In response to a series of student misdeeds that have subjected the school to national ridicule, Dartmouth College’s president, Phil Hanlon, announced a total campus ban on hard alcohol Thursday, sending a clear message that the college’s numerous, powerful Greek houses must either reform their behavior or be forced to shut down.
The plan, called Moving Dartmouth Forward, is intended to address campus controversies regarding binge drinking, sexual assault and the role of Greek life on the elite Ivy League campus.
In an effort to check wrongdoing at fraternities, Hanlon announced several other policy changes as well. Pledge terms for fraternities will be abolished, all alcoholic events will require a bartender and every campus organization will be subjected to an annual review of its conduct. The college will also launch a four-year initiative against sexual assault next fall, which has few details but will apparently include a Dartmouth-specific smartphone app students will be able to contact if they feel “unsafe.”
Hanlon emphasized that those caught violating the hard alcohol ban will face stiffer penalties than those violating other alcohol rules.
In order to enforce the new rules, Dartmouth will be ramping up its security apparatus in a big way. New security officers will be hired, and undergraduate advisers will be trained to conduct room inspections on the “likely drinking nights” of Wednesday through Sunday.
Dartmouth has been hit by a wave of controversies in recent years, most notably a major story in Rolling Stone magazine alleging severe hazing at one of its fraternities. Those controversies have hurt its status and led to a stagnating applicant pool, especially compared to the soaring popularity of its Ivy League peers.
While drastic, Dartmouth’s reaction fell short of what some faculty and campus activists were pushing for: A total abolition of Dartmouth’s popular Greek system, which a majority of students participate in.
Some, however, think that a ban on frats could be just a matter of time.
Nick Desatnick, editor in chief of The Dartmouth Review, said he fears the hard alcohol ban and other new rules may be intended less as a serious reform effort and more as cudgel that will eventually be used to destroy fraternities.
“The sense is the initiatives and regulations that are being drawn up are intended to be death by a thousand cuts to the Greek system,” Desatnick told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “This is a really strict regime of regulations that houses can’t help but violate at some point.” Nonetheless, he said, students have no option but to engage with the effort in good faith.
Strict campus alcohol policies aren’t unheard of, even at secular institutions. The University of Oklahoma, for instance, bans all alcoholic beverages from Greek houses and campus dormitories. However, Dartmouth’s ban stands out among elite schools.
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