene, nor do they feel this is a safe approach to policing the event.

2. a. Dartmouth student sponsors will be required to obtain a permit for the event. The Towns of Hanover and Norwich would require a permit, as would the State of New Hampshire. The permits will identify the conditions outlined below.

b. Each entity would require the event sponsor to provide an independent certificate of insurance, naming the Towns and/or State of New Hampshire as an additional insured in the amount of $2,000,000. We would suspect that Dartmouth would do the same to protect the College in the event they were sued by the family of a Dartmouth students who might be injured or killed during the event. It is highly unlikely that any insurance agency will issue a certificate for such an event given the combination of factors which make the event dangerous.

c. In addition, the Dartmouth students will be required to pay all of the expense related to the presence of the Marine Patrol, Town of Norwich and Town of Hanover Police Department personnel. The combination of overtime for event coverage and the cost of transporting and/or renting specialized equipment (boats) will likely result in a bill totaling several thousand dollars.

d. Checkpoints will be set up on both sides of the Connecticut River and down and up-river of the event. No participants will be allowed to enter the area without either all participants presenting acceptable ID to prove they are of-age or submitting to searches to eliminate the presence of alcohol.

e. All costs of clean-up, including any removal of debris such as makeshift rafts, will be paid for by the participants, requiring the up-front deposit of several thousand dollars as security against the clean-up expenses.

f. In the event an accidental death occurs as a result of the event, all State Marine Patrol costs associated with the recovery of a body will be assessed against the event permittee(s).