Dean of Students Carolyn Livingston and President Steve Poskanzer announced the three-term suspension of 13 students who were allegedly involved in “hazing and extreme alcohol consumption as part of initiation into a secret co-ed social club,” according to an email sent last Thursday, May 18 to students, faculty and staff.
While the email did not mention sexual misconduct, a Friday, May 19 media statement from the Office of External Relations acknowledged that a student was allegedly sexually assaulted after the hazing.
Livingston and Poskanzer declined to comment for this article and deferred to Associate Vice President for External Relations Joe Hargis for comment.
When asked why the email sent to the Carleton community was different from the media statement, Hargis said, “The campus email provided the campus with appropriate information about the hazing event. The media statement was in response to questions we were getting from the media.”
Hargis declined to comment on how the college determines appropriate information for campus emails and declined to clarify what questions prompted the mention of sexual assault in the media statement.
In a Friday, May 19 The CLAP article, a student gave a first-hand account of the alleged hazing event, which happened in the early morning of Friday, April 28.
The student clarified that she was hospitalized for alcohol poisoning, that she was sexually assaulted and that hazing and excessive alcohol consumption created a harmful and unsafe environment that put people at risk of sexual assault. She declined to comment for this article.
The Carletonian’s Friday, May 8 Security Blotter reported that an intoxicated student was transported by ambulance to Northfield Hospital for treatment in the early morning of Friday, April 28. Director of Security and Emergency Management Wayne Eisenhuth deferred all comments to Hargis.
Interim Title IX Coordinator Amy Sillanpa declined to say whether the Title IX Lead Team is investigating the alleged sexual assault that occurred Friday, April 28.
She went on to explain that when the Northfield Police gets involved in a sexual misconduct investigation, the college complies with all police requests and continues its own investigation into the misconduct.
The Northfield Police is currently investigating a criminal sexual misconduct case that was reported to have occurred on the morning of Friday, April 28, according to Chief of Police Monte Nelson.
“We’ve received some information about the hazing as part of the criminal sexual conduct investigation,” Nelson said. “That does not mean that the hazing and the criminal sexual conduct are related.”
Hargis said the college cannot comment on details of the event because investigations are ongoing.
The drinking events of Friday, April 28 were organized by DTX, a group of Carleton students. The Carletonian reached out to several people allegedly involved in the events of Friday morning, April 28, one of whom offered to comment.
According to an initiate, who wished to remain anonymous, every year, current DTX members host an “initiation” for new members. The initiate said this year’s initiation involved a night-long drinking scavenger hunt in the early morning of Friday, April 28.
He added that DTX has been around for nearly 40 years, potentially dating back to the release of Animal House, which features a fraternity called Delta Tau Chi (ΔΤΧ). Students are invited to join DTX each year and are selected by current members. The society is involved in planning several all-student parties each year, including Party Week and Easter.
Hargis said the college did not know about DTX until it started investigating the events of Friday, April 28.
The initiate explained that in DTX, “there were no rituals. There was no hierarchy. When you’re in the group, you aren’t expected to do anything. People put in as much as they want. They get involved as much as they want.”
“Nobody is expected to do anything. There are no meetings,” he said. “Initiation is really the only time most of the people get involved, and even then, not everyone in the group shows up to initiation.”
Without naming DTX, Livingston and Poskanzer said in their email that 13 students had “compromised the safety of at least 13 other students and violated policies and standards” including “policies that strictly forbid hazing.”
In reference to the suspensions, Hargis said, “The disciplinary actions taken against the students are appropriate and in keeping with Carleton’s strong stand against hazing and the potential serious harm that can arise from such activities.”
However, the DTX initiate said, “Personally, from my experience––and I don’t want to invalidate the experiences of anyone else involved––at no point did I feel hazed.
“At no point did I feel like I was forced to drink. Many times, I had people tell me that I should have slowed down, but this was all me doing what I wanted to do.
“One of the comments from people in the group at the beginning was: ‘We know a lot of you have midterms tomorrow, so take care of your academics before this. Don’t drink too much. If you have a midterm, you don’t have to drink at all.’”
He went on to say, “But just on the basis of having a party, there is a social pressure to drink. I think the hazing comes down to a game of semantics. Where is social pressure hazing? Because when you get into that, there’s social pressure at any social event. That’s just inherent with how we behave. Was there more social pressure at this? Probably more for some people. Probably less for other people.”
Carleton’s Campus Handbook defines hazing as “an act which endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student, or which destroys or removes public or private property, for the purpose of initiation, admission into, affiliation with or as a condition for continued membership in a group or an organization.”
The Handbook says that hazing can result in disciplinary action and lists several types of disciplinary action that the college can take but does not explain how the college determines disciplinary action.
The college’s “Alcohol and Other Drugs” policy specifies that underage students found drinking can face disciplinary sanctions. It also states that the use of alcohol that “threatens order, causes public disturbances, poses danger to the students and/or others or results in property damage” can result in disciplinary sanctions.
Based on alleged violations of college policies, the college suspended 13 students for three terms, according to Livingston’s and Poskanzer’s email. The suspension includes this spring term. In addition, all 13 students must complete alcohol education and community service, according to the email.
The initiate said that “the punitive function of all of these things won’t stop any toxic drinking on campus. If DTX doesn’t run these activities, someone else probably will.”
The DTX initiate thinks that the college’s sweeping disciplinary action “feels like a PR move.” He said, “If the administration cared about fixing a problem like the drinking culture, they would focus on things like restorative justice rather than punitive measures and they would try to establish a dialogue about these kind of things.”
The DTX initiate also said he thinks the decision could yield inequitable outcomes.
“A three-term suspension for someone who’s on financial aid or scholarship or comes from a different socioeconomic background is a much larger deal than someone who has a family that is able to pay for Carleton,” he said. “So I think the burden that comes with the suspension is not evenly distributed.”
According to Hargis, students can appeal the suspension on the basis of a procedural error, which denotes a mistake in complying with the rules or steps in the initial disciplinary process.
All appeals would be heard by the Judicial Hearings Board, a committee comprised of two students appointed by CSA, two faculty members and a staff member.
Hargis said that Carleton has not had any hazing in his 30 years at the college. He does not know whether hazing has ever happened or has ever resulted in disciplinary action. He said the college does not aggregate data on past disciplinary incidents besides Title IX reporting, which is required by federal law.
Going forward, Hargis said the college is looking into ways to educate the community and to reinforce college policies and protocols. He did not specify what education or revisions to policies would entail.