Dartmouth Cancels Classes After Protests Over Sexual Assault And Racism On Campus

dartmouth hallDartmouth College

Dartmouth College administrators cancelled classes tomorrow in response to a protest last week in which students claimed the school failed to appropriately deal with instances of sexual assault, racism, and homophobia on campus.

Classes will be replaced by a day of discussions and debate, interim President Carol Folt said in a campus-wide email (read the full text below).

The incident happened Friday night, when more than a dozen protestors interrupted a show for accepted students, shouting “Dartmouth has a problem” and highlighting past allegations of sexual assault, racism, and sexism .

The group behind the protest, Real Talk Dartmouth, explained on its website: “Our goal is to not scare prospective students away, rather to give a holistic and realistic prospective to counterbalance the flawed advertising that takes place during Dimensions [annual events for admitted students]. We are showing a different dimension of Dartmouth.”

Karolina Krelinova, a member of the group, wrote in an open letter that the group had tried to initiate a discussion of the “multi-faceted nature of the Dartmouth experience” with prospective students, but were “systematically silenced.” 

The backlash on campus seems aimed at the protestors, and not over the issues they were trying to highlight. 

“The general opinion is that what happened was uncalled for, and that they deserve some form of punishment not because they expressed their opinions but because they barged in,” one student who helped organise the prospective students weekend told campus newspaper The Dartmouth.

Some students involved in the protest have even faced threats, The Dartmouth reported. Reporter Jessica Avitabile wrote:

“People I know have left this campus because they did not feel safe because of comments on Bored at Baker, The Dartmouth’s website and Facebook,” said a student who participated in the “Dartmouth Supports” video but wished to remain anonymous. “People do not feel safe in Hanover.”

Students featured in the “Dartmouth Supports” video, released last week, have also experienced negative responses as a result of their involvement. Some students who chose to participate were misled about the intent and purpose of the video, a student who participated but wished to remain anonymous said.

For their part, the protests didn’t appear to have much of an effect on prospective students. “It was definitely very off-putting,” one told The Dartmouth. “I had just come from the Bay and I was like, ‘Love Dartmouth! This is so great.’ The way in which the protest was presented was very surprising.”

A representative for Dartmouth said the college had no additional comment.

Here is the full text of the email sent to students today:

Sent: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 6:38 PM
Subject: Important: Arts & Sciences class change tomorrow

To the Dartmouth community,

We are writing today to let you know that tomorrow, Wednesday, April 24, 2013, all undergraduate and graduate classes in the Arts & Sciences will not be held.
They will, however, be replaced by alternative programming designed to bring students, faculty, and staff together to discuss Dartmouth’s commitment to fostering debate that promotes respect for individuals, civil and engaged discourse, and the value of diverse opinions.

This unusual action is being taken by the President and the Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences and is strongly supported by the Dean of the College, other divisions, and many students and staff. This has been prompted by a series of threatening and abusive online posts used to target particular students in the wake of the protest that disrupted the Dimensions Welcome Show on Friday evening. We feel it is necessary for the community as a whole to have the opportunity to learn about all that has transpired and to discuss further action that will help us live up to our mission.

Tomorrow’s programming will include:

-9:30–11 a.m.: Faculty of Arts & Sciences (tenured and tenure-track) participation in a meeting of the Faculty Coordinating Committee, in the Black Family Visual Arts centre’s Loew Auditorium
-10–11 a.m.: Jessica Pettitt, a social justice and diversity consultant and facilitator, will speak in Dartmouth Hall 105
-11:30 a.m.–12 p.m.: Community gathering on the lawn in front of Dartmouth Hall
-12:15–1:15 p.m.: Complimentary lunch for the Dartmouth community at Class of
1953 Commons
-1:30–3 p.m.: “Teach-in” small discussions facilitated by faculty and staff in rooms across campus, locations to be announced

Additional details regarding locations will be published by 9 a.m. tomorrow on the Dean of the College website:http://www.dartmouth.edu/~deancoll/

The decision to replace classes for a day with alternative programming is not taken lightly. The faculty will decide how best to make up tomorrow’s class time.

Together, we will make this day an important step toward realising a better Dartmouth.

We hope to see you tomorrow,

Carol Folt, Interim President
Michael Mastanduno, Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences Charlotte Johnson, Dean of the College Joseph Helble, Dean of Thayer School of Engineering Lindsay Whaley, Interim Vice Provost Maria Laskaris, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Harry Sheehy, Director of Athletics Harry Kinne, Director of Safety & Security

This video of the protest was posted to YouTube:

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