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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Disparities in handling of DTX hazing come to light

<tion by The Carletonian found that one of the 13 students implicated in last spring’s hazing incident received disproportionately fewer sanctions than their peers. While Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Community Standards Amy Sillanpa declined to comment on the exact sanctions assigned to each of the students, seven students present at the Judicial Hearing Board (JHB) hearing for the 13 students – all of whom appealed their suspensions – separately confirmed that one student was able to walk at Commencement while the others were not.

The Carletonian has confirmed the student’s involvement in the hazing incident and resulting appeals process and found the student’s name listed in the 2017 Commencement program, indicating that the student walked at Commencement. Eight of the 13 students implicated in the incident were seniors.
In a May 18, 2017 email to students, faculty and staff, Dean of Students Carolyn Livingston and President Steven Poskanzer announced the three-term suspension of 13 students involved in a hazing incident associated with secret co-ed social group DTX.

Concerns about unequal sanctions
In a July 26, 2017 email to students, faculty and staff, Livingston said that “Class of 2017 students who had not completed their sanctions at the time of Commencement last month were not permitted to participate and their diplomas will be issued when their sanctions have been fully served.” Livingston also said that “JHB determined that the students found responsible should be required to complete alcohol training, write a reflection essay, and perform community service.”

According to Student A, one of the seniors who was unable to walk at Commencement, JHB decided on the amended sanctions during the Senior Banquet, which was held three days before Commencement. Student A added, “we had to take an online alcohol education module, and the module had two parts, and in between the parts there had to be a month of waiting.”

“The rationale by the administration was that [the one senior who walked] finished [their] sanctions prior to the printing of the graduation programs,” said Student B, another senior who was unable to walk at Commencement. “I still don’t know how that’s possible since the [AlcoholEdu] sanction had a 30 day waiting period between part 1 and part 2.”

The Carletonian has confirmed that the JHB assigned the online program AlcoholEdu for the alcohol education sanction, and that the one senior who walked at Commencement had a different alcohol education sanction than the other seniors implicated in the hazing incident. The AlcoholEdu sanction was split into two parts, and three DTX members who were unable to walk at Commencement told the Carletonian that they were assigned both parts, including a 30-day waiting period between the modules, three days before Commencement.

In addition, Student A said, “every single senior was handed community service hours that they had to complete, and these hours ranged from 65 up to 120 hours, except for one. [One senior] received zero hours of community service. Does it really make sense that [the one senior] received zero hours of community service, when the next lowest amount of community service was 65 hours?”

The one senior who walked at Commencement told Student A that they had not been assigned any community service hours.

According to Student C, who was present at the hearing, “the 13 students had varying degrees of involvement themselves: they were either there in the beginning, or in the end, or throughout, some provided alcohol, some were just present in the space.”

Student C added that the one senior who walked at Commencement “showed up at the end of the DTX progressive, and their involvement extended to just showing up for 15 minutes and walking back home. The unequal treatment in the aftermath of the hazing incident is because of the unequal involvement. Some students were punished more severely, while others were given more leniency.”

Mark Krusemeyer, Hearing Officer on the JHB, declined to comment on how the JHB decides on new sanctions after hearing appeals to disciplinary sanctions imposed by the Dean of Students Office.

Krusemeyer said that Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Community Standards Amy Sillanpa is “in charge of the processes followed in this case and in particular by the Judicial Hearing Board.”

According to its website, the JHB heard appeals of decisions by the Dean of Students Office. The website explains that “the hearing officer or hearing board determines whether the respondent has violated a College policy. If there is a finding of a violation, sanctions are determined.”

The one senior who walked at Commencement declined to comment.

Student A said that several of the parents of seniors unable to walk at Commencement collaborated on background research into the family of the one student who did walk, allegedly out of concern of financial influence in the student’s disciplinary outcome.

According to the Alumni Annual Fund’s publicly available annual reports, the father and mother of the one senior who walked at Commencement served on the Parents Advisory Council from 2013 to 2017. The senior’s father and mother together contributed $27,500 to the Alumni Annual Fund over a six-year time frame, between 2009 and 2015, according to Assistant Vice President for Annual Giving Becky Zrimsek ’89.

According to the 2016-2017 Annual Giving Report, the student’s father and mother were members of the 2016-2017 Parents Advisory Council, but did not contribute to the Annual Fund for 2016-2017. The hazing incident and resulting disciplinary process took place in the spring of 2017.

Nevertheless, the Alumni Annual Fund Office maintains its separation from disciplinary decision-making. “Donors don’t drive decisions here, and donor status doesn’t influence decisions— about student discipline or other matters,” said Zrimsek, who also oversees the Parents Advisory Council. “I think of it as a kind of wall between the data records of student life and the data records of external relations. Decision-making processes at Carleton rightly involve combinations of faculty, students, staff, and trustees.”

According to the Parents Advisory Council website, the Council “advises the president of the College” and “participates with the College in nurturing a tradition of parent giving. Parents are invited by Carleton’s president to serve on the council.”

President Steven Poskanzer told the Carletonian, “I am not at all familiar with the details of [the one senior’s] disciplinary sanctions and the manner in which they were fulfilled.” Poskanzer added, “I certainly had no contact with these parents about this disciplinary matter last year.”

Chair of the Board of Trustees, Wally Weitz ‘70, told the Carletonian that he did not have enough knowledge of the disciplinary process to explain why the one senior walked at Commencement. Weitz added, “I received briefings at several points in the process, and my perception was that the administration took great care to follow the letter and spirit of the prescribed procedures in place to deal with this type of situation.”

The father of the one senior who walked at Commencement declined to comment.

Disagreements over the investigation
“The director of community standards completed a thorough investigation of the incident based upon student testimonials and other related information and made subsequent sanction recommendations,” Dean Livingston said. “If the students had chosen not to appeal the sanctions to the judicial hearing board, the recommended sanctions would have gone into effect.

“It is common for additional information to be presented during judicial hearings,” Livingston added.
Student A and Student D, both of whom were members of DTX and unable to walk at Commencement, separately alleged that Dean Livingston and President Poskanzer sent the May 18 email, sharing news of the hazing incident, before the Dean of Students Office completed its investigation into whether hazing took place. 

“I think that after you send out that email, it makes it impossible to find impartial judges who are then going to be able to hear the facts and make an independent decision on what actually happened,” Student A said.

“I think if you look at the definition of hazing in Carleton’s Student Handbook, every party qualifies has hazing—drinking as part of an event or a social group,” Student A continued.

Student D claims that the JHB hearing found that “at no point was anyone forced to drink” during the DTX initiation event. “Suggesting that DTX was doing anything out of the ordinary when kids were getting too drunk at their progressive is just wrong,” Student D added.

According to the College’s Community Standards Policy, as outlined in the 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.”

When asked whether the May 18 email was sent prematurely, Dean Sillanpa said that “the investigation was thorough and a detailed report was put together prior to making any decisions. It included information gathered at the initial interviews with all of the respondents, interviews with all of the students who were being initiated into DTX, the community concern forms from people who felt hazed, and many, many pages of GroupMe messages of the DTX group making plans for the initiation. The GroupMe messages provided a lot of information about what was happening leading up to the initiation event, as well as what happened during the initiation event. It was extremely clear that the students involved violated Carleton’s hazing policy and alcohol policy.”

 “The letter to the campus from President Poskanzer and Dean Livingston came out after the investigation, after the report was completed, and after the students were given their decision letters,” Sillanpa continued.

Alleged irregularities in hearing procedure
Students A and D, in addition to Student E, who was in DTX but was not suspended, separately expressed concern over the structure of the JHB hearing. The students noted that the hearing took place over 22 hours in a two-day period during reading days, at times without air conditioning.

 When asked why the hearing took place under such conditions, Dean Sillanpa said that “a consolidated hearing was intended to allow all parties to hear all statements and evidence presented from the other parties involved. Because we have a limited number of people who serve on JHB, this was the fairest approach for the student respondents (in comparison to individual hearings), since JHB members would hear information from all the respondents and we wanted the same opportunity for the student respondents.”

Sillanpa continued, “each student respondent gave their own statement, was able to call any witnesses, ask questions, and gave a closing statement. The hearing took a number of hours because it was important to make sure each student respondent had the time they needed.”

 Students A and D and E, all of whom were present at the JHB hearing, also allege that a first-year served on  the JHB at the time of the hearing, contradicting JHB policy. The Carletonian has confirmed that one of the students that served on the JHB’s DTX hearing was a first-year at the time. The JHB website says that “student members and their alternates on the JHB shall be sophomores, juniors and/or seniors selected by the Carleton Student Association [sic] according to their established procedures.”
CSA President Walter Paul ’18 said, “I and the current CSA Senate were NOT parts of the appointment process that resulted in their assignment to the committee, even though the hearing overlapped with the first term of the current CSA Executives’ administration.”

Former CSA President Tiffany Thet ’17 said that “it may be that when a student studied abroad, a replacement appointment was made and a first-year student was chosen in the winter term. To my knowledge, we did not appoint a first year student to JHB in the Fall [2016] Appointment cycle.”
The student who served JHB as a first-year declined to comment on the nature of their appointment. It remains unclear how a first-year student served on JHB last spring.

Inquiry into hazing history
 In May 2017, Associate Vice President for External Relations Joe Hargis told the Carletonian that he had not seen any hazing in his 30 years at the college. However, new information suggests that the hazing incident last spring did, in fact, have precedent.

The Men’s Rugby Club team faced two terms of social probation during the 2015-16 academic year for hazing its players, according to a member of the team who wished to remain anonymous.

The rugby player added that former Associate Dean of Students Julie Thornton oversaw the student conduct process that addressed the team’s hazing incident. Moreover, Thornton told the Carletonian that she was involved with several hazing investigations during her time at the college.

When asked whether the hazing incident last spring was unprecedented in light of the rugby hazing incident, Hargis said, “the Dean of Students Office does not make a practice of discussing disciplinary actions taken against students. However, the hazing incident last spring put student lives at risk and violated both Carleton’s policies and fundamental value of respect for one another. The serious disciplinary action taken by the College was warranted.”

The Spring 2017 hazing incident, which took place on April 28, was an initiation event for new members of DTX, the underground student group that plans several all-campus parties each year, including Party Week and Easter. Last spring’s initiation consisted of a night-long drinking scavenger hunt.

The Carletonian learned this information in an interview with a DTX initiate last spring, and corroborated the initiate’s account with five DTX members in separate interviews this fall.

At present, five members of DTX have separately told the Carletonian that the group has disbanded.
“My hope is that moving forward students will make better decisions at Carleton and not haze new members of their clubs/organizations/teams,” Sillanpa told the Carletonian in an email. “Hazing is extremely dangerous.”

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