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Must the College Prosecute Lohse?

It goes without saying, based on his own admissions, that Andrew Lohse hazed and was hazed. But is the College obliged to prosecute him? One would think that some recognition could be given to the fact Lohse had the honesty to come forward; nobody else in recent years has had the courage to break the fraternity system’s omertà . But what leeway do Dean Johnson and Associate Dean April Thompson — and President Kim, if he finally decides to act — have in this situation?

To answer the question, I turned to someone in the big leagues: a former NYC prosecutor who served under Robert Morgenthau, the District Attorney for Manhattan from 1975 to 2009. The answer is simple: “in the interests of justice” a prosecutor can decide to bring forward or bury any case that he or she chooses. That is the only standard. My source cited examples where murderers who offered compelling evidence against senior Mafia leaders were left uncharged.

As we have seen before, the police have a great deal of discretion in dealing with offenses, too. The use of that discretion is why Harvard, Penn, Brown and Columbia did not have a single police arrest for underage drinking on campus in the 2008-2010 period — whereas at Dartmouth 263 students were arrested by the Town of Hanover Police. In fact, the total number of liquor violation arrests at the seven other Ivies totaled 131 over these three years, less than half the police arrests at Dartmouth, the smallest of the Ivy League schools. It goes without saying that students drink at the other Ivies, but the police there, in the exercise of their discretion, have decided that they have better things to do with their time.

If federal prosecutors and local police can choose to turn a blind eye to certain actions, one would think that at the College today the same judicious choices could be made. And they were in the past. As a former Dean of the College recounted to me, John Sloan Dickey used to put forward an amusing epigram:

Our goal is to teach students to have good judgment.
They learn judgment through experience.
And how do they get experience?
Through the exercise of bad judgment.

That Dean, and President Dickey himself, would often overlook an offense, though usually with the caveat that if the student got in trouble in the future, they would face the full force of College discipline. They, too, had a good sense of how to behave “in the interests of justice.”

President Kim, Dean Johnson, and all of Dartmouth’s Trustees could profit from this wisdom. Where are our leaders?

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