Former Dartmouth College ‘Frat Boy’ Andrew Lohse Returns To Retell Tales of Campus

Published: 8/8/2016 11:12:42 AM
Modified: 2/11/2015 12:00:00 AM
Hanover — Anti-hazing advocate Andrew Lohse gave a reading from his memoir Tuesday night at Left Bank Books, just weeks before his planned return to Dartmouth College, where he hopes to finish his degree.

The book, Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy, details alleged abusive practices for new members, or “pledges,” at his former fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon. It was published in August. Lohse, who originally expected to graduate in 2012, took time off to write and now expects to return to campus this spring.

“I was pushed to a place I didn’t really want to go, and that’s the place I want to take you to,” he told listeners on Tuesday before beginning the reading.

When Lohse reached a section describing how pledges were expected to eat “vomelettes,” or omelettes made of vomit, community members, parents and students in the audience reacted with good-natured squirms. Some giggled.

Lohse first detailed the alleged hazing at SAE in a column in the student daily newspaper, The Dartmouth, in 2012, claiming that brothers at his fraternity had pushed their pledges to binge drink and vomit on each other, among other abuses.

Later that year, he was the subject of an in-depth article in Rolling Stone that contributed to a wave of negative attention for the college.

Jose Rodarte-Canales, now a junior at Dartmouth, said that when the Rolling Stone story broke, he had received his acceptance letter and was considering whether to come to Hanover.

“I had more positive statements shared with me” than negative ones, he said of his decision making. “One of my friends was a ‘14 and she really wanted me to come here.”

Though not a fraternity member, Rodarte-Canales said he believed many of Lohse’s claims, some of which he said happened “nightly” at Dartmouth.

Brian Chen, a writer for the conservative-leaning campus newspaper The Dartmouth Review, attended the reading and said beforehand that he didn’t trust the allegations Lohse had made in his book, his newspaper columns and elsewhere.

“I’m skeptical of Mr. Lohse’s credibility, and he has a record when something does not go well for him of burning other people,” Chen said.

Yet Lohse, in the question-and-answer that followed the reading, contended that the best response to his claims was to effect real change at the college.

“As much as people cry and scream and complain about one article in Rolling Stone, there will be so many more articles if the problem persists,” he said.

Attendance at the reading was mandatory for students of James Dobson, a lecturer at Dartmouth who teaches a first-year writing course on the history of the college’s image in media and popular culture. Dobson said he had assigned Lohse’s book as required reading, and the author himself recently visited the class to discuss it.

As Dobson’s students found their seats in the one-room, 500-square-foot bookstore, they shared its close quarters with a film crew led by a documentary filmmaker from Norwich.

While Lohse read passages from his book, he paced back and forth under a film light, a microphone fastened to the lapel of his blazer. Occasionally he planted his hands on a lectern in the center of the room, and at other times he glanced at a hand-held camera rolling just feet away.

Afterward, the audience peppered him with questions.

Bill Sjogren, a 1967 alumnus and member of the reformist group Dartmouth Change, asked Lohse whether he’d received death threats because of his disclosures.

The student author confirmed that he had, though he said he didn’t take the threats, which included a lynching on the college green, seriously.

“It’ll be really interesting when I’m back, five, six weeks from now,” he said, adding quietly, “If you see a noose on the green, let me know, so I can avoid it.”

Rodarte-Canales asked Lohse why he planned to return to the school, given that some students there (not including Rodarte-Canales) considered him a “pariah.”

“Why not?” he responded. “Contrary to what people said, I was not kicked out of Dartmouth.”

Following Lohse’s allegations — and a surveillance operation by Hanover police involving an after-dark stakeout with night-vision goggles — college officials in 2012 charged SAE and 27 members with hazing.

The administrators later dropped the charges against the individuals, citing a lack of evidence, but put the fraternity on probation.

Despite having provided much of the evidence, Lohse himself was one of the 27 to face dropped hazing charges. He later left the college on a medical leave, which he says he took voluntarily, though other disciplinary charges pended against him. In his memoir, he describes an episode around the time of his departure where, heavily intoxicated, he threw a folding chair in the presence of a campus security officer.

Dartmouth’s fraternities and sororities have since eliminated their pledge terms with the encouragement of the college’s new president, 1977 alumnus Phil Hanlon, who has pushed to curb high-risk behavior on campus. With the announcement last month of Hanlon’s “Moving Dartmouth Forward” plan, a wide range of reforms touching on Greek life, alcohol abuse, sexual assault, academics and residential life, the abolition of pledge terms is now official college policy.

But Lohse and others at the reading contended that Hanlon hadn’t gone far enough.

“In a perfect world,” the college would abolish its Greek system, Lohse said, though he didn’t expect that to happen soon.

And he doubted that the new restrictions imposed on campus, including a blanket ban on hard alcohol, would be enforceable. Greek houses, where most of Dartmouth’s partying goes on, are “highly sophisticated organizations” that are “all about circumventing rules,” he said. “Rules don’t really work on fraternities.”

Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.




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