Jim Yong Kim weak on whistleblower protections at Dartmouth

Please find below a guest post from Bea Edwards, Executive Director at Government Accountability Project (GAP) in the United States, who analyses Jim Yong Kim’s support of fraternities at Dartmouth.

As president of Dartmouth University, Jim Yong Kim, presides over extreme, traumatizing, pervasive, revolting and potentially illegal hazing at fraternities.  Andrew Lohse, the whistleblower who exposed it, is now, alone among those charged with misconduct, on the brink of expulsion.

Janet Reitman of Rolling Stone investigated Dartmouth’s infamous fraternity system and described the violence, class privilege and ritual abuse that fraternity initiaties (pledges) must survive in order to join the clubs. In this forum, we don’t want to detail the particulars of the initiation rites (hazing) at Dartmouth, but suffice it to say that the customs mainly involve forcing the younger boys to wallow in the bodily emissions of the older ones.  Extreme binge drinking is, of course, part of the fun, as well as, inevitably, vomiting.

It is also common knowledge at Dartmouth that the frat boys at times fall back on date-rape drugs to romance their girlfriends.  An un-named Dartmouth girl reported having two drinks at a fraternity party:

The next thing she remembers is waking up in the hospital with an IV in her arm.  “Apparently, security found me in front of the house.  That was my introduction to the frats: passing out from drinking, waking up in the hospital and not having any idea what happened.”  What she did notice were bruises that looked like bites on her chest that hadn’t been there before.

Reitman spoke to Kim about the perversion and thuggery at the Dartmouth fraternities, but  his response was depressing.  He has confined his actions to establishing the National College Health Improvement Project, a “Learning Collaborative on High-Risk Drinking.” “Better outcomes through evidence and measurement:”

NCHIP’s mission is to improve student health at colleges and universities through the application of population health solutions. Building on the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Breakthrough Series learning collaborative model, NCHIP convenes groups of institutions to collectively address student health problems by bringing evidence into practice and measuring outcomes.

Dear God.  The NCHIP is surely the subject of vulgar ridicule at places like Sigma Nu, Zeta Psi and the other fraternities.  Even the Dartmouth spokesman admits the “collaborative” isn’t going anywhere.

“We don’t expect to have solutions,” says Dartmouth spokesman Justin Anderson, “but what we will have is a ton of data and ways to measure the results.”

Oh, perfect! What you’ll also have is another ward full of traumatized students, rape victims and alcohol poisoning casualties. But next year, you’ll know the exact number of reported incidents – whoops – outcomes.

After reading Kim’s interview with Reitman, however, it’s surprising that he’s doing even this much.  He’s a strong supporter of fraternities at Dartmouth.  He lives in a mansion on “Fraternity Row” and suggests that fraternity membership has health benefits because people with long-term friendships are less inclined to have heart attacks. Moreover:

In a strange abdication of authority, Kim even professes to have little influence over the fraternities. “I barely have any power,” he told “The Dartmouth” in a recent interview. “I’m a convener.” 

 In reality, Kim is one of the only officials in a position to regulate the fraternities.  More than half of Dartmouth’s frats are “local” – houses that split off from their national organizations years ago and are thus unaccountable to any standards other than those set by the college and their boards…

So here’s a guy, nominated to head the World Bank by Obama, who claims he’s unable to restrain a gang of undergraduates who like to drug and bite their dates and then pee and puke on each other.

President Kim has taken no action other than data collection.  In fact, he promised to do nothing:

Not long after he took office, Kim met with Dartmouth alums and reassured them he had no intention of overhauling the fraternity system.  “One of the things you learn as an anthropologist,” he said, “you don’t come in and change the culture.”

Actually, one of the things you know as a leader in an institution, whether it’s Dartmouth or the World Bank, is that you’re no longer just an anthropologist studying the natives in their habitat.  As president, you’re to set the ethical tone: you encourage the positive elements of the prevailing culture and you prohibit the negative ones.

In contrast to Kim’s position, Jose Antonio Ocampo, a long-shot candidate for the position of World Bank president, told the Washington Post recently that the organization needs “a change of culture.”  Ocampo said that the Bank did not work well with other international organizations, and it had to improve.  While we don’t know what sort of World Bank president Ocampo would be, at the very least he knows that the job requires the incumbent to be more than an onlooker.

For us at GAP, the most distressing features of the Rolling Stone piece is the fate of whistleblower Andrew Lohse.  He may not be a clean-hands whistleblower, but he did expose what regularly goes on in fraternity basements.  Nonetheless, he’s been informed by the Office of Judicial Affairs at Dartmouth that the college is pursuing charges of hazing against him, based on information that he provided. Twenty-seven members of SAE, the fraternity involved, were also charged, but the charges against 24 of them have since been dropped, and the remaining three deny everything.  As a result, although Lohse is the only student to come forward and voluntarily report cruel, degrading and (likely) illegal behavior (hazing is against the law in 44 states, including New Hampshire, where Dartmouth is located), he’s also about to be the only student punished.

Lohse, correctly interprets the probable outcome of Dartmouth’s actions.  In frat boy terms,

The message this sends is ‘Keep your fucking mouth shut’ and that’s pathetic…no one will ever talk again.

That’s right. One of the things we know at GAP after more than 30 years of receiving whistleblower disclosures is that corruption, fraud and abuse are team sports, and the whole team enforces the deviant code common to the group.  US whistleblower Frank Serpico found this when he reported widespread corruption in the New York City police force, and one of his fellow officers shot him.  It was also true of Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank, whose team included at least five other people who viciously retaliated against anyone who tried to expose the cronyism at the top.  It takes enormous courage to come forward.

If we could talk to Dr. Kim – which we cannot – we would tell him that in the face of likely retaliation, when one lone person exposes a conspiracy or fraud, you protect your whistleblower as your best and often your only witness.  If you’re good, no one else ever knows who the whistleblower was.  Under no circumstances can you take the disclosure and then throw the book the whistleblower gave you at the whistleblower  himself. If you do, everyone else shuts down.

So now the question is: Given his do-nothing record about the barbaric conduct common to Dartmouth fraternities, is Kim what the World Bank needs?  Well, only if you want to retain those elements at the Bank who, whatever happens, collect data for a couple of years and then decorate the homepage with it.  Under Kim’s stewardship, we could expect that approach to the world’s problems to prosper. Then if some poor soul speaks up and points out that we’ve still got a lot of bad outcomes, you could also expect Kim to stand back as the cronies retaliate – and party on.

3 thoughts on “Jim Yong Kim weak on whistleblower protections at Dartmouth

  1. Since we don’t know the origin of Bea Edward’s facts about who’s being charged with what, and whether the alleged non-academic disciplinary action contemplated against Rolling Stone’s source, it’s difficult to evaluate her conclusions about the role of Dartmouth president Jim Yong Kim.

    Dartmouth has a whistleblower code http://www.dartmouth.edu/~businessethics/code/ that appears to apply only to business transactions.

    The disciplinary procedures laid out on Dartmouth’s website do not give its president any role in student or student organization discipline. It rests with the Dean of the college and a body that strikes a five-person panel under a non-voting chair to hear charges. Rules about recognized organizations seem to be limited to a fine, or having recognition removed, or losing office space. It appears that non-recognized fraternities, which seem to be common, have nothing other than New Hampshire law applying to them.

    Surely Bea Edwards is not suggesting that the president of a college should be allowed to intervene at any stage of a disciplinary matter. We might both agree that in this case, bringing Rolling Stone’s brave source up on charges of violating the code by being hazed (yes, that’s an offence!) is ridiculous and unfair. But for a college president to interfere here would leave the door open to interfering in cases that appeared less suspect, say, in the case where a legacy applicant (child of a major alumnus/alumna donor) were charged of plagiarism, cheating on an exam, or, indeed, hazing.

    The leader of any organization has to set ‘tone at the top’ and ensure that her or his own behavior is beyond reproach and fully consistent with both the organization’s rules and their underlying assumptions about the norms and values that underpin them. Paul Wolfowitz found that out, as did Larry Summers. So did GSA administrator Martha Johnson. Since Dr Kim was not interviewed by Rolling Stone, we don’t know if his curious and seemingly uncaring statements to alumni about fraternities are accurate, or taken out of context, something the media is wont to do these days. This is not to excuse hazing, or to say it should not be discussed, or that all the members of an organization where it goes on must share part of the blame, just to urge a bit of caution on what we know and don’t know, and apply the high standards the Government Accountability Project has, rightly, a solid reputation for in Washington.

  2. Having seen, close-up, one candidate’s reflexes on retaliation and tone at the top, I am not worried about Dr Kim. And universities stopped being parents in the 1960s. Without knowing how student non-academic discipline works at Dartmouth, the people I’d challenge would be parents, and why their kids want to join Animal House.

  3. Our area of training can influence us in several ways. It is however naïve and pathetic to see problems or challenges from the prism of our area of study alone. This indeed will make for narrowness in perspective. We are beginning to see ab initio the kind of President that may be foisted on the world if Dr. Kim were to become President of the World Bank.
    The Bank requires a President with the right reflexes in a global world yearning to get into full blown economic recovery.

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