Dartmouth: Working Toward a New Standard

In a big step to change the culture of misconduct on its campus, Dartmouth College President Philip J. Hanlon announced last Thursday, that it would ban hard liquor on campus.

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“The measures Dr. Hanlon announced Thursday in a speech on campus had been expected and were based largely on the work of a panel he created nine months ago to review campus life,” The New York Times writes (Jan. 29).

“Dartmouth has had a string of embarrassments involving binge drinking, and it has hardly been alone. The sexual assaults, fraternity hazing and hospitalizations that have rocked campuses around the nation have often involved extreme intoxication, like the case of the former Vanderbilt football players convicted this week of raping an unconscious woman, or that of a Stanford swimmer accused of rape this week.”

But this isn’t a new issue. Drinking has long been a factor in college life. After transferring to a major university from a community college, I remember being courted by several on-campus fraternities to join. I was invited to lunches and a couple of weekend parties where the major event was watching a group of relatively smart young men engage in what is now called “binge” drinking – consuming ridiculously massive amounts of alcohol in a short period of time. The result of witnessing these events resulted in my not joining primarily because I had an intense dislike of individuals who overindulge, act ridiculous and throw-up. Maybe I was a snob, but frankly, I had more interesting things to do with my time.

“But if Dartmouth is drawing a line in the sand,” The Times continues, “it will have little company on its side. Many campuses, most of them with religious affiliations, have long been completely dry, but only a handful of colleges and universities that once allowed hard liquor have tried to ban it. Despite Dartmouth’s prominence as a member of the Ivy League, experts say not to expect many institutions, if any, to follow its lead.

“Jake G. Rascoff, a senior, said there was no denying that abuse of hard alcohol posed a serious problem, but that banning it would be ineffectual.

“ ‘It will increase the incidence of surreptitious binge drinking and increase the risk of binge drinking off campus, which will lead to drunk driving,’ said Mr. Rascoff, who is an executive editor of The Dartmouth Review.”

I have no doubt that some will simply take their drinking habits off campus, but that’s not the point. Hanlon is setting a new standard of ON campus behavior; a standard that, hopefully, brings about a change in how students conduct themselves on campus and eventually, off campus, as well. And these new standards are not isolated to a ban on hard liquor.

In “The President’s Plan for Implementation,” Hanlon points to additional changes. Among them –

“Beginning next year:

• Dartmouth will introduce a comprehensive and mandatory four-year sexual violence prevention and education program for students, as well as a first-responder training program for faculty and staff. We will develop this program by the end of summer 2015 and immediately begin piloting it during the fall 2015 semester.

• We will create an online ‘Consent Manual’ including realistic scenarios and potential sanctions, to reduce ambiguity about what is acceptable and what is not. This Consent Manual will be in place by the end of summer 2015.

• We will develop a Dartmouth-specific safety smartphone app for students to easily and immediately seek assistance if they ever feel threatened.

• The College will continue to enhance our partnership with WISE, the Upper Valley advocacy and crisis center for victims of domestic and sexual violence. This partnership will strengthen our existing confidential resources for survivors of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking.

• We will pilot Dartmouth Thrive, a transformational College-wide program that develops leadership skills and encourages every student to focus on his or her development as a total person—in and out of the classroom, at Dartmouth and beyond, in mind, body, and spirit. In building Dartmouth Thrive, we will make use of existing leadership and wellness programs.

• We will increase the presence of faculty and other positive adult influences in the lives of students.”

Addressing enforcement, Hanlon’s Plan states that, “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 president’s plan then makes an important point: “Policies alone will not create the change we seek on this campus. True change will come from individuals—and thereby student organizations—committing to live up to a higher standard of behavior.

• To clarify what we expect of individuals, every student who enrolls in Dartmouth will sign a Code of Conduct that articulates the expectations—as they relate to civility, dignity, diversity, community, and safety—for all members of the Dartmouth community. This is not meant to replace the Academic Honor Code or ‘Standards of Conduct’; rather, this document is intended to incorporate principles from both and serve as a powerful reminder of the values that guide the institution and our expectations of students. I have asked the Dean of the College to convene an ad hoc committee of faculty, staff, and students to draft this new code, which will be completed in time for use by next year’s entering class.”

While the hard part will come in implementing and reviewing just how all the moving parts of Hanlon’s plan work, from my perspective, he’s off to a great start.

I was once asked to speak at an East coast college that was having issues with academic integrity. After my talk, I handed the president of the college a list of actions that the school should take. He looked it over and said something to the effect, “This is going to take time and cost money.”

I said, what’s your reputation worth?

And that’s a question for all college presidents, administrators and alumni.

I applaud President Hanlon for taking a decisive first step. Now, it’s up to Dartmouth supporters to demonstrate the same kind of support for Hanlon as they do for their sports teams.

1 comment… add one
  • John Baldwin MD, FACS, Major, US Army February 2, 2015, 7:30 am

    As a member of the 60 year reunion Class, Dartmouth 1955, “Class of the Year,” most of us applaud President Hanlon’s action, the intense study by people from across America’s higher education institutions who came to Hanover last summer to work and plan a solution to alcohol, sexual abuse, dishonesty and hostility on campus. Interestingly, alcohol abuse was determined by all to be at the root of most behavior failures; a fact that many have known for decades, both at Dartmouth and other campuses.

    Jim is to be thanked for this follow-up article on the original [“Dartmouth: In Need of a Cultural Change,” Jan. 16], cheating scandal, which broke the whole thing wide open last year. Now, implementation and consequences and time will tell.

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