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Secret Documents of SEMP 2004

Sunday, October 14, 2007

One often hears students lament that administrator’s don’t even try to understand the undergraduate culture. It’s not from a lack of trying. The Dartmouth Review recently acquired confidential documents published late in 2004. The documents, acquired from an anonymous source, show the administration putting quite a lot of time and energy into trying to understand the social phenomena of the Dartmouth campus.
Over the years students and administrators at Dartmouth College have had disagreements on many issues, ranging from meal plans to the Student Life Initiative, which, according to confidential documents obtained by The Dartmouth Review (TDR 1/31/05), was seen as an initial step to the abolition of Greek life on the campus. One issue that has been at the forefront of debate for some time now is the College’s policy on alcohol, which sits under the umbrella of Social Events Managment Procedures (SEMP).
Amongst the documents, foremost in entertainment is a PowerPoint presentation entitled “Beer Pong at Dartmouth: Results from the 2004 Alcohol Survey.” Over the course of some 65 slides (select slides are printed on page 12) administrators are brought up to speed. One slide states that beer pong is “Ping Pong with beer.” Another informs them that the consensus belief on the internet is that pong was invented at Dartmouth. Other slides depict how students put their mark on pong tables or their pong paddles.
Much of the presentation is devoted to statistics, e.g. about 60% of students had played pong at least once within the last two weeks, while some 20% of Dartmouth students had never played pong. They also put percentages on what game of pong students preferred: Shrub 33%; Tree 31%; Line/Death 8%; 6% Ship; etc. Students might be interested in knowing that the average player drinks 7.3 drinks while playing Tree whereas the average Shrub player has 5.7 drinks. The average Line/Death and Ship player consumes 5.2 drinks and 7.4 drinks respectively. The slides come replete with diagrams and a variety of statistics for each game.
One slide, with the header “Many People Play Pong,” has a picture of people playing beirut, not pong. Other statistics include the following: Men are more likely to play pong than women. The more time one spends in a religious group, the less likely that person is to play pong. Coed-Fraternity-Sorority (CFS) students are more likely to play than non-CFS. Students win more games with familiar partners. Women are more likely to play with a male partner. And the list goes on.
All of this is topped off with a slide entitled “More Games Played = More Alcohol Consumed.” Go figure. The conclusions page is also a gem: “Pong is a social institution at Dartmouth. From half to two-thirds of students play pong. There is a strong correlation between pong and alcohol consumption: the more one plays pong, the more one drinks. Connection between Pong and Negative Consequences.”
The other documents also shed light on the College’s approach to alcohol. According to statistics provided by S&S to Proctor Kinne (head of S&S) and carbon copied to Dean Nelson, the number of inebriates jumped from 151 in 1998 to 244 in 1999. Readers of The Dartmouth Review doubtlessly recognize that 1999 was the year the Student Life Initiative was announced. The number of inebriates stayed constant for the next five years through 2003, when again there was a jump. Only ten months into 2004, S&S had recorded 428 inebriates.
Another insightful document compares Dartmouth with the other schools in the Ivy League. It may not be surprising that Dartmouth has the most liquor law violations resulting in arrests amongst the bunch. What is surprising, however, is the extent. How many on-campus arrests did the other schools have during the year in question? Yale, Princeton, Harvard, Penn, Brown, and Columbia all had the same number, zero. Only one other school (Cornell) had any arrests at all, sixteen. Cornell is also the largest Ivy, with over 13,000 undergraduates. Dartmouth’s fifty-three arrests seem a bit incongruent. Especially when one considers that Dartmouth has only 4,000 undergraduates. Just as disturbing are the total number of arrests, both on and off-campus during that year, 2003: Dartmouth, 106; Yale, 0; Princeton, 39 (all but one on public property); Harvard, 0; Penn, 4; Brown, 0; Cornell, 16; Columbia, 0.
Perhaps, one might argue, other schools distribute punishment themselves and don’t rely on the police to do it for them. Disciplinary actions by the schools themselves are indeed much higher than arrests, but, again, Dartmouth reigns supreme with 273 total disciplinary actions. Only three other schools, Harvard, Brown, and Cornell, even make it into triple digits, and all three of those schools—indeed, every other Ivy League school—has substantially more undergraduates than Dartmouth.
—A. S. Erickson