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Charlotte Johnson: On Seeming Effective
During the Andrew Lohse brouhaha, this space, in its gentle way, suggested that Lohse should have been given immunity for going to the Dean with details of hazing practices at SAE, and that the College should allow fraternities, sororities and other organizations to come forward without fear of punishment to confess past hazing practices in order to clarify the extent of the problem.
Lo and behold, Dean Johnson’s new anti-hazing policies seem to have adopted these suggestions.
Well, the emphasis in the previous sentence, in case you missed it, was on the word seem, for the good Dean, in her usual manner, has given the impression of activity without actually doing anything.
Take a look more closely: in both cases above, Johnson has carved out exceptions from the protection given to students who go to her with evidence. You are not protected if:
● You have engaged in an act “causing harm”;
● You are accused of the same offenses by the Hanover Police (who might just subpoena the College’s records).
That’s just great. Do you think that people will actually step forward in either situation, given the risks that they run in doing so? Can’t a case be made that all hazing is “harmful”? That’s why it is against the law. Later in the document, “harm” is given a broad definition:
Actually, that’s a definition of “harmful” broad enough to drive a truck through. Come to think of it, is there any type of hazing that wouldn’t be considered harmful by the above sentence?
Additionally, why didn’t the Dean speak to the Hanover Police and forge an agreement with Chief Giaccone to forgo prosecutions in order to elicit student cooperation re: past events? After all, the police routinely grant people immunity in order to advance the public good. And, more generally, wouldn’t it be better to protect students from College discipline in return for their cooperation, even in cases where harm was caused?
The answer to the latter two questions depends on your perspective. From Dean Johnson’s point of view, she wants to be able to tell the world that she has an immunity/Fresh Air plan in place — but self-evidently she does not care one whit if anyone actually takes advantage of the policies. Actually, things are worse than that: in truth she does not want anyone to step forward with embarrassing allegations. As always, appearances are more valuable to the administration than reality.
Addendum: The Valley News has a thorough report on the new policies. The story notes:
“… so far, no organizations have taken advantage of the “Fresh Start” program, Dartmouth spokesman Justin Anderson said, noting that that the policies didn’t go into place until last week.”
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