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The Folt Fallout

The fallout from IP Folt’s day of Dartmouth bashing has already begun. Take a look at the below excerpts from yesterday’s editorial in the Valley News, our local daily:

Thumbnail image for Valley News logo.jpgThe protesters believed that the official events [on Dimensions weekend] failed to illuminate some prominent aspects of life at Dartmouth — such as the prevalence of sexual assault and sexist, homophobic and racist verbal harassment — and took matters into their own hands…


[the demonstration at Dimensions]… elicited a flood of anonymous online student reaction that ran to intimidation and threats of physical harm to the protesters. The flavor is perhaps captured in these comments reported by [VN journalist] Brubeck. One read, “It’s official. I’m going to start referring to these protesters as terrorists.” Another posed these questions: “Why do we even admit minorities if they’re just going to whine? Seriously, why are you here?” A third read: “Wish I had a shotgun, would have blown these (expletive) hippies away.”

Welcome to Dartmouth, kids, where minority students and non-conformists are present only at the sufferance of those entitled to be there, and where speaking your mind might just have negative implications for your physical well-being…

Young women and men who sign up to spend a not-so-small fortune on a Dartmouth education ought to arrive with their eyes wide open to the reality that tolerance for people who are different is remarkably low on campus and very little has been done over the years to foster a more welcoming attitude…

To their credit, the protesters refused to be intimidated by the online threats and showed up at a meeting of faculty and staff Tuesday to demand action, which they finally got after earlier getting the brushoff…

One hopes that the college’s incoming president, Philip Hanlon, will take note that this protest, like a number of others at Darmouth [sic] in recent years, was focused not on how the administration or the trustees treat students, but on how students treat other students. That suggests to us that there are bitter divisions in the student body that need to be effectively addressed.

Sounds like Carol Folt talking, doesn’t it? The Admissions department is going to be answering this editorial for years. But is it an accurate depiction of the College?

Yesterday we cited a a U.S. Department of Education study that ranked Dartmouth 23rd nationally among the “25 Private Colleges with the Happiest Freshmen”: 96.5% of Dartmouth freshman said that they were happy at the College. But what about minorities, you ask?

A fine question, and one that the innumerate editors at the Valley News failed to pose. (Full disclosure, my local business does a lot of advertising with the Valley News, and I visit the paper’s offices several times each year. To date, I have yet to see a non-white face there).

From the Dartmouth Fact Book, we can see that a fortiori there must be a great many happy minority students at the College — after all, they make up half the student body: only 50% of Dartmouth students are classified by the College as white (down from 58% ten years ago):

Dartmouth Race Comp.jpg

Even if we were to assume that every one of the 3.5% unhappy freshmen is not white, a clearly incorrect assumption, the number of happy minority freshman is still 93%. Apologies for the rhetorical questions, but how can that be? — given “the prevalence of sexual assault and sexist, homophobic and racist verbal harassment” at the College, where “tolerance for people who are different is remarkably low,” according to the Valley News.

Actually, it can’t be, and therefore I have to repeat the explanation for this entire situation that the Valley News editors have missed quite completely — even though the staffers there are regular readers of this space: The RealTalk protest group is composed of no more than a dozen students. The nature of their concerns is valid, but the prevalence of the social ills that they decry is far less widespread that the small group’s members would have you believe.

Additionally, as Dartblog pointed out the other day, the number of students who frequent the Bored@Baker website is extremely low, and the number of students who anonymously posted bombastic, hateful posts there is probably on the same order as the number of RealTalkers.

Do the math: the two groups together — the RealTalkers and the hateful B@B posters — are not representative of, to coin a phrase, the other 99% of Dartmouth students.

The Valley News editors are entirely off-base in this situation. Rather than listening to Carol Folt’s Dartmouth-bashing speeches (or her gushing pro-Dartmouth ones, depending on her audience), they should come up to Hanover from Lebanon and do some real reporting by talking to a representative number of Dartmouth students. Their silly editorial is just a kneejerk effort to slot the College into an angry and inaccurate narrative about America. There is no doubt that Dartmouth has its problems — this space certainly has the authority to make that statement — but “bitter divisions in the student body” is not one of them.

Addendum: Dartmouth’s twelve-person Office of Pluralism and Leadership (OPAL) employs dedicated deans for students in the following categories: Asian and Asian American; Black/African American; International; Latina/o; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & Allies; and Native American. Beyond OPAL, one should note the College’s six-person Office of Institutional Diversity & Equity, and extensive programs in Women and Gender Studies, African and African American Studies, Asian/Mideast Studies, Latin Am/Caribbean Studies, Latino Studies, and Native American Studies. Each of these entities, and the various dean’s offices, too, sponsors an endless range of minority programming and housing.

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