CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A Dartmouth College fraternity that partly inspired the 1978 movie "Animal House" has been accused of branding new members while under suspension last fall, but the group's lawyer denies that anyone was hazed or hurt.
Alpha Delta, which has a recent history of hazing and other disciplinary violations, was suspended in October for breaking alcohol rules during one party and hosting another without registering it with the college. Officials are now extending that suspension over new allegations, first reported Tuesday by the website Gawker, that members were branded last fall.
Attorney George Ostler said Wednesday that the fraternity acknowledges that a small group of members voluntarily chose to get body brands, but said the practice was never a condition of membership and has since stopped.
"This was viewed as a form of self-expression, similar to body piercing or tattooing," he said. "The facts are that no hazing occurred, under either New Hampshire law or under Dartmouth College's standards. Contrary to other reports, no one has been injured by this activity."
College spokesman Justin Anderson declined to discuss details of the allegations, including how many students may have been branded or what they may have been branded with, but the college has described the fraternity's previous behavior.
After being on probation for most of the previous three years, the fraternity was suspended in October for hosting an unregistered party for about 70 people in August and for a March 2014 party that featured rum, whiskey and other liquor without having a designated server or someone checking IDs.
That suspension was supposed to end March 29, but Anderson said Dartmouth is extending it and considering harsher punishment, including permanent removal of the fraternity, if the allegations are founded.
Anderson said the new claims came to the administration's attention in December 2014 and the school notified the Hanover Police Department.
The investigation comes amid increased scrutiny of fraternities as colleges nationwide grapple with issues of high-risk drinking and sexual assault. At Penn State, police are investigating allegations that members of Kappa Delta Rho used a private Facebook page to post photos of nude and partly nude women, some apparently asleep or passed out. At the University of Oklahoma, a fraternity was shut down when members were caught on video singing a racist song.
At Dartmouth, two students were seriously injured when they fell off Alpha Delta's roof in 2011, and the fraternity was indicted in 2013 on two charges of providing alcohol to minors. Under an agreement with a judge, members were ordered to perform community service, pay fines, register any gathering involving more than 10 nonmembers and alcohol and appoint a "risk manager" for the house. Also that year, the fraternity apologized after throwing a Bloods and Crips-themed party.
Earlier this year, Dartmouth College President Philip Hanlon — who was a member of Alpha Delta in the 1970s — announced a series of reforms to eliminate problems he said were "hijacking" Dartmouth's future that included high-risk drinking, sexual assault and a lack of inclusiveness on campus. The college is banning hard liquor on campus, ending pledge or probationary periods for all student groups to reduce hazing, developing a mandatory sexual violence prevention program and creating new residential communities.
Ostler said that Alpha Delta deeply regrets the negative light the incident shines on both the fraternity and college and that members are cooperating with the administration.