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Dartmouth suspends Beta Alpha Omega fraternity

Dartmouth College has placed Beta Alpha Omega fraternity on “immediate temporary suspension” after college administrators reviewed internal fraternity emails that were obtained by a news and gossip website.

Based on an initial review of the emails, the college suspects the fraternity’s members have participated in hazing, provided alcohol to minors and engaged in behavior that threatened physical harm, college spokesman Justin Anderson said.

The fraternity must cease all activity, including chapter meetings, social events and new member activity during the suspension and ongoing investigation, the college said.

On Tuesday, the website Gawker published emails purported to be from Beta members that it said were acquired from a public website that allows users to create online message forums.

Gawker said it came upon the fraternity’s message board when “researching Beta’s involvement in a sexual assault.”

Dartmouth’s Safety and Security office is investigating a sexual assault that allegedly occurred last weekend. Officials said the suspect – who told the victim he was not a Dartmouth student – might have attended a Beta party the night the assault occurred.

Director of Safety and Security Harry Kinne said this week that the fraternity has been cooperating with the investigation.

“The first we heard of it was when we saw it on Gawker,” Anderson said of the emails on Friday. “They’re now public, and we have them and we will be looking at them as part of the investigation.”

Anderson added that all the emails that were leaked will be reviewed if they haven’t been already. Gawker uploaded an archive of the emails along with its story.

One email, posted in January and referencing a woman who fell and hit her head at a fraternity event, states, “Gentlemen, this is the last night we will ever have fun.”

Another posting described “sink night,” an event where pledges arrived blindfolded and were taken to different stations. The document says, “ALL BLINDS MUST BE DRAWN. NO WINDOWS OPEN – DON’T WANT TO BE HEARD YELLING.”

The instructions for the event described stations where pledges were asked trivia questions about other fraternity members, a station where they were forced to listen to “terrible music,” and a “Nice Guy Room” that included instructions, “Intentionally be super nice to them in this room. At this point, they will have been yelled at and (messed) with. They will be yelled at more in the basement.”

At the end, the instructions clarify that fraternity members should never force a pledge to drink. “Ask them if they’re drinking, if yes – drink when need be. If not, make someone else drink for them.”

It goes on to say that fraternity members should monitor pledges who are drinking a lot, and never allow a pledge to take more than one shot at a station.

Beta fraternity members declined to comment when reached Friday at their house on Webster Avenue.

Under New Hampshire statute, college officials are required to notify law enforcement if they suspect hazing has occurred. Hanover police Capt. Frank Moran said he’s reviewed the documents and said he doesn’t think it shows criminal hazing.

“Unless somebody provided some information that would support critical elements of criminal hazing, it doesn’t appear that we have criminal hazing,” Moran said.

The state statute references physiological and physical injury, which Moran said he didn’t glean from his review of the Beta emails.

From a police perspective, he said he is more concerned with the potential of fraternity members providing alcohol to minors. Moran said he will meet with college administrators to decide if there is anything more his department needs to investigate.

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