Hanlon’s Reforms at Dartmouth College Include Hard Alcohol Ban

Thursday, April 30, 2015
Hanover — Dartmouth College President Phil Hanlon this morning announced a wide range of policy reforms intended to curb high-risk behavior and improve academics and residential life on campus, including a partial ban on hard alcohol and a mandatory four-year education program on sexual violence.

The extensive list of new policies calls for a residential college system similar to those at Yale and Harvard, and, in the academic realm, mandates for earlier classes and cutbacks in grade inflation. Under the changes he announced this morning, all Dartmouth undergraduates, including those of legal drinking age, may no longer consume or possess hard alcohol on campus, and spirits are also banned from events for or including undergraduates. Hanlon said in an interview Tuesday that he would encourage graduate students, faculty and other community members to abstain from hard liquor as well, though they weren’t strictly obligated to follow the ban.

(Read the text of Hanlon’s speech on Dartmouth’s website. This story will be updated and published in Friday’s ‘Valley News.’ Send your reactions to Hanlon’s remarks to reporter Rob Wolfe at rwolfe@vnews.com for possible inclusion in the article.)

Data on hospital transports at the college indicated that hard alcohol was responsible for a significant portion of alcohol-related incidents, according to Hanlon, who expects the liquor restrictions to bring those numbers down.

This week’s policy shift stems from a nine-month study Hanlon commissioned last April, conducted by the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” committee, an advisory group composed of professors, undergraduates, administrators and alumni.

The committee was formed amid protests about sexual assault on campus, concerns about diversity and allegations of heavy drinking at Dartmouth parties, which are dominated by the fraternity system.

Hanlon, a member of Dartmouth’s Alpha Delta fraternity as an undergraduate in the 1970s, said he was adopting roughly “eleven and a half” of the committee’s 13 suggestions.

He said he wouldn’t embrace the committee’s recommendation for “a major change to the D-Plan,” the college’s 10-week term system, nor was he ready to provide concrete targets for socioeconomic diversity and financial aid , though he said he planned to do so .

The college already had made public some of the changes outlined in Hanlon’s speech, such as its plans to bring Upper Valley women’s crisis center WISE to campus, expand its residential communities and hire independent sexual assault investigators.

And some requirements that Hanlon announced today have already been implemented by the college’s fraternities and sororities, such as the elimination of “pledge term,” the probationary period for new members alleged to involve binge drinking and hazing, and the inclusion of both male and female faculty advisors for single-sex Greek houses.

Since April, the Moving Dartmouth Forward study has faced widespread speculation and counterproposals from numerous interest groups on campus, including a group of alumni who were leaders in the Greek system.

This past fall, the presidential committee made national news after it conducted an online poll whose alumni respondents overwhelmingly favored abolishing the campus’ fraternities and sororities. On Homecoming weekend, student daily newspaper The Dartmouth ran a front-page editorial titled “ Abolish the Greek System.”

And in November, the college’s faculty took a largely symbolic — though nearly unanimous — vote in favor of ending Greek life on campus.

For now, Hanlon and the committee have considered and rejected the idea. Other colleges that banned fraternities and sororities haven’t shown significant reductions in high-risk behavior, he said.

“Ultimately, I do not believe that simply eliminating this one aspect of campus life would be a comprehensive, or even effective solution to the more pervasive challenges we face,” he said in his prepared remarks. “It would not address the charge I placed before our community of purging extreme behaviors wherever on campus they occurred.”

All the same, Hanlon — a math professor by training who returned to his alma mater in 2013 after 27 years at University of Michigan — said in Tuesday’s interview he might change his mind if student organizations, including fraternities, failed to measure up to the new expectations.

“Moving forward, it will be simple,” he said in the speech. “Organizations that choose not to fulfill these higher standards will not be a part of our community.”

The college president also said his committee had considered mandating that all single-sex Greek organizations become co-ed, but had discarded the idea for many of the same reasons. Instead, the college’s new residential communities will provide students with more gender-neutral social spaces, he said.

On Wednesday, Hanlon met with the college’s trustees, who unanimously approved the new measures, according to Board of Trustees Chairman Bill Helman, a 1980 alumnus.

In Tuesday’s interview, Hanlon declined to say how the college planned to implement many aspects of the policies — Interim Dean of the College Inge-Lise Ameer, along with many other officials and faculty members, would be responsible for most of the finer details, he said.

Some of those policies included new requirements that student social events have bouncers and bartenders, and that student resident advisers make “rounds” through the residence halls on nights when students are likely to be drinking.

In a written policy statement that accompanied his prepared remarks, Hanlon said the college would develop a “comprehensive and mandatory four-year sexual violence prevention and education program for students” that officials at Dartmouth will develop by the end of the summer and pilot during the fall semester.

Also by the end of the summer, the college will provide an online “consent manual” describing sexual violence scenarios and potential sanctions, along with a smartphone app that students may use to call for help.

And Hanlon’s social reforms will also intersect with his new academic expectations.

Professors no longer are to cancel their classes before the college’s “big weekends,” where festivities often spill into weekdays. Courses will meet earlier on Tuesdays and Thursdays, in order to discourage hard partying on Monday and Wednesday nights, Hanlon said.

An independent oversight committee, led by former Tufts University president Larry Bacow, will evaluate Dartmouth’s progress in the areas targeted today. Hanlon said its other members were a student affairs official from Stanford, an alcohol expert from Maryland and two recent Dartmouth graduates, one a former Greek member.

“The committee will hold us accountable by reporting annually to me and to the board of trustees on whether we are doing what we said we would,” he said. “We will be transparent about our progress.”

Posted online Thursday at 9:50 a.m. Follow us on Twitter @VNewsUV.

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