The Director of Campus Safety and the Director of Student Conduct responded to allegations of an improper investigation which led to the disaffiliation of former sorority Kappa Beta Gamma whose members claimed in the Feb. 18 issue of The Equinox the college did not provide a fair investigation.
One Kappa Beta Gamma Member said, during the investigation, “The executive board and new members were interviewed one by one, by only one person, Amanda Guthorn… She [Guthorn] was by herself, there were no recordings or anything,” she said. The former member said the lack of recorded interviews or second witnesses created a problem when the investigation report came out in print. “
Director of Campus Safety Amanda Guthorn was read this statement and replied with, “ I don’t typically record interviews, and they can say whatever they want, but the statements that they said were all consistent. They all admitted that alcohol was served at their events and that drugs were used at ,at least one of the events.. and at no time did they object to it. They universally stated that, individually. We always interview people separately, we want individual memory not collective.”
Guthorn said that sometimes people come up with a collective story so it’s very important how you ask the questions.
“ I asked them, what did you hear? what did you see? what did you do? not what did she do?” Guthorn said.
Guthorn said she understands that the members of Kappa Beta Gamma may be feeling slighted but she is just doing her job.
“I don’t think they are bad women, I know some of them outside the organization but my job is not about making a value judgement it’s about whether or not policies were violated,” Guthorn said.
Guthorn confirmed that the sorority violated policies listed in the Fraternity & Soroity Life Keene State College New Member Contract including hazing which can be found on the Keene website or at www.keene.edu/young/greeklife. Guthorn said during the investigation members of the sorority including executive board members were not clear on what those policies were.
“ They gave me different times on when events were supposed to end and what was supposed to go on at those events. There was what I like to call a distinct lack of clarity in knowledge of what the organization was,” Guthorn said. “ Some of the women were second semester members and they were already in officer roles and weren’t clear on what the limitations were. It’s not their personal failure, it’s a failure on the organization to provide them with that information and training.”
In regards to hazing, Guthorn said the sorority violated involuntary servitude or personal errands and forced consumption of alcohol or drugs.
“If you’re rushing a new organization and ask a new member if they felt like they had to do it, then it’s the perception of whether or not they felt they had to do it as opposed to what you might think of someone holding someone down and forcing alcohol down their throat. If they perceived they had to do that or not be included in that group then that would meet that criteria. Aside from the fact that they were being served alcohol and they’re all under 21 which is violation of state law,” Guthorn said.
Guthorn said ,” People sat in my office and admitted that alcohol was served and they would equivocate things too like, ‘Oh but it was blah blah… not hard alcohol’… and I would say, okay well is that still alcohol and they would say yes… I would ask were people smoking pot and all of them said yes but it wasn’t me.” Guthorn continued, “ You got to nail the details because that’s the only way you can hold people accountable. I understand what they’re feeling because they didn’t feel like it was that bad, but it violated the code of conduct and that’s my concern.”
When asked if Guthorn thought the investigation could have been handled differently she replied, “ From our end I think we asked the right people the right questions. Not everyone was as forthcoming, but you know I think we did it as quickly, effectively, efficiently as we could.”
In response to a question about more details regarding the outcome of the case Guthorn referred The Equinox to speak with Director of Student Conduct Matt Salter.
Salter explained that the college uses preponderance of evidence as a threshold for hearings.
“In court it’s beyond a reasonable doubt, meaning that for a jury to find someone guilty they have to be 99.9 percent sure. When finding someone responsible in the college system, it’s just over 50 percent. That’s the standard all around the country at college and universities and also the one that the courts tell colleges and universities to use,” Salter said.
Salter said that for any violation that students are found responsible for they do have the right to appeal that decision. The window of opportunity they have to do an appeal is within five days of when they receive the outcome from the student conduct office.
“So if they appeal it’s not a re-hearing. You fill out a form, there’s three grounds in which you can appeal on and that person would state which ground or grounds they are appealing and why they think they meet that ground. Then an appellate officer would then review the case and listen to the recordings from the hearing, review the notes and see if any of those grounds have merit. Then if it did, then they would send it back for a re-hearing,” Salter said.
Although the hearings are recorded for official records, when asked if Guthorn would record interviews in the investigation process to prevent situations like this in the future she said she would consider it.
“ I always consider it, but I mean same with my notes or if the interview is taped. As soon as it’s transcribed it gets tossed. It doesn’t stand as a record,” Guthorn said. “ It’s my personal policy. I was a police officer for a long time and I did the same thing. Once I transcribe my notes into a report, the report is the official record. For example, if an attorney was to ask me, ‘Oh did you write that in your notebook’ and I said yes, then every single thing in my notebook is open for view. Including if I took a coffee order or whatever. So I come at it from that history and that it opens every single thing within my notes for discussion.”
Kendall Pope can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org