The Dartmouth Protest -- Another Perspective
On April 1st a small group of minority students at Dartmouth College assembled in the President’s office to present their views on diversity and college policy at this Ivy League college, thus advocating what they call “The Freedom Budget”. Dartmouth College’s President, Phil Hamilton, entertained the students thoughtfully; however, this self-appointed cabal proceeded to “take over” the administration building, effectively holding college administrators captive while leveling attacks and demands on the College. Since I respect truth, I want to speak it. As a Black sophomore at Dartmouth, with a single Mom and on financial aid, I would like to set the record straight and provide an alternative view.
Those who took part in the protest are entitled to their opinions, conventional or not. Thanks to the First Amendment and Dartmouth’s strong encouragement of free speech, they feel justified, and rightly so, in raising their views in and out of the classroom. But engaging in criminal activity with harsh, and in my opinion somewhat vague, demands is not an acceptable way to protest an institution such as Dartmouth. I find my school to be a caring institution, and speaking for all minority students at the College advocating dissatisfaction I find undeniably misleading, especially under such drastic circumstances.
Dartmouth is located in Hanover, New Hampshire and thus quite segregated from urban life. In retrospect I believe this may have caused some to lose perspective, to have forgotten the cruelty of the outside world and the shield Dartmouth holds to protect those who attend. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but capturing an institution violates the law. And think about this: Dartmouth allowed students to take part in this protest without consequence and in actuality agreed to further discuss their demands on a future date. Thus my opinion becomes solidified; an institution that would allow students to take part in said action without punishment and actually agree to further negotiation is one that is forgiving, professional, and above all considerate.
As a black student on financial aid at Dartmouth College, I read the document of demands carefully and honestly was quite appalled. Contrary to the shrill attacks made in the Freedom Budget, Dartmouth is first and foremost a thriving learning environment. In a sense, I have always thought that was what a college should do -- be inquiring and open to differences. The institutions have problems; the practice of hazing is unacceptable and sexual assault on the campus needs to be combated. But Dartmouth is aware of and actively fighting these issues, while the said problems are only briefly mentioned in the protestor’s budget. A majority of the document advocates for combating a racial “crisis” that I simply don’t see. I find Dartmouth to be a place that emphasizes intellectual and character development over social divisions of any kind.
Here is the truth. There is no overwhelming “crisis” of diversity on the Dartmouth campus, or at least none that I have seen. While differentness or diversity, like sameness and things common, make for the best learning environment, hoping to raise the level of African American or black diversity on campus to nine or ten percent may be a worthy goal, but represents no “crisis” as it is deemed in the budget.
In regards to the budget’s demands I have this to say: My diversity isn’t just based on my race. I want to see other student dancers, other government majors, other students with single parents, heck, other students with blue as their favorite color. “The Freedom Budget” has some legitimacy, but in my view, a legislated radical accusation of minority mistreatment without any consideration to intersectionality and alternative forms of identity isn’t yet refined for adequate representation, let along extravagant sit-ins.
I therefore find the budget and recent protest to be only a small, very partial representation of minority students. The implication is bogus. What occurred was the work of a small subgroup with little standing to make claims for the whole minority community, and they misstated the larger feeling of students at Dartmouth. In short, their views contradict my views about Dartmouth College, along with many other student perceptions of the institution. The problem is that people fear the title “racist” as a response to their expressing dissatisfaction with the recent protest. I therefore encourage the student body to respond honestly to the recent actions taken without fear of insult, for this is the only way minorities, international students, and many others can convey their true voice to both the college, and the public.
For me personally, Dartmouth has accomplished the kind of diversity I hoped for, and has provided an honorable learning environment in which I feel I can thrive. Is Dartmouth a perfect institution? Absolutely not, but a sit-in at the president’s office with demands such as “Make a multi-million dollar commitment” [to increasing diversity] is the sort of demand that misses the point, which is this: Dartmouth already is a diverse, intellectual and caring College, one that isn’t perfect and could use improvements, but one of which I am proud to be a part of.