Underage Drinking & the Law

What parents need to know now about the new Social Host Laws

Dartmouth student stalked by police for ordering drinks with dinner

Thank you to Jim Kenyon of the Hanover, New Hampshire Valley News for permission to reprint his column. You can read the original version here. Kenyon gives attribution to Joe Asch of Dartblog for breaking the story. Click links for Part 1 and Part 2.

Jim Kenyon: Hanover Police Play NSA on Underage Drinking

 Sunday, June 30, 2013 (Published in print: Sunday, June 30, 2013)

The war — it’s gone beyond a mere obsession — on underage drinkers has reached a new level of absurdity in Hanover. Last week, Joe Asch, the Dartmouth alum who writes the popular Dartblog, broke a story that makes me wonder whether the NSA has opened a surveillance office in town. 

After reading Asch’s blog, I picked up a copy of the Hanover police report, which is public record, that gave details of the incident. It’s worse than I had imagined. The college’s security officers and some other employees have effectively become agents of the Hanover police.

Here’s what happened, as I pieced it together from the police report and interviews:

On Feb. 27, a Dartmouth student was having dinner with a friend at Molly’s Restaurant on South Main Street. Ruth Kett happened to be sitting nearby.

Ruth Kett, Dartmouth administrator who called the police. (Dartblog)

Kett, the administrative coordinator for the department that oversees fraternities and sororities at Dartmouth, recognized the student and observed that he was drinking from a martini glass. She was sure that he wasn’t 21. So sure that she called Hanover police. By the time officer Matthew Ufford arrived at the restaurant, the student had left.

But Kett was still there. “I believe there was an underage student drinking in here,” she told Ufford. Last week, when I stopped by her office, Kett told me that she recognized the student from a bartending class that she had taught. (The class didn’t practice mixing drinks with real liquor, but maybe there’s a mixed message in here somewhere.)

At the restaurant, police confirmed that a Molly’s waiter had checked the student’s ID before serving him four drinks during a two-hour dinner. But police had a problem: How could they quickly find out if he was truly under 21?

Kett came to the rescue. In her job, she has access to some personal information, including date of birth, that students give the college. At the request of police, Kett looked up his date of birth in the college’s database on her smartphone, she told me. According to the college records that Kett was able to tap into, he was only 18.

The manhunt was on.

Hanover police invited Dartmouth security officers, who were only too eager to help, to join their posse. A security officer, accompanied by Ufford, knocked on the student’s dorm door. When no one answered, the security officer entered the room. Ufford waited in the hall — a neat trick so Hanover cops couldn’t be accused of violating the Fourth Amendment by entering the dorm room without a search warrant.

The room was vacant. The dragnet widened. At about 10:30 p.m., two Dartmouth security officers spotted the “suspect” near the library. Two Hanover cops were dispatched to the scene. The student acknowledged that he had been drinking, but denied using a fake ID, according to the police report.

He was arrested on a charge of underage drinking. He agreed to spend the night at Dick’s House, the college infirmary, where the medical staff could keep an eye on him.

Two nurses did more than that. They kept an ear on him, too. At 3:30 a.m. or so, they heard the student talking on a phone. How were they able to eavesdrop? The rooms at Dick’s House are equipped with monitors. According to the police report, the nurses heard him telling a friend that he had hidden the fake driver’s license in his underwear. The nurses called college security, which notified Hanover Police.

Three cops descended upon Dick’s House. (Will Hanover taxpayers ever catch on that the town has too many cops with not enough to do?)

Police were given a room inside Dick’s House to interrogate the student. Ufford informed him that police would seek a search warrant to have him strip searched if he didn’t turn over the fake ID. He complied, according to police.

Warrant for the arrest of an underage drinker (Dartblog)

He’s been charged with three misdemeanors. Norwich attorney George Ostler, who is representing the student, said his client wouldn’t talk with me because the case is still pending in Lebanon Circuit Court.

But Kett, the Dartmouth employee who called police, was kind enough to talk with me for a few minutes when I dropped by her office. I was curious: Has Dartmouth deputized its 3,000 employees to assist Hanover police with their efforts to corral underage drinkers? Has the college formed a neighborhood bar watch? If professors see underage students drinking at a restaurant (as Kett did) are they under orders to report it to police?

Kett assured me that she had acted on her own. “This was a personal thing,” she said. “It wasn’t part of my job.”

Justin Anderson, the college’s spokesman, also told me that employees are not required or encouraged to snitch (my word, not his) on students who may be drinking illegally. “It’s not part of the college’s culture to call police,” he said.

Anderson explained that Kett, who has worked at the college for eight years, has access to some personal information on students for “work-related reasons.” Not all employees, including himself, have that access, he said.

Federal law allows some information, such as name and age, to be released without a student’s permission, Anderson said. But was it appropriate for Kett to give police a student’s date of birth? Should college employees volunteer student information they acquire in a medical setting to the police? Was it appropriate to allow the student to be interrogated when police thought he needed to be in the infirmary as a precaution?

“Dartmouth is obviously aware of the situation and has been investigating the matter for some time to determine the underlying facts,” Anderson said.

Former Dartmouth President Jim Kim, a physician by training, recognized that arresting students was not the way to teach them to drink responsibly. He also believed that keeping students safe took priority over enforcing the letter of the law.

Since Kim’s departure in 2012, that’s apparently gone by the boards in Hanover. The posse is on the loose.□Jim Kenyon can be reached at Jim.Kenyon@Valley.net.

5 comments on “Dartmouth student stalked by police for ordering drinks with dinner

  1. R
    July 27, 2013

    A student passed from alcohol poisoning recently .

  2. chris
    July 12, 2013

    Well, Ruth Kett sure is a piece of……work, isn’t she? Don’t the nurses in this story have some sort of professional standard to adhere to? Are health professionals required to spy on patients and report to police?

    • HM Epstein
      July 12, 2013

      Chris, the whole story shows excessive behavior on everyone’s part, from Kett to the police to the nurses. I hate to bring in extreme references but the so-called adults’ behavior is akin to the norm in Soviet society when the KGB was in charge. We are “protecting” our children to their detriment. We are mixing up normal teen behavior with addictive, self-destructive behavior. For a crazier example, see written by John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute. I think you’ll like him.

      • chris
        August 26, 2014

        Sorry, just seeing this now. Will do. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

RSS Latest News

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Video News

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Follow us on Twitter

%d bloggers like this: