A legal representative for a Dartmouth College fraternity accused of physically branding the skin of new members denied students engaged in criminal wrongdoing. The attorney compared the act of branding by Alpha Delta fraternity members to voluntarily getting a tattoo.
Dartmouth said Alpha Delta was already on suspension for violating alcohol rules before the new reports of physical branding surfaced from the fall of 2014. A college spokesman said the Ivy League school has extended and strengthened that suspension due to the branding allegations.
The fraternity house was one of the inspirations for the rowdy scenes in the 1978 Jim Belushi movie "Animal House."
More recently, it has had a history of hazing, underage drinking violations, and hosting unregistered parties, the college said.
Attorney George Ostler said a small number of fraternity members voluntarily chose to get body brands, the Associated Press reported, but the practice was never a condition of membership. He said no hazing occurred, no one was injured, and noted members are cooperating fully with the college.
New England Cable News knocked on the front door of Alpha Delta but no one answered. A young man who identified himself as a fraternity brother politely declined to comment to necn.
"They did that as a part of initiation to our [different] fraternity but it wasn't a real brand," recalled Dartmouth alum Hale Irwin, of Middlesex, Vermont. "You were blindfolded and they had a piece of dry ice they put it on your leg-- and they had a branding iron and a piece of meat so you smelled your 'flesh' burning. But was it really real here? That's a little out of control."
The chief of police in Hanover, New Hampshire, Charlie Dennis, told necn there is an active investigation into whether anything criminal happened at Alpha Delta. He said he has a policy of not commenting on open investigations.
Dartmouth declined on-camera interviews, but issued the following statement about the Alpha Delta case:
Alpha Delta fraternity has been charged with violating Dartmouth's standards of conduct in connection with the reported branding of some new members of the fraternity by other members in the fall of 2014.
The activities in question reportedly occurred inside the Alpha Delta fraternity house, while the fraternity was on suspension for policy violations in the winter and spring of 2014. The organization has a significant three-year history of disciplinary violations, including hazing, underage service of alcohol, and hosting unregistered events.
Because of the serious nature of the charges, and the evidence gathered to date, Dartmouth is strengthening and extending the terms of AD's current suspension pending the outcome of the disciplinary process.
If Alpha Delta is found responsible during that process, a range of possible disciplinary sanctions could be imposed including, but not limited to, probation, suspension, or permanent revocation of recognition.
Nathan Grant, a high school junior from Cincinnati, Ohio, was touring Dartmouth Wednesday and said the culture around campus Greek life is on his mind during his college search.
"You see a lot of Greek life on TV and you're kind of worried because you see many positive things but also negative things," Grant said. "As long as you make the right options and choices, I think you should be fine."
It is unclear how the branding was performed; whether it was done by the application of heat, chemicals, or other means. A Dartmouth spokesman said he could not provide details on the method of branding or how the reports surfaced, instead simply referring necn to the college's statement.