The Dartmouth Debacle: Classes cancelled after protests at Dartmouth’s annual welcome show for prospective students

Protest at Dimensions, the Student Week show

Classes have been cancelled at Dartmouth today. No, Hurricane Sandy has not been resurrected. Nor has a surprise blizzard blown its way into Hanover, burying the campus in snow and halting all meaningful work. The administration has cancelled classes because of a highly polarizing protest that has sparked anger, threats, and hatred throughout the campus.

Dartmouth hosts an accepted students weekend called Dimensions, which essentially the equivalent of ADOCH.  In the middle of a Friday show for prospective students, around 15 protestors barged in, screaming “Dartmouth has a problem!”  The students—holding signs with messages like “I was called a fag in my freshman dorm”—aimed to inform the accepted students about issues of homophobia, racism, and sexual assault on-campus.  We could tell you more, but see for yourself:

The performers from Dimensions hid to avoid conflict with the protestors, who were eventually shut down when one prospective student started a group chant of “We Love Dartmouth.”

The group of student protestors had previously hosted an open forum called Real Talk, posting flyers and chalk messages around campus stating: “Dartmouth has a problem” and “95% of Sexual Assault on college campuses go unreported.” These posters were then torn down by others on campus, with speculation that the chalked messages were professionally cleaned prior to Friday. The students, frustrated, then decided on a more conspicuous, aggressive approach. Students have called for discouraging prospective students in the past to push the campus administration to action, but the protestors insist that discouraging prospective students is not their intent. They just want discussion.

Unfortunately—and perhaps lending legitimacy to the protest itself—some Dartmouth students have reacted with threats and violent anger. Some of the protestors spent the weekend off of campus because they didn’t feel safe in their dorms. Posts on websites like BoredatBaker, a Dartmouth gossip website, have targeted the protestors with homophobic and racist language.

BoredatBaker was launched in ’06 and taken down in ’07 before relaunching in ’09. It has consistently been met with controversy and criticism. According to an anonymous commenter on The Dartmouth‘s website, BoredatBaker constitutes “a representation of what the worst of online anonymity can bring.”

And we thought Spotted@Brown was bad. BoredatBaker is currently down, purportedly because of the high amount of traffic it has recieved in the wake of the story. Here are some screenshots of BoredatBaker from the Real Talk blog:


Comments on the Youtube video also highlight the nastiness of the ongoing conflict:


Not all Dartmouth students responded with anger. Many students found the concerns of protesting students valid, but felt the Student Week show an inappropriate forum for civil disobedience. Others do not understand the negative portrayal of Dartmouth by the protestors.

The prospective students who witnessed the program now have a choice to make. Some—like current Dartmouth students—felt the protest inappropriate for admitted students weekend. Others are inspired by the diverse, vocal opinions on campus and are excited to matriculate in the fall. And some prospective students now question Dartmouth as a college choice.

All arts and sciences classes at Dartmouth will be canceled for both graduates and undergraduates. The last time Dartmouth cancelled classes was 2007 because of a blizzard. Administrators strongly encourage students to attend programming to facilitate an open and productive dialogue on the protests. ‘‘Threats of the nature we were seeing online are never something we can abide,’’ said campus spokesperson Justin Anderson. “Because of the nature of these threats, we think what we’re doing is crucially important.’’

Clearly, Dartmouth does have a problem. We hope they work it out.

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