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Delta evicted from Prescott House

By Middlebury Campus

Author: Zamir Ahmed & Derek Schlickeisen

President of the College Ronald D. Liebowitz suspended the Delta social house organization for a one-year period and denied the group residential status for the 2006-2007 academic year, house members were informed in a June 2 e-mail. The President’s decision came in the wake of an investigation into a March 31 Delta party at which multiple violations of college policy occurred.

A separate investigation by the Middlebury Police Department (MPD) into two reports of sexual assault that allegedly took place in Delta’s Prescott House in the early morning hours of April 1 was turned over to the Addison County State’s Attorney John T. Quinn in early June. Quinn confirmed on September 11 that the case is still under investigation. “We have collected DNA samples from the suspect and are awaiting results from the state lab,” said Quinn. “We hope to have them back in the next 30 days.”

The student accused of sexually assaulting two Middlebury women has withdrawn from the College.

“We’re not assuming that Delta House is going away,” Liebowitz said in June. “There is certainly a procedure that they can follow to be reinstated.”

Delta House President John Montesanti ’07 stated that the organization accepts the College’s decision and hopes to recover its residential status. “Delta House will cooperate and work closely with the administration and the IHC to regain our solid standing as a positive contributor to the College community,” said Montesanti on Sept. 6.

Over the summer students and administrators continued to decline comment on the specific nature of the college policy violations that occurred at the March 31 party but Middlebury Patrol Officer Vegar Bo, who declined to comment on the investigation’s findings, had said in April that his investigation included “allegations of different prescription drugs – ADHD-type drugs.” Boe noted that it was likely drugs played “very much a role in the case, like in most sexual assaults.”

In his e-mail to Delta house members, Liebowitz made general references to violations of party hosting and alcohol use policies, as well as inappropriate behavior at the event.

“[The March 31] party led to numerous violations of the College’s guidelines for party hosting and alcohol use,” Liebowitz wrote. “It also resulted in behavior that is at odds with our expectations for appropriate conduct on this campus.”

An official statement released by the College on June 12 further cited “the underage use of alcohol” among “repeated violations of school policies.”

The chain of events that led to Delta’s suspension began with student complaints after the March 31 party. In response to those complaints, the Office of Public Safety launched a lengthy investigation interviewing more than thirty people who, according to Liebowitz’s e-mail, “provided a great deal of information about the framework and structure of the party and the experiences of several individuals who attended the party.”

Public Safety’s investigation identified multiple College policy violations by Delta at the March 31 event. Dean of Student Affairs and Co-Chair of Community Council Ann Hanson forwarded the violations to the Inter-House Council (IHC) – the organization responsible for enforcing IHC rules and imposing sanctions on social houses that violate those rules – which recommended a yearlong probation for Delta house.

A four-hour meeting of Community Council was held in executive session on May 17 to consider the recommendation.

In April, the Community Council Subcommittee on Social Houses originally recommended that all five houses be approved for 2006-2007 operations, but reversed course following the College’s investigation into the March 31 party.

The Community Council voted 12-3 to recommend that the President suspend Delta but permit the house to hold rush in Spring 2007, according to Liebowitz.

In his June 2 e-mail, President Liebowitz informed Delta members of his intention to accept the Community Council recommendation but pushed back the time at which the house could apply for reinstatement and hold rush until Fall 2007.

For housing purposes this fall, Delta’s Prescott house has become a regular residential space within Wonnacott Commons. Liebowitz described the affiliation with a commons as temporary.

Liebowitz and other administrators described Delta’s problems as isolated and were quick to affirm their support for the social house system at Middlebury.

“What happened at this party was not a typical social house event,” Liebowitz said in June. “I think social houses have an important place on campus.”

“The College wants to support the interest of students,” said Ann Hanson, dean of Student Affairs and co-chair of Community Council. “If students want social houses as part of the social scene on campus, then of course we support those choices.”

Additional reporting by Ben Salkowe, Caroline Stauffer and Tom Drescher.

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