Following an episode during last Saturday's football game half time show, campus social house pledge events were suspended for two days and are slated to recommence Wednesday evening.
The episode, which has been deemed by administrators and some current social house members as an exhibition of poor judgment, involved a student exposing parts of his body to spectators at the game. The student, Donald Anselmi '04, is a member of the Alpha Delta Phi (ADP) pledge class. The half time show has traditionally been organized by members of the ADP pledge group.
While administrators conceded that Anselmi's behavior was not the direct cause of the suspension of pledge activities — referred to along with rushing as "educational processes" in administrative rhetoric established in the Fall of 2000 — they acknowledged that there may have been alcohol involved leading up to the perpetration of the incident. Members of the Dean of Student Affairs' Office, in conjunction with John Joy '02, the current president of ADP, and members of the Inter-House Council (IHC), the governing body for College social houses, are working together to clarify this aspect of the case.
This latest incident comes one year after new policy was drafted regarding the roles and responsibilities of campus social houses and the biannual educational processes each conducts. An IHC proposal submitted to Dean of Student Affairs Ann Hanson in September 2000 and made official policy soon thereafter outlined new practices for all College social houses. The current policy stipulates, for example, that each house must establish a judiciary council that oversees issues ranging from destruction of house property to, more pertinently, deviation from an established pledge plan that social house members must agree to before beginning the induction process and present to a committee comprised of the IHC staff advisor, the IHC president and two faculty or staff members. This plan must subsequently be reviewed, modified if necessary and approved by this committee.
The overarching goal of the current policy is to provide for greater accountability among social houses and their members. If deviations from the education process plan arise, events will be postponed and members of the IHC will meet with members of the administration to further investigate the divergence. This includes a violation of the College's anti-hazing policy, deception and, as was the case with Saturday's episode, suspicion of alcohol use in pledge activities.
"Pledge has been suspended to facilitate communication as to the outcome of the incident," commented Anne Alfano '02, IHC representative to the Student Government Association and member of ADP. "Should social houses as a whole be affected by this one incident, or should we treat it as an individual exercising bad judgment or should we treat it as the house, ADP, exercising bad judgment? I think that's the question raised here."
While official deliberations have yet to be made on the nature of Anselmi's punishment, Alfano made clear that "pledges perform the half time show, but they don't tell us what they're going to do beforehand. The house did not put its stamp of approval on this event."
Moreover, Alfano asserted, "Donald did not include the incident in his repertoire. It was more a means of getting people to laugh, because the other members participating in the half time show were not doing their job. Taking that into consideration it could be seen as a spur of the moment bad judgment."
Alfano went on to say that, as far as she knew, no alcohol was involved. "ADP does not support the use of alcohol in its [pledge-related] events," she noted.
This latest case reveals one underlying dilemma with social house educational processes as they are defined in current policy — whether the acts of an individual affiliated with a social house serve as just means for the punishment of all College social houses.
"[Anselmi] is pledging a house, but a house that's part of a larger system," commented Joy. "For us it was an individual act done under our moniker. Even though [the incident] was not planned we still have to act responsibly."
Joy went on to explain that he did not see Saturday's episode having any significant implications for the future role of social houses on campus. "But if we do it poorly," he said, referring to ongoing discussions with College administrators about the circumstances surrounding the event, "it will. It goes against our belief that we should hang [Anselmi] out to dry. Together we will work it out."
Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Kate Guttentag met with Joy, Vice President of ADP Robert Trail '02, and IHC Vice President Deborah Willis '02.5 on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the incident and its implications for this year's pledge activities. The three co-chairs of pledge events Katherine Simpson '03, Wes Graham '02 and Greg Williams '02 were also present at the meeting.
"No decisions were made at this point," Guttentag said. "This was just a chance to round out the information that we had." Guttentag emphasized that suspicions of alcohol use during the incident were "absolutely not confirmed."
"I think it's an instance of bad judgment," Guttentag explained, "one that, in the eyes of the community, regardless of whether it's true, tends to reflect more on the social houses in general because it impacts the entire system. It's important that the leaders of the system have the opportunity to investigate and respond appropriately."
When asked if the incident would have broader implications in regards to stricter enforcement of current policy, Guttentag stressed that "this is a new IHC approach to pledge, and it be given a chance to run its course. The College still needs to see how it works, and we want to support the IHC in running its own system."
Written by News Editor TIM MCCAHILL