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Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson’s War on Students Part (2/2)
Today’s post again recounts the events that befell the Freshman. However, the content of the Hanover Police department report reproduced in this space yesterday is supplemented by information from my own interviews, a review of various Dartmouth documents, and a viewing of the Hanover Police video of the initial arrest. Comments follow.
The Event: One evening in late February, the Freshman went with a friend for dinner to Molly’s Balloon, a private restaurant on Main Street in Hanover. (The identity of the student is not relevant to this tale; it is a story about an administration run amok.) He ate a starter, a main course and dessert. Over about two hours, he supposedly consumed four mixed drinks: three margaritas and a martini. He allegedly purchased the drinks using a false ID: a fake driver’s licence with an incorrect date of birth from a state in which he did not live.
Commentary: For a male, such consumption does not arise to the level of binge drinking, as the term is widely defined. The Freshman only had four drinks (not five — the threshold for male binge drinking), and the fact that he had a full meal over two hours to accompany the drinks would reduce his inebriation, if any, to a low level. It is unclear whether the Freshman was legally fit to drive after such consumption, but that issue is irrelevant to our narrative as he never contemplated taking the wheel that day. However, purchasing drinks with a fake ID and being under 21 while consuming them is against New Hampshire law .
The Report: Unbeknownst to the Freshman, he was being observed from the next booth by Ruth Kett, one of five members of Dartmouth’s Greek Letter Organizations and Societies (GLOS) staff and a part-time Food Court cashier. She reportedly knew him because he had been in a bartending class that she had conducted earlier in the academic year. Kett took careful notes of the Freshman’s consumption, and as his meal came to an end, she reported his drinking to the Town of Hanover Police.
Commentary: Why did a Dartmouth employee, particularly one working in the College office that works cooperatively with Greek Houses, feel the need to spy on and report to the police the off-campus activities of a Dartmouth student? Ms. Kett could easily have approached the Freshman to educate him about safe drinking, rather than denounce him to the police.
The Search: The Freshman finished his meal and left Molly’s shortly before the arrival of several officers of the Hanover Police force. When the police did arrive, Kett described the student and helped the police determine his identity. The police also obtained the Freshman’s restaurant bill, in which they were able to see that he had had four drinks with his meal. Kett offered to look up the Freshman’s birthday, which she later communicated to the police. The police were also able to independently access the Freshman’s birthdate. Safety & Security was called in to aid in the Hanover Police’s search for the Freshman, and S&S offered to use the College’s Access Card system to track his location on campus.
Commentary: A student’s birthday is considered under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to be directory information that cannot be disclosed without notification to a student or his family. The Dartmouth Student Handbook on Page 69-70 affirms that the College will not disclose date of birth information without a student’s written consent to an outside police force unless:
“In response to a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena. In such cases the College will attempt to notify the student involved unless prohibited by the terms of the subpoena or court order…”
“To appropriate parties, in a health or safety emergency in which the health or safety of a student or other individuals is seriously threatened. Prior to disclosure, the College shall make a finding of an articulable and significant threat based upon the totality of the circumstances and may release information only to individuals in a position to meet the emergency.”
Neither test is met in this story. As a separate matter, it is unclear how the Hanover Police can directly access a Dartmouth student’s birthdate. Has the administration given the Hanover Police detailed records on the entire student body?
When the College’s Access Card system was put into place eleven years ago, Dean of Residential Life Martin Redman affirmed in an article in The D that the system would not be used Big-Brother-style to track students:
Redman also addressed concerns that administrators would be able to monitor the flow of students entering and leaving dormitories.
Redman acknowledged that the door-locking system would provide a temporary record of which students and staff members had entered residential buildings, but said such information would only be used “in the course of a criminal investigation. … We’re not going to have everyday access to it.”
Clearly, that standard was not met here either. And, in fact, several local attorneys have confirmed that Dartmouth’s S&S, in cooperation with the Hanover Police, now routinely uses real-time Access Card computer records to search for students, despite Dean Redman’s affirmations.
The Search Continues: The first place that S&S and the Hanover Police sought the Freshman was his dormitory room. The knocked repeatedly on his door, and when they received no answer, S&S officers entered the room to “ensure that the male was not passed out due to his alcohol consumption,” according to the Hanover Police report.
Commentary: According to the Dartmouth Student Handbook, page 83, in the section entitled Room Entry without Consent:
The College reserves the right to enter and to inspect any student room at any time without permission or consent of the room occupant(s) to provide emergency service or general maintenance work, make safety or condition inspections or investigate probable violation(s) of College regulations.
Curiously, the Hanover Police report attempts to justify the entry into the Freshman’s room on safety grounds. However, it is utterly disingenuous to assume that the Freshman would have passed into unconsciousness after the meal and drinking described above. Clearly, the Police’s supposed fear for the Freshman’s well being was no more than a pretext to enter the Freshman’s room. As for S&S, the violation of College regulations had already occurred; there was no evidence of an ongoing violation to be found in the Freshman’s room.
The First Interrogation: At about 10:30pm S&S officers spotted the Freshman on North Main Street near Carson Hall. When they approached him as he walked along, they shouted:
“Freeze! Stop! Stay where you are!”
“We have reason to believe that you are intoxicated.”
The S&S officers took the Freshman’s wallet, and called in Hanover Police officers, who arrived on the scene in two vehicles. S&S turned over the wallet to the Hanover officers, and the Police asked the Freshman if they could search it. They found no fake identification. After several questions, the Freshman admitted that he had had half a bottle of beer prior to going to Molly’s. The Hanover Police officer also noted in his report:
In addition Officer Ballard could smell the strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from [his] person and his eyes were slightly bloodshot and [he] was slurring his words as he spoke and appeared to get confused with h [sic] what he was saying. He was swaying from side to side as he spoke and lost his balance on two occasions.
Commentary: Where does Dartmouth’s S&S force begin and the Hanover Police end? S&S conducted a warrantless search of the Freshman, and then handed the results to the Hanover Police.
In regard to the Freshman’s state of intoxication, I have carefully viewed the entire police video of his interaction with the Hanover Police. The Freshman decidedly did not slur his words, lose his balance, act confused, nor respond in any way other than directly and coherently to all the questions asked of him. To claim otherwise is a no less than a blatant lie on the part of the reporting officer.
Similarly, despite the assertion in the Hanover Police report that the Freshman agreed to “provide a written statement about being served alcohol at Molly’s,” in the video the Freshman agreed to no such thing.
The Eavesdropping: The Freshman was taken to his dorm room, where S&S found a partial 12-pack of beer and an open bottle of rum. He was then driven to Dick’s House by S&S for observation, and told that he had to spend the night there. Before falling asleep, the Freshman called his roommate and reported that the Police had not found his fake ID, which he had hidden in his pants. Unbeknownst to the Freshman, he had been under surveillance by College staffers: the two Dick’s House nurses on duty, Kim Galgreath and Amy Villaluz, were listening in on his conversation via the baby monitor installed in his room. When they heard his remarks about a fake ID, they informed S&S, who relayed the information to the Hanover police.
Commentary: In how many ways is the nurses’ behavior repugnant? Listening in surreptitiously to a private conversation. Doing so in a medical setting and violating the confidentiality of a medical relationship. Reporting on a student in their capacity as College employees, who should have students’ interests close to heart (though, as we have seen, such a practice is hardly unusual). Such a disclosure may even be a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) rules, which require the consent of a patient to release information to law enforcement officials, except in certain circumstances.
The Second Interrogation: Upon learning of the nurses’ eavesdropping, Hanover Police officers arrived at Dick’s house just before 4:00am. In their report, the Police note that after their arrival they learned that the Freshman was awake. In fact, one of the nurses had awakened him. The Freshman was taken to a room where he was interrogated in the presence of no fewer than three Hanover Police officers and two S&S officers. The interrogation included the following harshly uttered comments by the Hanover Police’s lead interrogator:
“You’re in big fucking trouble now!”
“Nothing will save you now!”
“We know how you called your roommate.”
“We’ll strip search you right now unless you give us the fake ID.”
At that point, the Freshman allegedly relented.
Commentary: What can one say about an interrogation that more resembles the harsh questioning of a violent criminal than that of a Dartmouth student who improperly drank several alcoholic beverages with his evening meal? From waking the student at 4:00am to yelling threats at him while he was surrounded by Town and College law enforcement officers, the entire scenario smacks of College administrators and law enforcement personnel out of control.
Conclusion: The above events point to a complete absence of moral leadership in the office of the Dean of the College. From a member of the GLOS staff, to the College’s Safety and Security officers (not to mention the Hanover Police), to the nurses at Dick’s House, members of the administration seem motivated by a desire to vindictively punish students, rather than support their education. These administrators seem unrestrained by any respect for the law, let alone common decency.
Like so many areas of the Dartmouth administration, the Dean of the College office and the many departments that report to it are in need of deep reform, which can only come from a significant change of personnel.
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