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Letter: Squandering of Moral Authority

To the Editor:

If any leadership position in our time offers what President Theodore Roosevelt called a “bully pulpit,” it is a college presidency, an old-fashioned platform for proclaiming what is good and true and just. But Dartmouth seems to greet its new presidents by weakening their moral authority. With unmatched credentials for improving health care for poor people all over the world, Jim Yong Kim began his presidency at Dartmouth by announcing 76 layoffs of staff members and workers as part of an effort to cut $100 million from the budget. He was, of course, reducing the newly unemployed workers’ access to health care.

Now, just as Philip Hanlon arrives to lead Dartmouth, the college announces that students who participated in an April 19 protest of racism, homophobia and sexual assault on campus face disciplinary action. After absorbing harassment from fellow students who think there is no problem with assault and abuse at Dartmouth, the protesters are charged with ignoring an official directive to stay out of the Class of 1953 Commons because it had reached its official capacity.

After Hanlon assumes the Dartmouth presidency on June 10, he will be expected to say something about the college’s attempts to address racism, homophobia and sexual assault. Most of us will assume he was consulted about the decision to charge the students who bravely called attention to those problems by not complying with a college directive on room capacity. It may be difficult to take the new president altogether seriously on these subjects.

William Nichols

West Lebanon