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Breaking: Frats Survive (for now); Hard Liquor Goes; Moral Education Returns

Hanlon Speech1.jpgIn presenting his ideas today for transforming campus life, Phil Hanlon ‘77 evoked the image of President John Kemeny coming to Hanover to build a strong Math department, and then transform Dartmouth via coeducation. But for all the drama of that anaolgy, and despite angry talk from faculty (their letter) and The D (its editorial) about abolishing the fraternities, Phil’s proposals are moderate, thoughtful, and with a little luck and the help of an energetic Dean of the College, achievable.

One could almost say that Phil is conservative (with a little “c”). Not for him the radical projects that rarely lead to the results expected. He has a sense of where he is going, and while that destination is not original, there is little likelihood that his plans will leave Dartmouth worse off, and a strong chance that campus life in Hanover will be better for his thinking.

The Greek System: The Greeks will not be abolished (what chaos that would have brought us — a full two thirds of upperclassmen are in a house), nor will they be forced to go co-ed (over the years co-ed frats have occasionally made it onto the College’s list of problem houses, too, and Phil understands that sorority women decidedly do not want to move into fraternities). Phil also wisely noted that schools with/without Greeks, and those who have abolished their fraternity/sorority system, all suffered from the same social pathologies as the College. At meetings with faculty in recent days, he noted that sexual predators might well gravitate to fraternities now, but abolishing frats would only lead predators to change the locus of their depredations (not that he phrased it exactly like that).

Hard liquor will be banned in “residential spaces or other college property” (though it seems unclear whether that verbot can/will extend to privately owned Greek houses). Phil noted that incidents of intoxication severe enough to require hospitalization almost always stem from the hard stuff. Henceforth the consumption of alcoholic beverages stronger than beer and wine will not be permitted (the technical limits is 15% alcohol by volume — which rules out California zinfandels, a good outcome). Social events at which beer and wine are served must have “third party security and bartenders” — though it is unclear who will pay for this support.

Enforcement of the no-hard-alcohol rule will be unrelenting, but punishment for underage drinking of beer and wine in frats and dorms will be dialed back. However Phil made no reference in his speech and in his earlier discussions with faculty as to whether taps would once again be allowed in frats. Nor is it clear if henceforth S&S and the UGAs will turn a vision-impaired eye to students bringing beer into the dorms.

All frats will be required to have “active faculty advisors of both genders,” “active alumni boards,” and each house will undergo a thorough annual review.

In addition, Phil went out of his way to praise the set of proposals advanced by the Greek Leadership Council, which he noted “introduces more serious ideas for reform than the system has seen in 50 years.”

In his implementation document, Phil put some teeth in his request for reform:

But, of course, we are also quite aware that promises and plans for reform generated by Greek organizations have not, in the past, led to substantive and lasting changes. If in the next three to five years, the Greek system does not engage in meaningful, lasting reform, and we are unsuccessful in sharply curbing harmful behaviors, we will need to revisit its continuation on our campus.

En garde, ye Greeks. You have been warned.

Residential Life: Phil expanded on his previous thoughts regarding residential “house communities” on campus, of which their will be six, with each one to:

… organize and host social and academic programs, and eventually each will have dedicated space for study and social interaction… Each Residential Community will have a house professor and graduate students in residence.

No word yet on the fate of the College’s much-mocked Community Directors.

Overall Phil expects that “faculty and grad students [will] play more influential roles in the lives of undergraduates.”

Although freshmen will know in which house community they will live starting in their sophomore year, and “be included in all community activities and events,” they will continue to be segregated in their own dorms.

Moral Education: Phil’s proposals are suffused with the sense that campus life lacks a moral compass, that the College has erroneously abdicated its role in directing student behavior and establishing a healthy climate for undergrads, and that students have too much free time for mischief. Among his ideas:

€¢ I am asking the faculty to consider a number of ways to increase the rigor of our curriculum — from curbing grade inflation, limiting lay ups, to not cancelling classes around celebration weekends, to earlier start times for classes on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

€¢ We have signed on to the Aspen Institute’s Franklin Project, which helps admitted students find Gap Year projects if they wish, and going forward will be investing more heavily in additional educational opportunities.

€¢ We will be investing an incremental $1M each year in experiential learning - both to support faculty in their efforts to design and evaluate programs and to expanding current efforts and seeding new ideas.

Incoming freshmen will be asked to “sign a Code of Conduct that articulates the expectations - as they relate to civility, dignity, diversity, community, and safety - of all members of the Dartmouth community.”

Faculty and staff will participate in “first responder training,” and students will all take part in a new program — Dartmouth Thrive — which seems to be a rollout of the Athletic Department’s DP2 initiative.

As regards sexual assault, the College will supplement existing enforcement programs with extra education:

€¢ Introduce a comprehensive and mandatory four-year sexual violence prevention and education program for students.
€¢ Create an online “Consent Manual,” including realistic scenarios and potential sanctions to reduce ambiguity about what is and what is not acceptable.
€¢ Develop a Dartmouth-specific safety smartphone app for students to easily and immediately seek assistance if they ever feel threatened.
€¢ The College will continue to enhance our partnership with the Upper Valley advocacy and crisis center for victims of domestic and sexual violence, WISE.
€¢ Increase the presence of faculty and other positive adult influences in the lives of students.

To monitor the College’s progress in improving campus life, an external Oversight Committee will be established, to be be chaired by Tufts President Emeritus Larry Bacow. The College will participate in two regular climate surveys (an AAU Sexual Assault Climate Survey and a Dartmouth campus climate survey), and promptly publish their results.

Addendum: There was a fourth leg to Phil’s speech, one about inclusiveness. Remarks about the topic were painfully out of place, but I guess that Phil was following one of the unwritten rules of today’s academy: thou shalt never speak about anything without mentioning diversity. As a result, in a speech that was otherwise entirely focused on student life and its perversions, Phil found time to talk about initiatives for hiring a “representative” faculty, recruiting diverse students, and making campus life more open (Dartmouth’s Greek houses are already famously open to non-members). There was nothing at all original in this section of his remarks. I am sure everyone went to sleep or shifted impatiently in their Moore Theater chairs as he waded through the boilerplate.

Addendum: Read the draft of Phil’s speech that was distributed to the press, and the implementation guidelines for his new policies.

Addendum: Phil sent the below e-mail to the campus at 9am:

Hanlon MDF announcement.jpg

Addendum: A library of materials about Phil’s plan can be found at the Office of the President website. And the Valley News and The D now have reports on the speech and Phil’s proposals.

Addendum: Phil’s speech can be viewed here.


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