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Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy: Inside Dartmouth's Hazing Abuses

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The week after his arrest, Lohse withdrew from Dartmouth on "medical leave," an indeterminate timeout often taken by students with eating disorders or drug or alcohol problems. "The day I left, I said goodbye to a guy I thought was one of my best friends, and told him I had a problem," Lohse recalls. "He told me with the way everyone drinks, he had no way to tell who had an alcohol problem." Back at his mother's house, Lohse enrolled in an outpatient rehab program. By Christmas, he'd recovered sufficiently to decide that he was ready to take the action his brother and friends had long advocated. "It didn't feel right until I tried to close my eyes to everything I knew and realized it was impossible," he says. "I just wasn't afraid of the backlash any longer."

The idea of an editorial came slowly; Lohse wrote between 15 and 20 drafts. Finally, one day in January, he sat down and "just crushed it out." After submitting it to his editors, who fact-checked his allegations thoroughly, he phoned his three closest brothers at SAE. One never returned his call. The second was terrified about what his parents and future employer might think – he had just secured a job at a leading Wall Street firm. But the third turned on Lohse. "He launched into a tirade about how I was a traitor," Lohse recalls.

Lohse tried to calm the brother down. "Do you think all the stuff the house did, like the vomlet, was good?" he asked. "Or beneficial?"

The brother became even more enraged. "I ate the vomlet!" he yelled. "I made other pledges eat it! That's brotherhood!"

In the months since he wrote his article, Lohse has virtually lost all of his Dartmouth friends. "I felt like an idiot because I'd defended him," says one brother in a rival fraternity, "and here he was, throwing it back in our face." Even those most sympathetic to Lohse's position wished it had been someone else who had come forward. "The problem is, it's Andrew Lohse who said this," says one Alpha Delta brother, a well-adjusted varsity athlete with a guilty conscience. "Some of the stuff we do is really disturbing and unnecessary, and we do need to put an end to it. But if a less-controversial figure had been the one to stand up and say something, maybe it could actually happen."

But whistle-blowers are almost always complex, often compromised outliers. And while moral outrage surely plays a large part in a whistle-blower's decision to come forward, so may a combination of anger, revenge, hurt feelings, opportunism or financial benefit. The question, ultimately, is whether their questionable motivations or checkered past make their words any less credible.

"One step toward redemption is making amends," says Bill Sjogren, a 1967 graduate of Dartmouth. Now a financial manager, Sjogren played football and baseball at Dartmouth and was a brother at the now-defunct Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. He is also a recovering alcoholic who says he learned to drink at Dartmouth. Sjogren resides in the Hanover area, where, in his spare time, he counsels students with substance-abuse issues. "No one has physically died at Dartmouth, yet, but the system destroys the souls of hundreds of students every year," he says. "It's just beaten out of you. If you take your academics seriously, you're not one of us. If you complain, you're exiled – like Andrew Lohse. For a Dartmouth kid to do what he did, he had to have been broken and hit bottom before he could break the code of silence."

On February 22nd, his 22nd birthday, Lohse received a call from Dartmouth's office of judicial affairs, informing him that, based on information he'd provided the college, they were pursuing charges against him for hazing. The college has also charged 27 other members of SAE, stemming from events in the 2011 pledge term. While the other students all categorically deny doing anything illegal, the information that Lohse provided to Dartmouth officials may directly implicate him in hazing. As a result, Lohse – the only student to come forward voluntarily – may be the only student who is ultimately punished. Coupled with the chair-throwing incident, the charges could get him expelled from Dartmouth. "I told them the unabridged truth, and they got me to incriminate myself," he says. "I understand that no one is above the rules, but none of this would have even been possible if I hadn't spoken out in the first place."

When I ask Dartmouth's new dean of the college, Charlotte Johnson, about charging a whistle-blower with the crimes he exposed, she rejects the characterization. "That's an inappropriate analogy," she says. "Andrew does not have clean hands. When someone comes forward and admits wrongdoing, it's not an automatic grant of immunity. We investigate, and the investigation goes where it goes. And the outcome will be what it is."

Dartmouth has recently formed a new task force on hazing, the most recent addition to the multiple committees already addressing problems on campus. The question is, given how the school has treated Lohse, will anyone ever come forward and speak truthfully about the culture of abuse and degradation perpetrated by the fraternity system? Lohse doubts it. "The message this sends is, 'Keep your fucking mouth shut.' And that's pathetic," he says. "If someone dies in a hazing incident next year, my saying 'I told you so' is not going to bring that person back. It's not inconceivable that it could happen – people get hurt all the time at Dartmouth. But no one will ever talk again."

This story is from the April 12th, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone.

 


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