Letter calls for Dartmouth to distance itself from conservative student newspaper


Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 07-28-2020 9:58 PM

HANOVER — More than 900 members of the Dartmouth College community are calling on the school to “dissociate itself” from The Dartmouth Review and to compel the conservative student newspaper to stop using Dartmouth in its name.

In a July 20 letter to the college’s leaders, the advocates point to Dartmouth’s statement issued earlier this month in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and say the time has come for the college to take this step in separating itself from the Review, which they say has a history of publishing racist, homophobic, misogynistic and antisemitic material.

“Dartmouth leadership has committed itself to the ‘urgent and overdue goal’ of ending oppression and racism,” the July 20 letter said. “At this time, we call on Dartmouth to decisively and publicly dissociate itself from the Dartmouth Review. ... We further demand that the College compel this publication to cease and desist from using the Dartmouth name as part of its brand.”

Both the college and the current editor of the Review said in emails this week that the Review is an independent student organization and not affiliated with the college administration.

The Review is not a recognized student organization and receives no funding or support from Dartmouth, and the views expressed there “do not represent the views of the College,” Dartmouth spokeswoman Diana Lawrence said via email. At the same time, Lawrence said the college is committed “to free speech and open inquiry.”

“All students, faculty, and staff enjoy the freedom to speak, write, and listen, and are encouraged to challenge ideas, in pursuit of better learning and understanding; however, bias or discrimination in any form — including racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia — are contrary to Dartmouth values,” she said.

Rachel Gambee, the Review’s current editor in chief who is a rising senior at Dartmouth, said in a Tuesday email that the Review has “no intent to change our present operational practices, nor will we be intimidated by those who seek to criticize our organization with only a superficial understanding of it.”

She also said that history can’t be changed, but the paper has evolved since its early days.

“We can only commit to learning from our mistakes,” Gambee said. “We are proud of our present organization — one which the supporters of this petition appear to have no knowledge of.”

Founded in Dartmouth English professor Jeffrey Hart’s living room in 1980, the Review became one of the most prominent conservative outlets on college campuses.

Hart, a former Nixon speechwriter who died in 2019, was a key adviser, and Dartmouth students who wrote for the Review include writer Dinesh D’Souza, Fox News talk-show host Laura Ingraham, and the late Joseph Rago, who won a Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing at the Wall Street Journal in 2011, just six years after graduating from Dartmouth.

In the July 20 letter, the Review’s critics point to articles such as “Dis Sho Ain’t No Jive, Bro” published in 1982, which is written in Ebonics, or African American vernacular English, by a white student to discuss affirmative action from the point of view of a Black student as evidence of the publication’s flaunting of the college’s mission to embrace diversity and build a community of mutual respect.

Other examples include “bullying” of closeted gay students in the 1980s by recording and publishing a transcript of what had been advertised as an anonymous meeting to discuss sexuality and coming out, the letter said, and portraying then-Dartmouth President James Freedman as Hitler and accusing him of engineering a “final solution” for the college.

The letter also described several more recent Review articles as “insidiously racist,” including two from earlier this year.

In “On Moral Currency” published in February, Zachary Wang argues that the term “racist” is overused.

In another article from January, the author describes arguments for and against affirmative action.

Gambee, in her email, defended the two recent articles, saying they were both written by first-generation Asian-American students who were commenting on their experiences as members of a racial minority.

“The Review is greatly saddened that this petition seeks to silence and delegitimize their voices,” Gambee said.

She also said that the Review welcomes criticism of its current and past work, noting that “current editors have gone on the record condemning some of these past pieces and, most recently, the heinous comments made by former contributor Blake Neff.”

Neff, whom the critics named in their letter, is a 2013 Dartmouth graduate and recently lost his job writing for Tucker Carlson on Fox News after it was reported that he had been tweeting racist and misogynistic comments for years.

Bill Cole was a professor in the Dartmouth music department from 1974 to 1990, when he said he resigned after being targeted by the Review.

Cole, who is now 82 and lives in Thetford, said it took him 15 years to find another teaching job after he left Dartmouth.

“It was rough; mostly psychologically,” he said.

Based on a letter Black faculty members and others sent to Dartmouth leadership earlier this month, Cole said, “I don’t see anything has changed.”

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.