Dartmouth Protestors Face Discipline
Hanover — When Dani Valdes opened the email this week informing him he might have violated Dartmouth College’s Community Standards of Conduct, the senior said he was dismayed, but not surprised.
The email, from Nathan Miller, director of the Undergraduate Judicial Affairs Office, was sent to Valdes and a handful of other Dartmouth students involved in Real Talk Dartmouth, a student group that disrupted a recruitment event last month for prospective students with a protest highlighting incidents of racism, homophobia and sexual assault on campus.
“I’m more concerned that this will be the new pattern the college takes to actively punish protesters,” Karenina Rojas, a member of the protest group who also received Miller’s email this week, said. “I just fear that this will be a new tactic the college takes to punish dissent.”
The letter stated that based on a Department of Safety and Security report, the students in question ignored college officials’ instruction on April 19 not to enter The Class of 1953 Commons, a room that had reportedly reached its official capacity, which was a violation of the college’s Community Standard IX, compliance with college directives.
The protest drew a hostile response in the days afterward, particularly online, where harassing comments and threats toward the protesters were posted in online forums for Dartmouth students.
Following the backlash, a contingent of faculty members pushed college administrators to cancel classes for a day and hold a series of campus-wide events focused on the college’s social culture and the protesters’ concerns.
Valdes said the college’s response was interesting given that protesters were upset with the school for the perceived failure to adequately hold students accountable for more serious acts, such as sexual assaults.
“Yes, you can punish me for breaking a rule, but if you’re going to punish a rapist as much as me, that’s ridiculous,” Valdes said.
Dartmouth spokesman Justin Anderson yesterday said the college does not comment on ongoing disciplinary investigations, and he declined to say how many students received the Judicial Affairs email this week in connection with the April protest.
Rojas said that about 10 of the 15 protesters received the email. Valdes said that some of the email recipients met with Miller yesterday to talk about potential disciplinary actions, which include a warning, a reprimand or probation.
None of the punishments would affect students’ ability to graduate, however, Valdes said.
“I wasn’t particularly surprised, but I think this is a very timed action that the college is taking,” Valdes said.
The timing of the email is curious, Valdes said, as he wrapped up his last term as a Dartmouth student. Real Talk members are exhausted, and both Rojas and Valdes said they think administrators waited until now to address the protesters in hopes that it would be “swept under the rug.”
Valdes said he won’t be convinced the administration is taking students’ complaints seriously until the campus’ fraternity and sorority system is dismantled and those found guilty of sexual assault are expelled and reported to the police.
“Anything less than those two things, at this point, is going to be nothing more than talk,” Valdes said. “We can’t accept anything less than big change.”
Direct action from the college, though, is not something history assistant professor and unofficial Real Talk adviser Russell Rickford is hanging his hat on.
“I’m hoping the Real Talk movement will begin to change the student culture,” Rickford said. “The response that I want, changes that I want, are not actually up to the administration. Ultimately, I think the change needs to be up to the students themselves.”