There Are Some Major Problems With The Dartmouth Fraternity Tell-All

Dartmouth CollegeJosue MendivilDartmouth College

Dartmouth College fraternity whistleblower Andrew Lohse released his purported tell-all “Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy: A Memoir” this week, and the reviews have not been kind.

The Dartmouth — the college’s student newspaper — compared it to James Frey’s much maligned faux-memoir “A Million Little Pieces,” and wrote “towing readers through this slogfest feels like an act of hazing itself.” In The Wall Street Journal, Dartmouth alum Joseph Rago writes “The worst hazing rite I can imagine is spending time inside the mind of Mr. Lohse.”

One of the biggest critiques of the former Sigma Alpha Epsilon brother’s first literary effort is that it’s unclear how true his claims are. In his book and a previous whistle-blowing column in The Dartmouth, Lohse details much of the hazing he supposedly participated in, including swimming in “a kiddie pool full of vomit, urine, faecal matter, semen and rotten food products.”

(Check out an excerpt of “Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy” here »)

Looking through the recent coverage of “Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy,” as well as previous articles in The Dartmouth and Ivy League gossip blog IvyGate [where I was formerly an editor], it becomes clear that Lohse may not be the most reliable narrator. Here’s why:

There’s Never Been Evidence Of Lohse’s Worst Hazing Claims

Dartmouth College Fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon SAEVia Wikimedia CommonsDartmouth’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter

Although colleges tend to be bad at policing their own problems, it’s worth noting that Lohse’s claims went nowhere at Dartmouth.

As noted by The Dartmouth:

In 2012, the College launched an investigation into SAE in response to Lohse’s public account. Later that year, the College charged SAE and 27 of its members with hazing violations. Charges against all 27 members were later dropped.

College spokesperson Justin Anderson wrote in a statement at the time that “information initially presented to the UJAO supported the charges. Information received subsequently, however, indicated that the initial information contained inaccuracies and was not a sufficient basis for the charges to proceed to hearing.”

Additionally, while SAE did come forward to confirm some of the more benign hazing claims, another Dartmouth administrator said at the time that the school “did not find a preponderance of evidence that SAE engaged in the most egregious of the allegations detailed in the report and did not find a preponderance of evidence that SAE hazed new members in 2011.”

Lohse claims he has pictures to support many of his allegations and that he has shown them to Dartmouth administrators. But as IvyGate reported in 2012, “Nobody, except Lohse and the College’s administration, has seen these pictures. (You would know if we had!) Furthermore, they do not depict everything he wrote about — just a lot of beer and someone vomiting. Where are these pictures? Lohse hasn’t provided a single one.”

Rago, writing in The Wall Street Journal, also raises these concerns in his review of Lohse’s book:

Trigger warning: These may be the worst, and least trustworthy, confessions in the 16 centuries since St. Augustine’s. As an Ivy League frat boy myself, who graduated from that Hanover, N.H., institution not long before Mr. Lohse arrived, I found his story far-fetched, and anyone ought to question the testimony of an aspiring Bret Easton Ellis.

… More to the point, some of the incidents that Mr. Lohse describes are crimes. For that reason, both the Hanover police and the college administration investigated and found no evidence or other witnesses to corroborate his allegations. None. The author claims these same authorities, whom most students and alumni regard as no fans of the Greek system, are part of a conspiracy.

Lohse Knows How To Seize An Opportunity

In March 2012, a few months after his column in The Dartmouth, Lohse was the subject of a profile in Rolling Stone, written by Janet Reitman. IvyGate called the piece a “comprehensive character assassination of its main subject” who is portrayed as a “violent, pretentious, alcoholic, mentally ill, status-anxious, back-stabbing drug addict.”

As multiple articles about the new book point out, Lohse has a problematic history with Dartmouth that may have influenced his motivations in writing the book. As Rago writes:

But it was only after Mr. Lohse had ruined his education, his job prospects and his health that the aspiring writer followed through on his plan to “blow the lid in a fireworks-laden media display.” By trashing the college’s character, he hoped to provoke the administration to abolish the fraternity and sorority system.

Are his confessions honest — or ex post facto baloney meant to serve his political agenda and, by the way, help land a book deal and (fingers crossed) movie treatment?

Likewise, The Dartmouth’s review raises a similar point:

The shattered beer bottle on the cover should spray dollar signs. It seems that’s what this book is for — if Lohse couldn’t make it on Wall Street like all of us surely will, he’ll make it in print, beating this dead horse until it stops spitting out money.

As The Dartmouth’s reviewer points out, Lohse’s book plays into commonly held stereotypes about two of higher education’s most maligned groups — Ivy League preps and obnoxious frat bros. “Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy” gives readers a certain sense of a story before the book even begins:

The Ivy League — the ultimate name drop — perks up would-be readers’ ears. It represents prestige and excellence, and those who sit on its pedestal become the easiest targets … Now Dartmouth has assumed its place at the guillotine, a public spectacle for the many who have waited for their suspicions of Greek life to be validated. In making himself out to be the prototypical Dartmouth student, Lohse dangerously perpetuates the stereotypes of the legacy, Republican, J. Crew-only, screw-school, coked-up alcoholic. By exploiting these hackneyed labels and founding his stories on them, Lohse prompts audiences to believe him, wave their fists and shake their heads while thinking, “I knew it! Those fraternities are nothing but…(insert cliché).”

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