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“I’m Done With Dartmouth”

Unai Montes-Irueste ‘98 has penned an anguished, angry open letter that is getting a great deal of attention on social media:

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I’m Done with Dartmouth

Unai Montes-Irueste — January 30, 2018

I resign as Vice President of the Dartmouth Association of Latinx Alumni.
I resign from the Board of the Dartmouth Club of Los Angeles.
I resign from the Board of my Class.

I will no longer donate any money or time to Dartmouth College.
I will not interview candidates for admission, or recommend that those accepted matriculate.
And while I will miss seeing my friends dearly, I will not attend Reunion.

In November of 2016, I wrote Dartmouth’s President, Phil Hanlon, its Provost, Carolyn Dever, and the College’s Executive Committee, urging that resources be allocated for the protection of vulnerable students. I made it quite clear that the motivation of this letter was neither partisan, nor political. It was merely a request that preparations be made should the incoming President of the United States reverse the policies of his predecessor.

This letter, signed by the presidents of the Black Alumni of Dartmouth Association, Dartmouth Asian Pacific American Alumni Association, Native American Alumni Association of Dartmouth, and representatives from the Dartmouth Association of Latinx Alumni, Dartmouth Coalition For Immigration Reform, Equality, and DREAMers, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. - Theta Zeta Chapter, La Unidad Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, Inc. - Psi Chapter, and Sigma Lambda Upsilon/Señoritas Latinas Unidas Sorority, Inc. - Alpha Beta Chapter, went unanswered until I presented it to him in person.

His response was a restatement of a “community letter.” It contained no commitments.

Before the end of 2016 an organization of undocumented students and allies submitted a petition asking that President Hanlon declare Dartmouth a sanctuary campus. He said no.

In April of 2017, The Dartmouth,”America’s oldest college newspaper,” profiled three current undocumented students, including, Valentina Emilia Garcia Gonzalez. She shared the following:

“I wanted to run for Student Council, and I got a message from a student threatening my deportation.”

I need every single Dartmouth alum, current student, and prospective one to read that again.

Also in April of 2017, the Dartmouth Review, an odious publication that has harmed and humiliated good people for generations, and is largely responsible for unleashing the vile Laura Ingraham, and the repugnant Dinesh D’Souza on the world, wrote the following:

“Hanlon attempted to show empathy for the students by writing that “at this moment, some members of our community feel vulnerable and at risk,” but did not seem to support or oppose many of their demands… With their series of emails, President Hanlon and his administration have succeeded only in stirring up outrage… [their] response has accomplished little, if anything at all. Rather than offer tangible assistance to affected students, it has simply bragged about its broad commitments and values… If the administration truly cared, they would tighten their bootstraps and offer up some serious solutions for those students they believe are in danger.”

The hackneyed and cliché adage, “even a broken clock is right twice a day,” notwithstanding, I never thought that I would write the following words: The Dartmouth Review was right.

In September of 2017, the inevitable occurred. DACA was rescinded. Undocumented students presented President Hanlon with a list of immediate actions needed. They asked him for a guarantee that ICE/CBP would not be allowed on campus or on buses, unless they presented valid, court-issued warrants. They asked him to stop requiring DACA recipients to turnover their earnings to pay for tuition so that they could save money, since they would no longer be able to work after graduation. They asked for options to replace the foreign study programs, internships, and exchanges they were no longer eligible to participate in. They asked for help.

President Hanlon issued a statement weeks later. It didn’t commit to do any of these things.

Sadly, this was the last time anyone, including undocumented students would hear from him.

In October of 2017, the Valley News shared Valentina Emilia Garcia Gonzalez’s story. Here she is, taking a knee along with her teammates in defense of her rights and the rights of her fellow students who have been made vulnerable; in support of the Movement for Black Lives; and in solidarity with those who stood up against hate in Charlottesville, including, Heather Heyer, who was killed when a white supremacist used his car as a weapon against her.

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Also in October of 2017, students desperate for the College to commit to a plan to support undocumented students helped to organize a Homecoming boycott and protest action.

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In December of 2017, the New York Times profiled an “Ivy League immigrant family.”

Per Google that’s the most recent news mention of undocumented students at Dartmouth.

We are now days away from the February 8, 2018, Sophie’s choice vote that those members of Congress who have made commitments to undocumented youth must confront. As it stands, a path forward for DREAMers is on the table, but only in exchange for: 1) Drastic cuts to family immigration, 2) The elimination of the Visa Lottery, 3) A commitment of $25 billion toward the construction of a border wall, 4) A commitment to expedite deportation for two-thirds of the 11 million undocumented men and women who call the US home.

I, along with every human being with a soul, urge Congress to reject this Devil’s bargain.

And as a human being with a soul, I can no longer enable or condone the College’s inaction.

Despite all that has happened, no undocumented student has heard from President Hanlon.

Even though he, the Provost, and the rest of the Executive Team have had every opportunity to take action to support the DREAM Act eligible members of our community, they have not.

And so, until Dartmouth does right by undocumented students, I’m done.

Addendum: Remind me again just who thinks Phil Hanlon is doing a good job.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

You know, if Phil were to do the things that Unai is writing about, I’d respect him (and Carolyn Dever) a lot more. I might not agree with everything he was doing; there would probably be a number of things I didn’t agree with. But still, at least I would be able to recognize that the man stands for something. Instead, he’s trying to pay lip service to people’s concerns, keep them quiet, so he can go about this ill-considered expansion plan with the goal of…doing what, exactly? Relieving this inferiority complex too many of our fellow alumni seem to have about not having gone to HYP? Because in the process of doing whatever it is he and the board are trying to do, he’s going to hamstring Dartmouth in no fewer than three crucial categories that US News measures in its rankings: Selectivity, Endowment per student and Alumni participation. Ugh!

Addendum: And another:

Phil is Aaron Burr as depicted in Hamilton: “Talk less, smile more…don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for.” Is there any better way to summarize his complete and utter fecklessness on every significant issue that he has had to face as President?

Addendum: And another:

A forthright response to Montes-Irueste would have been along the lines of Chicago President Zimmer: the university has no business taking a position on political issues; it is a place for study and discussion, not a bearer of righteous witness to assumed narratives. Doing the latter destroys its capacity for the former. But Hanlon is the sort that would waffle on everything.

Addendum: A student writes in:

I agree with the writer that colleges have little reason to involve themselves in political issues, but I think s/he fails to acknowledge a limit on that. There are a few sorts of issues that universities and colleges have an obligation to weigh in on. The first are the ones that impact universities directly (e.g., it would be perfectly reasonable for Dartmouth to comment on the proposed graduate student tax or endowment tax that were moving through Congress in December, since those would have a real impact on the College).

The second (a subcategory of the first) are issues that could fundamentally impact the school’s core mission — laws that could challenge free expression and free inquiry, mainly.

The third — and these are the policies at issue here — is the school’s obligation to protect its members, that is, faculty and students. In admitting a student or hiring a faculty member, a college enters into a pact of sorts. It can be voided — if a party violates the school’s community standards (e.g., sexual assault, cheating, plagiarism, etc) — but nonetheless it is a fairly sacred contract. Colleges are relatively powerful entities, and there is an extent to which they have an obligation to defend their members, particularly against attempts to remove those members from their engagement at the college through coercive means. NYU’s webpage has an interesting article on the concept of academic sanctuary, and how it is a longstanding concept used to foster debate and protect even those some see as undesirable so long as they contribute to a free discussion and free inquiry. The article approvingly quotes John Henry Newman, who said a university is a place “in which the intellect may safely range and speculate, sure to find its equal in some antagonistic activity, and its judge in the tribunal of truth. It is a place where inquiry is pushed forward, and discoveries verified and perfected, and rashness rendered innocuous, and error exposed, by the collision of mind with mind, and knowledge with knowledge.” To fulfill that goal, the university must protect those it admits, those it hires, and those who would speak within its walls. That is not a political goal in the traditional sense. Rather, it is the foundational role of a scholarly institution.

Whether a college should admit undocumented students — or any students with a criminal history — is a matter best left to administrators and the admissions office, but once the college does so, it owes those students its protection. Not necessarily protection to the extent some currently ask, but protection nonetheless.

Addendum: And another:

I vehemently disagree with the notion that Dartmouth’s president should remain politically neutral and not comment on the issues of the day. To be politically neutral would be a betrayal of the legacy of men like John Sloan Dickey, who was regularly consulted by leaders during his time as Dartmouth President, even serving on President Truman’s Committee on Civil Rights. It would also be a betrayal of Ernest Hopkins who while President of the College, served as an advisor during both World Wars.

There was a time in our country’s history when college presidents were considered intellectual leaders and regularly consulted on political matters. Given the rise of anti-intellectualism, this seems to be on the wane, but it would be a mistake to retreat to our ivory towers and not try to affect public discourse. Within the walls of academia, research is conducted that produces results that lead to recommendations, which ultimately leads to action. The academy has historically had a central role in the shaping our public policy and we should fight to preserve it.

I don’t see Donald Trump or the modern Republican Party being influenced by Phil Hanlon but his opinion, or at least the opinion of Dartmouth’s president, is sorely missed.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

At the risk of being “branded” as insensitive let me state that I, too am “finished with Dartmouth” for exactly the opposite reasons of the South American alumnus defector. Like taking the undocumented immigrants (illegals) in the first place with no plan for the future, Dartmouth has opened its doors to controversy and ethnic strife by showering them with privileges and scholarships. We didn’t learn and now it will come back as ugly behavior in our schools and communities. I’m done, too.

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