Dartmouth College, one of the many schools grappling with a publicity-unfriendly campus sexual assault problem, has unveiled a new plan to "address harmful behavior" by students. A cornerstone of that plan involves banning hard liquor from campus parties. The administration is also strongly suggesting that the school's Greek system needs to shape up or face extinction.
Dartmouth has been laying out some heavy PR campaigning regarding their sexual assault problem since roughly this time last year; they, like dozens of other schools, are being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education for alleged violations of Title IX. They've also gotten a slew of bad headlines as a result of their Greek system, after former frat bro Andrew Lohse wrote an embarrassing book about the frenzied and super gross hazing that went on during his time there.
In a press release today, Phil Hanlon, the school's president, announced what he's calling Moving Dartmouth Forward. The full plan, which you can see here, includes several steps to create a "safer and healthier campus," including the introduction of a "a comprehensive and mandatory four-year sexual violence prevention and education program for students," a first-responder training program for faculty and staff, and the creation of an online "Consent Manual," which outlines different scenarios and what the potential punishment could be. The idea of the manual, as the publicity materials put it, is "to reduce ambiguity about what is acceptable and what is not."
The alcohol ban is the piece of this plan that's laid out the most clearly:
To truly create a safe environment—and one that is advantageous to learning—we will also have to tackle the challenge of excessive drinking. Dartmouth will take the lead among colleges and universities in eliminating hard alcohol on campus. Dartmouth's new alcohol policy for students will prohibit the possession or consumption of "hard alcohol" (i.e., alcohol that is 30 proof or higher) on campus by individuals, including those over the legal drinking age, and by Dartmouth College-recognized organizations. In addition, we will ask that the entire campus community follow suit and not serve hard alcohol at college-sponsored events and be role models for the healthy consumption of alcohol.
The key to the successful implementation of any policy change is a clear path for enforcement.
To this end, we will require third-party security and bartenders for social events. We will also increase penalties for students found in possession of hard alcohol, especially for those students who purchase and provide alcohol to minors.
The plan also speaks sharply and directly to the Greek system on campus, telling them they'll have to work harder to root out "extreme behavior." Fraternities and sororities will be required to eliminate "pledge or probationary periods," and must now have an active faculty sponsor and alumni board. In addition, Hanlon adds, if there are no signs of improvement, the Greek system could be eliminated entirely:
Of course, we are also quite aware that past promises and plans for reform generated by Greek organizations have not always led to substantive and lasting changes. If, in the next three to five years, the Greek system does not engage in meaningful and lasting reform, and we are unsuccessful in sharply curbing harmful behaviors, we will need to revisit the system's continuation on our campus.
In addition, Hanlon has also pledged to "to increase the rigor of the academic experience," on campus, including "curbing grade inflation."
An organization of students and alumni called DartmouthChange has been calling for years for the school to better address sexual assault and harassment. Last night they put out a statement saying, in effect, that the new plan is a step and a gesture, and for now that'll have to be good enough:
Although we are disappointed the College didn't act on our long-standing recommendation to form an independent commission of experts, we look forward to tomorrow's announcement. Regardless of the recommendations' content, we view the initiative as a recognition of significant problems on campus — and that's a step forward.
It's worth noting that banning hard liquor has been tried elsewhere, with little success. At Notre Dame, for example, an alcohol ban meant that the parties, and the binge-drinking, simply moved off-campus.
Image via Josue Mendivil/Flickr