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The Ninnies Pile On

When you see an article of this parlous level of intellect, you know that it is open season on the College. Huffington Post editor and Iowa State alumnus Tyler Kingkade attempts to prove that drinking at Dartmouth is worse than at other schools, but to his embarrassment (if he can feel such a thing), he can find little valid evidence for the proposition.

Huff Post Pong.jpg

Kingkade begins his piece with an anecdote that has Heidi Illanes Meyers ‘14 going in one quick step from a single drinking incident that ends up at at Dick’s House to Alcoholics Anonymous, with the implication that the College is somehow responsible for not treating her. No comparison is forthcoming regarding the AA involvement of students at the other Ivies.

Next, and then again later in the piece, he cites the number of police arrests in Hanover as compared to the other Ivies: “five times as many booze busts per capita as Yale” — the second-ranked Ivy after Dartmouth in this category. We’ve repeatedly referred to the same Clery Act stats, but these data point only to enforcement levels by the Hanover Police rather than to the level of drinking at the College. If you don’t believe that assertion, then you must believe that there is virtually no student drinking at all at Brown, Columbia, Harvard and Penn; after all, undergrads at these schools have been the subject of almost no police arrests related to drinking for many years.

Kingkade then cites Professors Russell Rickford and Ivy Schweitzer respectively for the propositions that there is nothing to do in Hanover but play beer pong in frat basements (as opposed to the vibrant urban environments of our sister Ivies) and that Phil Hanlon is ever so brave for adopting the kind of Dartmouth-is-awful pose that Schweitzer has held since coming to Hanover. Needless to say, neither professor cites any evidence at all regarding drinking at the College.

The only real point made by Kingkade to support his case comes in his citation of the words of Phil Hanlon:

Despite a longstanding legacy as a beer-guzzling campus that inspired the film “Animal House,” for years, Dartmouth has refuted claims that it is different from other colleges. That is, until Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon declared last month the campus had been “hijacked by extreme behavior” and vowed the administration would finally sanitize student activity.

Binge drinking has to stop, Hanlon told a select group of faculty and students, acknowledging the college has a problem and that excessive alcohol consumption “has become the rule and not the exception.” His comments marked a significant reversal from what the administration touted in response to media inquiries during the early months of 2014.

Of course, Phil adduces no evidence either, but I am sure that America’s Moms and Dads believe him. Wanna bet applications are down again next year?

The College has become higher ed’s punching bag, and Phil is leading the charge. That said, there is no mystery in the fact that the other Ivy Presidents have said nary a word about drinking and sexual assault at their own schools. Throwing themselves off of a cliff just ain’t their style.

Addendum: Theater Professor Peter Hackett had a column in the Huffington Post yesterday — A Very Dangerous Campus — that reprises many of the arguments that he made in a recent letter to the editor the Valley News:

…American School Search, using statistics from the Department of Education, recently ranked Dartmouth the 34th most dangerous college in the United States. Giving Dartmouth a mark of “F” for campus security and citing “disappointing statistics for forcible sex offenses,” ASS went on to describe Dartmouth as “presumably a very dangerous campus.” In a separate study, Yahoo ranked Dartmouth as the 7th most dangerous campus in the country despite being the smallest of the Ivies and located in one of our safest states…

Far from being a leader on this issue, Dartmouth lags behind many of its peer institutions. Violence prevention centers are already present on many other campuses. While aspiring to be a welcoming and inclusive community, Dartmouth continues to support a fraternity system that dates back to the 18th century, discriminates by gender, and is arbitrarily exclusive. Dartmouth is behind many of its peers when it comes to the regulation of alcohol on campus - drinking games are permitted and, in some quarters, subtly encouraged, “lest the old traditions fail.” The administration has yet to provide any hard data measuring the effectiveness of their new Bystander Initiative to prevent sexual assault or any of their other prevention programs. Under intense pressure, the College reluctantly agreed to conduct an annual campus climate survey to determine the exact nature and full extant of the College’s social problems. Even so, the administration has repeatedly declined to make the unedited results of such a survey public. Although information on other crimes is routinely shared with the campus community by Safety and Security, real-time information on campus sexual assaults is not. After serving their disciplinary sanctions, perpetrators are routinely allowed to return to Hanover while their victims are still present on this tiny campus, almost guaranteeing a confrontation. The College provides no mandatory, comprehensive sexual assault awareness education for its students, a recommendation of many national violence prevention experts. The list goes on.

The truth is that far from being a leader in the field of prevention, evidence suggests that the problems of sexual assault may be more acute at Dartmouth than at many American universities.

Regrettably Hackett does not make the case either, at least to this observer, that the College’s problems in the area of drinking and sexual assault are worse than those of the other Ivies. Of course, reality and perception are two different things. After all of this corrosive press, readers of the national press will certainly rank Dartmouth at the bottom of the heap.

Addendum: We are now officially the Huff Post’s favorite whipping boy. In yet another article about the College — What A School Year Of Intoxicated Dartmouth Students Looks Like — our friend Tyler Kingkade reprints all of The D’s Police Blotter notices concerning intoxicated students. No comparisons with any other school are offered, of course.

The feeding frenzy continues.


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