Dartmouth Frat Indicted Over Alcohol

— A Dartmouth College fraternity has been indicted on two charges of providing alcohol to minors last year, the latest flare-up in a long-running dispute between the college and police over underage drinking.

The indictments, handed up by a Grafton County grand jury, accuse Alpha Delta, which has had previous run-ins with local police, of providing alcohol to an 18-year-old male on Oct. 14 and a 20-year-old female on Oct 5.

The charges carry possible fines of up to $100,000.

Hanover Police Chief Nick Giaccone said that both underage drinkers were found severely impaired while walking near the fraternity. Neither was hospitalized, Giaccone said.

Giaccone said that, in previous months, officers had found several intoxicated minors who were apparently connected to Alpha Delta, and repeatedly warned the fraternity that it was in danger of facing criminal sanctions if the incidents persisted.

“They have had particular experiences with us in previous cases were we felt ... we would lose credibility if we didn’t back-up what we (said) we would do if they failed,” Giaccone said. “There are some organizations taking their role (on campus) seriously, and there are others that systematically fail, and Alpha Delta is one of them.”

A member of Alpha Delta yesterday declined to comment or to refer the Valley News to an attorney. Court documents do not show that the fraternity has hired an attorney, though the arraignment is scheduled for today in Grafton Superior Court.

Dartmouth College spokesman Justin Anderson declined to comment on the case, but noted that “serving alcohol to minors violates both New Hampshire law and Dartmouth’s own policies, and doing so has negative outcomes.”

An indictment is not a finding of guilt, but rather a tool for prosecutors to continue with criminal cases.

Incoming Dartmouth College President Philip Hanlon was a member of Alpha Delta, known nationally as the inspiration for the 1978 movie National Lampoon’s Animal House.

“I took away a lot of real positives from my experiences as a member of Alpha Delta,” Hanlon recently told Dartmouth Alumni Magazine. “Number One is lifelong friendships. My closest friendships in life are with the brothers I had at Alpha Delta. There are probably two dozen of us. We get together every year. We correspond by e-mail regularly. A few of them live nearby. I think there were a number of us who were quite strong academically, and that was part of the character of the people who were there.”

The fraternity is being prosecuted under the same legal guidelines that allow prosecutors to treat corporations and other entities — for instance, a restaurant over-serving alcohol to a patron, or a business that stole from clients — as individuals, Grafton County Attorney Lara Saffo said.

The arrest comes after a period of relative calm between the police and the college, following years in which repeated citations of students on underage drinking charges caused controversy.

Former Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim locked horns with Giaccone when police issued several citations for underage drinking, saying the police’s aggressive investigations might dissuade students from seeking necessary medical help. Kim eventually announced a series of initiatives designed to curb binge drinking on campus, before departing last year.

Alpha Delta has been at the heart of the drinking debate in recent years.

In 2011, two students were seriously injured when they fell 40 feet off the roof of the fraternity house; police said both had been drinking. In 2006, the fraternity was subjected to a five-hour search by Hanover police that attracted national attention, though the search did not turn up evidence of any serious crimes.

Giaccone said that Alpha Delta’s history was irrelevant to the decision to file charges — police recognize that fraternity members come and go, he said.

“If we’re going to judge them on prior behavior,” Giaccone said, “we want to make sure the new brothers aren’t being saddled by previous conduct of previous brothers.”

Mark Davis can be reached at mcdavis@vnews.com or 603-727-3304.