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Dartmouth President Vows to Clean Up Campus Social Scene

Hanover — Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon Wednesday night held an unusual “presidential summit” with student leaders, faculty and selected alumni in a bid to change a culture on campus he said is tarring the Ivy League school’s image and future.

“We can no longer allow this college to be held back by the few who wrongly hide harmful behaviors behind the illusion of youthful exuberance,” Hanlon said in prepared remarks for the summit, which was closed to the press. “Routinized excessive drinking, sexual misconduct and blatant disregard of social norms have no place at Dartmouth. Enough is enough.”

Dartmouth has drawn national scrutiny for reports of hazing at fraternities, concerns about sexual assaults on campus, and protests by students who say the college still has undercurrents of racism, sexism and classism.

The recent acquittal of a former Dartmouth freshman who had been accused of raping a classmate in her dorm room featured testimony about heavy drinking in the middle of the school week.

Students proposing a progressive “Freedom Budget” occupied Hanlon’s office overnight earlier this month, and a federal Title IX investigation into how Dartmouth has handled sexual harassment claims is also underway.

Hanlon acknowledged that the problems on campus “are doing serious damage to Dartmouth’s reputation,” noting that applications declined last year by 14 percent.

“It is time for Dartmouth to change,” he said in the remarks. “And as your president, I will lead that change.”

Hanlon Wednesday night said he is creating a presidential steering committee to recommend actions that can end “extreme and harmful behaviors” involving high-risk drinking and sexual assault, and also promote inclusivity.

The recommendations are to be presented to the Dartmouth Board of Trustees in the fall, Hanlon said.

He previously has announced a new zero-tolerance policy for sexual assault and the formation of a Center for Community Action and Prevention to “mobilize” the Dartmouth community to help prevent sexual assault and violence. The college has also targeted binge drinking in recent years.

Hanlon himself graduated from Dartmouth, where he was a member of the Alpha Delta fraternity, in 1977, and he returned to Hanover last year after serving as a professor and provost at University of Michigan.

In his prepared remarks, he urged the Dartmouth community to work together to address the problems on campus.

“We are a great institution, 245 years old, poised for an even greater future. But Dartmouth’s promise is being hijacked by extreme behavior, masked by its perpetrators as acceptable fun,” Hanlon said.

News staff writer John Gregg can be reached at jgregg@vnews.com or 603-727-3217.