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Roger Gerber ‘59 on “External Audiences”

Phil Hanlon’s characterization of the critics of Bruce Duthu as “external audiences” is drawing attention. Roger A. Gerber ‘59 wrote the following open letter to the President and the Provost:

Dear President Hanlon and Provost Dever:

As a long-time loyal Dartmouth alumnus I read with interest your message regarding the decision of Professor Bruce Duthu to decline his appointment as Dean of the Faculty. Since my wife and I had the pleasure of dining with Prof. Duthu and his wife, both of whom were charming and affable companions, on a Dartmouth Alumni cruise in the Caribbean a few years ago, I was particularly interested in the facts surrounding his appointment.

Your message attributes the opposition to the appointment of Prof. Duthu to “his membership on the Council of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association [“NAISA”] that drafted a 2013 call to boycott Israeli academic institutions.” The facts are otherwise; Prof. Duthu is not merely a “member” of NAISA but is its Treasurer and is listed on its website as one of “the Council Members who wrote the Declaration of Support for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions.” Your message states that it was NAISA “that drafted [the] call to boycott Israeli academic institutions,” as though it were a passive institutional act, but the NAISA website lists the Council Members “who wrote the Declaration of Support…” It is thus somewhat misleading to say that the protests were “due to his membership” in NAISA.

Further, in addition to his position in NAISA, Prof. Duthu reportedly signed the American Studies Association petition supporting the BDS movement against Israel’s academic institutions. While he is of course free to hold and express any views he wishes, the abysmal ignorance of the Mideast evidenced by such a position would, it seems to me, disqualify him from the prominent position of Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Dartmouth College. (Support of BDS against Israeli institutions, and Israeli institutions alone, can be attributed only to ignorance of Middle East issues or to malevolence and, having met Prof. Duthu, I believe it is the former that accounts for his advocacy of the insidious delegitimization movement).

Separately, I was somewhat disturbed by your reference to dark “external audiences” that allegedly generated opposition to the ill-considered appointment of Prof. Duthu; many Dartmouth alumni, including myself, are to be counted as strongly opposing the appointment of Prof. Duthu and apparently we alumni form part of the “external audiences” to whom you referred. Does the College not wish to maintain a good reputation with “external audiences” as well as internal ones? Unfortunately, the elite group that constitutes the presumed “internal audience” made a feckless decision, after substantial vetting, to choose someone who advocated — and presumably still advocates — support for the irresponsible and nefarious BDS movement. This is hardly consonant with the description of someone who is ostensibly “dedicated to supporting social justice and fighting bias in all its forms” — a worthy and high-sounding commitment but, without a solid factual grounding, is merely moral posturing and is bound to be counterproductive, as in the case of Prof. Duthu’s support of BDS.

Prof. Duthu’s decision to decline the appointment is the right one for Dartmouth and, I believe, for Prof. Duthu personally and I hope that it will repair the damage done to Dartmouth’s image and reputation, particularly among prospective applicants to the College. I served for years on Dartmouth interviewing committees and as a class agent, have encouraged many young people (including my own daughter) to attend Dartmouth and have contributed to the Alumni Fund every year since graduation almost 58 years ago; it is sad to see an event such as this detract from the reputation of the College.

I wish you well in your future endeavors and hope that Dartmouth will be advanced in every respect by future actions and decisions of the administration.

With best wishes,
Roger A. Gerber ‘59

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