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The College’s Race Problem

Frank Cunningham1.jpgDoes the College have a race problem? With generous affirmative action programs, an overstaffed OPAL office, and no end of special exceptions for students of color, I’d find it hard to say that the institution is anything but a social crusader in support of racial justice. But as far as intolerance goes, that’s another matter. As SA President Frank Cunningham is finding out, it’s one thing for students to disrupt a party with noisy chanting and expletive-filled signs, it’s quite another for a student to yell back, especially when that student is a man of color who has the temerity not to conform to the prevailing ideology of protest.

Beyond the petition asking for his resignation, Cunningham was the object of a meeting only vaguely veiled in its purposes:

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Problems of ideology and discrimination are deeper than Frank Cunningham’s current treatment at the hands of an angry minority of students. They have been occurring for many years. An older alumnus writes in:

I wonder to what extent the college itself deliberately fosters hateful attitudes among black students.

This Cunningham flap reminds me of an experience some years ago with a black Dartmouth freshman whom I met on a flight just before Christmas when he was returning home for the holidays. I asked him how he liked Dartmouth, and he said “so far, not much - it has been my first experience with being segregated, and I don’t like it one bit.” It started the summer before when he was invited to an all-expense paid visit to the college. He naively assumed this was something extended to all admittees.

His first surprise was when he was met at the Lebanon airport by an all-black delegation. He thought at first that he had somehow taken the wrong plane and landed at Grambling. During the visit, he was “encouraged,” he felt pressured, to join the Afro-American Society, and take up residence in an all-black dormitory. During the fall term he had been appalled at the black separatism on campus, and the associated attitudes of racial antagonism.

The college’s having hired someone with the demonstrated attitudes of Jennifer McGrew also suggests that the administration is fully on board with promoting grievance identity and entitlement among black students, administrators, and others at Dartmouth. It seems to be the organizing principle for the institution’s dealing with blacks. When you reported on McGrew, senior administrators jumped on you, and mischaracterized the reporting as an attack.

Perhaps some of this began with hopes of making the Hanover campus somehow seem more welcoming towards blacks, many of whom emerge from a very different setting than rural New Hampshire. Whatever laudable motives there might have been, it seems to have become something far less benign.

To the extent the college itself, acting through its “diversity” bureaucrats, promotes and inculcates attitudes of radical antagonism of the sort reflected on the Afro American Society’s Facebook page, they do young black students a grave disservice, and may be disabling them from functioning successfully as adults, and achieving all that they might.

His words find an echo with a recent graduate:

I follow Dartblog regularly. I have been following the developments at the College and find it ever more perplexing how illogically some groups argue. I have been meaning to write you for a while about an experience I had at the college which exemplifies how ridiculous and irrational some so-called ‘diversity’ groups on campus are. I come from a mixed background, grew up in Mexico with one my parents being from Mexico and the other one being European. Thus, as an international student, I had the ‘privilege’ to be on the OPAL mailing list.

On May 5th 2008, I remember going to a meeting where we were supposed to celebrate the battle of Puebla as we sometimes do in Mexico. I remember walking into the room with at that time copiously provided food by President Wright (I guess before they started cutting catering funds for such events) and meeting some nice people. However, soon enough I noticed that the event wasn’t so much to celebrate Mexican heritage but to complain about other population groups. When I pointed out this to the group, inviting them to focus on the celebration and not the complaining, I was told that my opinion didn’t matter because I was (phenotypically, through genetic chance) white and I have no say on what being treated as a person of color meant. I found it somewhat ironic that that came from a US citizen who spoke no Spanish and had never crossed the border. Most surprisingly though, was that the OPAL coordinator did not disagree with this point of view and even continued with the argument.

To say the least, that is when I decided to never take part in an OPAL organized event but found other people with whom to share my varied interests. I apologize for my English, I haven’t lived in the US for over four years now. I hope this sheds some light into the sort of dynamics at play in some ‘minority’ groups at the college.

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