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SAE vs. the Town of Hanover

Sometimes events of the greatest consequence to an institution take place out of sight and unreported, like last Wednesday’s hearing in front of New Hampshire Superior Court Justice Lawrence A. MacLeod, Jr., wherein the corporation that owns SAE faced off against the Town of Hanover:

SAE Litigation.jpg

At issue was whether the brothers could continue to live and conduct fraternal activities in their house, as they have done for more than a century, or whether Hanover’s 1976 zoning law forbids them from doing so due to the fraternity’s recent derecognition by the College. The law itself uses vague language (a student residence must currently operate “in conjunction with” an institution), and at issue, too, is whether the zoning ordinance even applies to an activity that predates it — in other words, are SAE’s rights to use its house protected because they are grandfathered in.

AD is having the same fight with Hanover, as we reported a couple of months ago. (The Supreme Court’s decision came down yesterday — against AD. I will have a full report tomorrow.)

The stakes are high: if the frats win their litigation and their right to use their houses is affirmed (they both own their houses and the land under them), then even if the College continues its “derecognition on any pretext” campaign, the brothers will just take their show into the privacy of their own (owned) homes (houses). This scenario would apply to the twelve or so Dartmouth fraternities that own their physical plants (to my knowledge, none of the sororities do.)

If the brothers lose this litigation, then the likelihood is that the College will simply starve them out: wait until the frats get tired of paying for structures that they cannot use. At that point, the administration will buy the houses and convert them into dorms. And Greek life at the College will become but a memory.

Addendum: An outcome that has twelve fraternities operating with no College supervision at all seems the worst of all possible worlds. Is that what the administration wants?

Addendum: An additional issue on the horizon is whether the administration can forbid students from joining Greek houses not affiliated with or recognized by the College, and punish them if they do. Could the College forbid students from joining the Republican party? Or frequenting certain bars? Harvard has enacted a policy excluding students in final clubs from holding campus leadership positions and from obtaining institutional endorsements for awards like the Rhodes Scholarship. Clearly the Harvard administration has qualms about going further. Should the Hanlon administration be similarly reticent?

Addednum: The D and the Valley News have reports on the AD decision.


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