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Protecting Whistleblowers since 1977

Jim Yong Kim Weak on Whistleblower Protections at Dartmouth

Bea Edwards, April 13, 2012

As president of Dartmouth University, President Obama’s nominee to head the World Bank, 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 pledges must survive in order to join the clubs. On this site, we don’t quite have the stomach to detail the particulars of hazing at Dartmouth, but suffice it to say that the customs mainly involve forcing the younger boys to wallow repeatedly in the bodily emissions of the older ones. Extreme binge drinking is, of course, part of the fun, as well as, inevitably, gang 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 to Reitman 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. During his nearly three years at the university, he has confined his actions to establishing theNational College Health Improvement Project, a “Learning Collaborative on High-Risk Drinking.” The Collaborative promises “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. It’s probably a safe bet that the NCHIP is 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 of 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 feature 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 group’s deviant code. 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 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. Not only is this action unprincipled and unethical, if you do it, 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 website 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 embarrassing outcomes, you could also expect Kim to stand back as the cronies retaliate – and party on.


Bea Edwards is International and Executive Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.