Instead of leading a campus-wide education initiative against sexual assault and promoting tolerance and respect, Dartmouth is going old-school and punishing students.
Dartmouth College's Board of Trustees Chair Steve Mandel sent out an email to the entire campus on Friday declaring that students who protested at an event for prospective students will face disciplinary action, as will those who issued death and rape threats against the protesters.
The protesters were bringing attention to recent incidents of homophobia, sexual assault, and racism on campus, and were upset with the student population and the administration's lackluster response to the same.
Chanting "Dartmouth has a problem," the students were shouting out statistics of Dartmouth's lack of reporting and punishment for sexual assault: "3 years, 15 reported sexual assault. 95% of assaults unreported. Only 2 students expelled in 20 years." One of the students held a sign saying "I was called fag in my freshman dorm room."
Following the protest, several students took to social media to respond with hateful comments, and the escalating tension forced administration to cancel classes on Wednesday.
The disruption of an event for prospective students can tarnish the perfect sheen of the school. However, it displays the realities of college life. Previous attempts of garnering attention for Dartmouth's sexual assault problem have been well-documented in the media, and responding to students' concerns by pursuing disciplinary action against them further helps further worsen the image of the school.
Some of the the hateful responses to the protesters were captured by RealTalkDartmouth and highlight the very attitudes against which these protesters were rallying:
ThinkProgress's Sy Mukherjee quoted the email that seemed to equate the actions of the protesters to the rape and death threats and racist rants issued by some students on social media:
"Neither the disregard for the Dimensions Welcome Show nor the online threats that followed represent what we stand for as a community. As Interim President Folt indicated Wednesday in her remarks in front of Dartmouth Hall, the administration is following established policies and procedures with regard to any possible disciplinary action in both cases."
Despite trying to calm tensions through this email, Dartmouth has ignited criticism and anger from the student body.
The Dartmouth, the school's newspaper, discussed the incidents on its website where one prospective student in the audience summarized the counterproductive approach adopted by Dartmouth and its students in tackling a serious issue:
"I was a prospective student who witnessed the protest. Though a little stunned at first, I found the demonstration to be interesting but in no way influential at the time to my impression of Dartmouth. If anything, it added a realistic layer to a seemingly perfect campus."
"However, reading these [hateful] comments [against protesters] has had a far greater impact on my impression of Dartmouth. The reaction to the protests has given me reason to reconsider my enrollment. The comments here depict the very perspectives that the protesters sought to reveal (but that most of us prospective students assumed was being exaggerated). You folks are mean and intolerant. I'm really glad I saw these comments before deciding where to spend my next four years."
"It won’t be Dartmouth."