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An Ugly and Violent Display

I’ve been late getting to the story of the students of color invasion of Berry Library. I guess that the macroaggressions in Paris (and the faculty meeting) have been of greater moment than the emotional outburst of many of the College’s minority students and their allies.

Two incidents seem to have incited an initially quiet protest on November 12: the tearing down by a single drunken student of two protest T-shirts from an NAACP Black Lives Matter wall display, and racially charged posts on Yik Yak — the anonymous commenting website that had superseded bored@baker. However what started as a respectful demonstration that included American Indian prayer circles quickly spun into an aggressive disruption of students who were studying in Novack Cafeteria and Berry Library. Take a look as at least a hundred students forcefully and noisily marched through the library:

The Dartmouth Review describes in some detail how the demonstration unfurled:

Review Protest Description.jpg

While less complete, eyewitness Charles Lundquist ‘17 gives a consistent description of the same event, as did an article in The D. In addition, I have spoken with several students who confirm the report of violent language used by many of the demonstrators.

Do you think that this behavior is in violation of Standard VIII of the College’s Standards of Conduct?

Standard VIII.jpg

Or how about Title LXII of the New Hampshire Criminal Code?

TITLE LXII CRIMINAL CODE CHAPTER 644 BREACHES OF THE PEACE AND RELATED OFFENSES Section 644:2

644:2 Disorderly Conduct. - A person is guilty of disorderly conduct if:
III. He purposely causes a breach of the peace, public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creates a risk thereof, by:
(a) Making loud or unreasonable noises in a public place, or making loud or unreasonable noises in a private place which can be heard in a public place or other private places, which noises would disturb a person of average sensibilities; or
(b) Disrupting the orderly conduct of business in any public or governmental facility; or
(c) Disrupting any lawful assembly or meeting of persons without lawful authority…
VI. Disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor if the offense continues after a request by any person to desist; otherwise, it is a violation.

I agree with you.

In response to the events, Phil Hanlon sent out the following letter to the campus:

Hanlon BLM Message.jpg

And he has been sending the below form letter to alumni who have written in to ask about the library demonstration:

Hanlon Alumni Letter.jpg

The College also has put up a statement on its Press Releases website:

Berry Protest Press Release.jpg

Of course, the administration’s embarrassing formalism should be apparent to everyone. No Complaints! No Justice! Since when has a complaint been required for the College to enforce its rules and regulations? Has anyone ever complained about freshmen rushing the football field or trying to touch the bonfire. The College has had no problem prosecuting infractions of those rules.

And Phil Hanlon’s comment about a “political protest” is equally transparent. Nobody has the right to disrupt the peace for any reason. The College’s own rules and the NH statute above certainly don’t carve out exceptions for political or other activities. A disruption is a disruption. Even if you take Phil at his word, did the protest look like a political one to you? As Groucho Marx used to (almost) say (and as Richard Pryor often repeated), “Who you gonna believe, Phil or your lying eyes?”

Compounding the College’s ineptitude, Vice Provost for Student Affairs Inge-Lise Ameer attended a post-demonstration meeting on Monday at Cutter-Shabazz to discuss the situation with students. The entire meeting is here, but we have excerpted several salient sections in the below. Dean Ameer comments at length on the demonstration and race relations at the College, and responds to questions from Geovanni Cuevas ‘14, the student recently roughed up by the Brown campus police:

Below is a transcription of the first part of Dean Ameer’s comments:

Inge-Lise Ameer: I’m very sorry about all of this. I know it doesn’t help, but we’ve received a lot of terrible calls today, too, and we’ve told them that they were all, you know, ridiculous, and that the protest was a wonderful, beautiful thing.

Geovanni Cuevas ‘14: Can you elaborate on that?

Inge-Lise Ameer: You know, people, there’s a whole conservative world out there that’s not very nice.

Geovanni Cuevas ‘14: They’re fucking racists. Don’t say they’re not very nice. They’re fucking racists. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to blow up like that.

Inge-Lise Ameer: I’m not going to say that. But it was hard. We’re on Yik Yak all the time and we’re constantly contacting them: Please take this down. Please do this. Stop doing this.

We fought bored@baker. It’s finally down. It took five years to get that stupid thing down.

And all I can keep saying, as I’ve been saying with students all of the last few days, if you’re feeling unsafe, and you’re not feeling that you’re getting responded to, then you contact me directly. And will deal with it, because that is not right, and I don’t want you feeling this way, I don’t want any of you feeling this way.

And I think that the reaction to the protest in the library has been, I think that it just displays our society very clearly right now.

What to say about these pandering remarks? Ameer supports the students’ “wonderful, beautiful” protest, and she all but says that anyone who criticized the protest did so only as an expression of racism. Heaven help us, and heaven help the impressionable students who are being indoctrinated with such ill-thought-out nonsense.

Is there any teaching going on at Dartmouth? In the 1:13:01-long meeting, Ameer never asked exactly why someone might feel unsafe? She never inquired whether students understood that they were hurting their cause by disruptive behavior, nor did she suggest better methods of protest. She never defended other students right to study in peace. All she did was show support for students complaints and behavior no matter how baseless, disruptive and illegal.

This is higher education?

Addendum: A longtime reader writes in:

I have a reasonable awareness of the unfairness of “structural” racism, but this is ridiculous, especially in such a context. Premier academic institutions recruit under-privileged minorities, give them free tuition, and create academic departments and endless support bureaucracies organized around them. Is this a case of give someone an inch and they’ll take a mile?

It reminds me of the ideological purity power games from the early days of the Russian Revolution combined with Miller’s “The Crucible”.

Addendum: A professor writes in:

I just don’t understand what it means to feel unsafe in a place like Hanover, New Hampshire. This sort of thing has to be spelled out. What exactly is unsafe? Someone saying something offensive? Get used to the world. Students need to learn strategies of response. Not constant coddling. Protection is not the answer.

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