Dartmouth commencement marks end to trying, tumultuous year

Dartmouth President Sian Leah Beilock addresses the crowd during her inauguration in Hanover, N.H., on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. Beilock is the first woman to hold the college’s highest office. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Dartmouth President Sian Leah Beilock addresses the crowd during her inauguration in Hanover, N.H., on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. Beilock is the first woman to hold the college’s highest office. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

Dartmouth College student Maya Beauvineau, continues to sing a protest song she was leading when New Hampshire State Police in riot gear arrested her in Hanover, N.H., on Wednesday, May 1, 2024. Beauvineau was participating in a protest of the Israel-Hamas War during which students set up tents on the College Green in violation of university policy. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Dartmouth College student Maya Beauvineau, continues to sing a protest song she was leading when New Hampshire State Police in riot gear arrested her in Hanover, N.H., on Wednesday, May 1, 2024. Beauvineau was participating in a protest of the Israel-Hamas War during which students set up tents on the College Green in violation of university policy. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

Kirsten Teevens hugs Dartmouth football player Nic Sani during a gathering of remembrance on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, in Hanover, N.H., for Teevens' husband and coach Buddy Teevens, who died on Sept. 19 from injuries sustained from a March bicycle crash. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Kirsten Teevens hugs Dartmouth football player Nic Sani during a gathering of remembrance on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, in Hanover, N.H., for Teevens' husband and coach Buddy Teevens, who died on Sept. 19 from injuries sustained from a March bicycle crash. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

Students and community members demanding Dartmouth College divest from companies connected to Israel in the midst of the Israel-Hamas War listen to a concert by Assistant Professor of Music César Alvarez after setting up an encampment on the Dartmouth College Green in Hanover, N.H., on Wednesday, May 1, 2024. The protest defied the university’s policies on use of the Green and 89 students, faculty and community members were arrested by New Hampshire State Police and the New Hampshire Special Operations Unit. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Students and community members demanding Dartmouth College divest from companies connected to Israel in the midst of the Israel-Hamas War listen to a concert by Assistant Professor of Music César Alvarez after setting up an encampment on the Dartmouth College Green in Hanover, N.H., on Wednesday, May 1, 2024. The protest defied the university’s policies on use of the Green and 89 students, faculty and community members were arrested by New Hampshire State Police and the New Hampshire Special Operations Unit. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

Dartmouth College President Sian Leah Beilock, left, takes a self portrait with six former surgeons general, current Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy, back right, and special guests before a panel discussion on the national mental health crisis at Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H., on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023. Two receptions followed the event, one for donors to the Geisel School of Medicine, and one for local educators and healthcare providers. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Dartmouth College President Sian Leah Beilock, left, takes a self portrait with six former surgeons general, current Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy, back right, and special guests before a panel discussion on the national mental health crisis at Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H., on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023. Two receptions followed the event, one for donors to the Geisel School of Medicine, and one for local educators and healthcare providers. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

From left, defense attorney Kira Kelley talks to her clients Dartmouth junior Roan Wade and freshman Kevin Engel at the conclusion of the first day of their trial for misdemeanor criminal trespassing at Lebanon District Court in Lebanon, N.H., on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024. The pair’s supporters filled the courtroom after participating in a demonstration in support of Palestine outside. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

From left, defense attorney Kira Kelley talks to her clients Dartmouth junior Roan Wade and freshman Kevin Engel at the conclusion of the first day of their trial for misdemeanor criminal trespassing at Lebanon District Court in Lebanon, N.H., on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024. The pair’s supporters filled the courtroom after participating in a demonstration in support of Palestine outside. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

Striking graduate student Ian Raphael calls out with other strikers on the Dartmouth Green on Wednesday, May 1, 2024, in Hanover, N.H. Members of UE Local 261 voted to reject Dartmouth's latest contract offer.  (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Striking graduate student Ian Raphael calls out with other strikers on the Dartmouth Green on Wednesday, May 1, 2024, in Hanover, N.H. Members of UE Local 261 voted to reject Dartmouth's latest contract offer. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

Dartmouth guard Romeo Myrthil, middle, forward Brandon Mitchell-Day, left, and forward Jackson Munro, right, break up from a huddle during a pause in play with Westfield at Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H., on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2023. Myrthil is one of three players the team chose to speak about their unionization effort. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Dartmouth guard Romeo Myrthil, middle, forward Brandon Mitchell-Day, left, and forward Jackson Munro, right, break up from a huddle during a pause in play with Westfield at Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H., on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2023. Myrthil is one of three players the team chose to speak about their unionization effort. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

Dartmouth College students and faculty follow yoga instructor Laura Beth

Dartmouth College students and faculty follow yoga instructor Laura Beth "LB" White, the assistant director of the Student Wellness Center, on the Baker Library lawn on Wednesday, Sept., 19, 2023, in Hanover, N.H. A camera crew, who had been following new Dartmouth president Sian Leah Beilock, captured a few minutes of the class. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

Dartmouth professor Bernard Avishai answers a question during a discussion about the war between Israel and Hamas held in the college's Filene Auditorium on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023 in Hanover, N.H. Faculty from the Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies Programs, Susannah Heschel, Ezzedine C. Fishere and Jonathan Smolin, were also on the panel. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Dartmouth professor Bernard Avishai answers a question during a discussion about the war between Israel and Hamas held in the college's Filene Auditorium on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023 in Hanover, N.H. Faculty from the Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies Programs, Susannah Heschel, Ezzedine C. Fishere and Jonathan Smolin, were also on the panel. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

New Hampshire State Police wearing riot gear gather before crossing Dartmouth College Green to remove protesters who set up tents to protest of the Israel-Hamas War in Hanover, N.H., on Wednesday, May 1, 2024. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

New Hampshire State Police wearing riot gear gather before crossing Dartmouth College Green to remove protesters who set up tents to protest of the Israel-Hamas War in Hanover, N.H., on Wednesday, May 1, 2024. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

From left, Dartmouth students Roan Wade, Solange Acosta Rodriguez and Aurora Wackford embrace during an “Endowment is Political” rally on Baker Lawn in Hanover, N.H., on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. Acosta Rodriguez, a senior, gave a speech recounting her experience being arrested on the green on May 1 and said that it has tainted her experience at Dartmouth, which she otherwise has cherished. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

From left, Dartmouth students Roan Wade, Solange Acosta Rodriguez and Aurora Wackford embrace during an “Endowment is Political” rally on Baker Lawn in Hanover, N.H., on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. Acosta Rodriguez, a senior, gave a speech recounting her experience being arrested on the green on May 1 and said that it has tainted her experience at Dartmouth, which she otherwise has cherished. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

By CHRISTINA DOLAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 06-07-2024 7:40 PM

Modified: 06-11-2024 3:31 PM


HANOVER — An academic year that opened with the historic ascension of Dartmouth College’s first woman president is closing with the institution having made history of a different sort.

Amid vital initiatives such as expanding campus housing, shrinking the college’s carbon footprint and expanding financial aid for middle-class students, Sunday’s commencement arrives with a campus still grieving the loss of an icon, mired in labor disputes and deeply divided by the college administration’s response to pro-Palestinian demonstrations.

“The year began very optimistically with the beginning of the new president’s term,” longtime Dartmouth history professor Annelise Orleck said on Wednesday. But as interactions with the president and students deteriorated in the fall, “we began to get the sense that something was wrong,” she added.

As Dartmouth pursues its long-term goals for growth, research and diversity, a key question is how a campus that has been badly fractured for the first time in generations can be brought back together.

The first clue could come Sunday, when Sian Leah Beilock will give her first commencement address as Dartmouth president, and 14 graduating seniors will walk across the stage to receive diplomas from a college that just last month accused them of trespassing on their own campus and had them arrested.

Missing Buddy

Last September arrived, inconceivably to many, without beloved head coach Buddy Teevens at the helm of the Dartmouth Big Green football program. Teevens suffered catastrophic injuries in a March 2023 accident when he was struck by a pick-up truck while riding a bicycle in Florida.

Teevens, a Dartmouth alum with a national profile in football, was in many ways the charismatic face of the college. But only limited information about the extent of his injuries and the progress of his recovery had been made public in the months after his accident. So it came as something of a shock on Sept. 19 when news broke that Teevens, 66, had died, ushering in a season of grief on the Dartmouth campus.

Following the football team’s first home game on Sept. 23, roughly 1,000 mourners gathered on the Green to honor Teevens.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Hanover to temporarily close portion of Allen Street to vehicles
Young bear spotted relaxing on a hammock in a Vermont yard
Dollar store under construction in Royalton
Mother bear euthanized, cubs sent to rehab facility after close encounters in Bartlett, N.H.
Bike Week at Weirs Beach is for old leather and new friends
Protests of president punctuate rainy graduation for Dartmouth’s Class of ’24

“He took the time to get to know every one of us individually, which at some big programs and other (Division I) places the head coach isn’t going to do that,” sophomore wide receiver Grayson O’Bara said at the vigil. “I always knew I could go down and sit in his office and just have a conversation with him about life and he would always lead me in the right direction.”

Beilock’s agenda

Three days after Teevens’ death, the campus turned to celebrate the inauguration of its first woman president. Beilock, a cognitive scientist, former president of Barnard College and former executive vice provost at the University of Chicago, took the helm after the decade-long tenure of Philip Hanlon.

In her inaugural address, Beilock outlined bold initiatives in mental health care, climate sustainability, housing affordability and — foreshadowing events in ways that could not be foreseen —constructive campus discourse.

Plans for a five-story West Wheelock Street building that would include 290 beds are underway, and once completed, would alleviate some the strains on a housing market plagued by scarcity and high prices.

A proposal for a roughly 300-bed graduate student residential complex on Lyme Road has received the necessary permits from the Hanover Zoning Board of Adjustment and the college plans to go forward with that project in addition to the West Wheelock building.

This month, construction will begin on a geothermal exchange system that will move the campus away from dependence on fossil fuels and toward cleaner energy. The plan is part of Beilock’s push to achieve “Real Carbon Zero” on campus.

“That means we won’t buy offsets that come from halfway across the country or halfway across the globe to decarbonize our campus,” she said in her inauguration speech.

As students returned to campuses nationwide following the isolation imposed by COVID-19 precautions, a sharp increase in mental health needs became glaringly evident. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and all six of his living predecessors visited the Dartmouth campus in September for forums and events related to Beilock’s mental health and wellness initiative.

The college has increased its mental health counseling staff by 50% in recent years, and has made year round, 24/7 telehealth available to all students.

“The work began in 2020 and 2021, after we had a series of very tragic student deaths, and also a general awareness that mental health is increasingly a challenge for Dartmouth students,” Provist David Kotz said.

(This spring, Dartmouth hired its first chief wellness officer, Estevan Garcia, who is part of the administration’s leadership team.)

Perhaps the most widely-lauded bullet point from Beilock’s inaugural address was her plan to create and foster “brave spaces.” In her speech, Beilock said that meant a campus where “every member of our community not only feels comfortable expressing unpopular views but in questioning others who hold views they disagree with.”

The effort became particularly relevant after the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attacks on Israel and the Israeli military response in Gaza that followed, as colleges and universities nationwide faced criticism for the perceived mishandling of their responses to antisemitism.

Long in the habit of close academic collaboration, Dartmouth professors from the Middle Eastern and Jewish Studies programs joined to offer well-attended campus forums on Hamas and Gaza. The response garnered Dartmouth positive headlines and favorable coverage from the likes of NPR’s Weekend Edition and NBC Nightly News for an approach that seemed to strike a balance between candid conversation and civility.

But by the time U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visited campus in January to meet with students and administrators and celebrate the official launch of the Dartmouth Dialogues Initiative, the bloom was already off the rose.

While Beilock avoided the national scrutiny of some of her peers, any hope that Dartmouth could succeed where other campuses had failed began to dim last October. Two students — Kevin Engel and Roan Wade — were arrested for criminal trespass while peacefully protesting in a tent on the lawn outside Beilock’s office in Parkhurst Hall. Both students pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor.

The arrests and ongoing trials of Engel and Wade were a prelude of what was to come.

Testing and financial aid

In February, the college again was hailed as a national leader when the administration announced that it would reactivate the requirement that all applicants for admission submit SAT or ACT scores, a requirement that was suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kotz, the college’s provost, explained that although prospective students in poorly-resourced school districts often do score lower on standardized tests than their more privileged peers, “the key is to interpret that number” based on context. A student may, for example, have a score that is lower than the national average, but well above the average for that particular school district.

“We want to find those students and bring them to Dartmouth,” Kotz said.

And in March, the college received a gift of more than $150 million from Barbara and Glenn Britt that will make a Dartmouth education more affordable to middle-income families.

The income threshold for full assistance for an undergraduate was previously $65,000 per year, Kotz said in an interview Thursday. For a family making over $65,000, paying for college can be a struggle. “It’s a tough row to hoe,” for families of modest means, Kotz said, adding that the gift “is a big step forward,” in broadening the range of families eligible for financial assistance at the Ivy League school with a price tag of more than $85,000 this year.

Glenn Britt, who died in 2014 at age 65, graduated from Dartmouth in 1971 and the Tuck School of Business in 1972. He was a longtime chief executive officer of Time Warner Cable. The Britts’ gift will also allow Dartmouth to provide need-blind admission for international students.

“I’m really proud of that,” Kotz said.

Labor activism

Also in March, the men’s basketball players became the first college athletic team to unionize, voting 13-2 to join SEIU Local 560. The players want to be paid the same as other student dining service workers — roughly $20 an hour — and have access to better health care benefits.

The unionization effort has been strenuously opposed by Dartmouth officials, who maintain the players are not employees.

The college has said that it will refuse to bargain with the players’ union and has filed claims against the National Labor Relations Board ruling that cleared the way for the players’ vote, challenging its legitimacy.

The case likely is headed to federal court.

On May 1, graduate student members of the Dartmouth Graduate Organized Laborers (GOLD-UE) went on strike, taking to the Green with picket signs. Formed in April 2023, the union has been without a contract as negotiations with the college have been unsuccessful.

The unionized graduate students are demanding a cost of living adjustment in their stipends and access to more affordable health care.

“Dartmouth has an endowment of $8 billion. They can move heaven and earth to take care of their people, and we’re really frustrated that they refuse to do that,” said Logan Mann, a member of the students’ bargaining team.

“What we’re asking for is such a small fraction of what this institution is capable of doing,” said Mann, a third-year graduate student in the Thayer School of Engineering. “I think it’s an embarrassment that they’ve dug in their heels to this extent.”

A fateful night

As a wave of union activism swept over Hanover this spring, student activism surged nationally in response to Israel’s continued retaliation for the Oct. 7 attack, most calling their schools to divest from companies with ties to Israel. Columbia University in New York was a flashpoint in the latter half of April and protests spread to campuses around the country, with some resulting in physical altercations, vandalism and arrests, while others continued nonviolently for weeks.

On May 1, a pro-Palestinian group protesting the Israeli-Hamas war gathered in the late afternoon, holding signs, chanting and listening to speakers. Later that evening, protesters erected a small tent encampment, which was in violation of campus policy. When security officers asked the protesters to remove the tents, they refused.

Dartmouth’s administration responded decisively. Just before 9 p.m., in the glare of blue police lights, dozens of state law enforcement officers, dressed in riot gear, marched in unison across the campus Green. Before the night was over, 89 people were arrested, including 65 students and five staff members, for criminal trespass.

Orleck, the history professor, was knocked to the ground and handcuffed. The arrest of Orleck, 65, was captured on video, making national news and becoming the defining image of the college’s decision to respond to protesters with force. A former Upper Valley resident who was in Hanover visiting his elderly father, wasn’t part of the protest but had walked to the Green to see what was happening and left in handcuffs and with a broken shoulder. He was charged with criminal trespass and resisting arrest.

As a condition of their bail, the arrested Dartmouth students were banned from the Green and from entering Parkhurst Hall, the campus’ administrative building.

Beilock won praise in some quarters for holding a hard line on protesters, but many saw the arrests as an overreaction to a peaceful protest and a betrayal of Dartmouth’s commitment to fostering difficult dialogues.

A sense of inconsistency in the administration’s response to, and communication with, students followed the May 1 arrests.

Two student journalists were arrested while covering the event for the school newspaper, The Dartmouth. The college initially issued a statement saying that the student journalists should seek vindication through the legal process, but later reversed course, asking Hanover’s police prosecutor to drop the charges against them, which she did.

The college has been adamant, however, that it will not work with the prosecutor to keep the criminal cases against the two professors and the remaining students who were arrested out of court.

“They keep talking about healing and moving on while at the same time refusing to drop the charges. So they’re offering the students a weird disconnect.” Orleck said. “I don’t understand why they want to inflict this kind of damage.”

On May 15, undergraduates narrowly passed a no-confidence vote, 1,425-1,323, on Beilock’s leadership. About 60% of Dartmouth’s undergraduates participated in the vote.

Dartmouth’s leadership “only understands shows of brute force to deal with opposition, to deal with matters of free speech, and to deal with unions,” Mann said. “I think this is a deeply disruptive tendency, and I think that this administration needs to go.”

Admonishing her handling of pro-Palestinian campus protests, members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted 183-163 on May 20 to censure Beilock. The censure vote is a strong rebuke, but does not include calls for Beilock’s resignation.

A campus divided

Since May 7, a small group of students sitting on blankets beside a Palestinian flag has occupied what they call a “second brave space” on the lawn outside Baker Library.

“This is the real brave space on campus. It’s not some performative dialogue Beilock claims to have created. It’s this right here. People having real, hard conversations,” said Dartmouth senior Calvin George, a leader in the New Deal Coalition, a campus activist group that helped organize the May 1 demonstration.

The Dartmouth administration hasn’t done anything meaningful to heal the campus in the aftermath of the arrests, so the students have created the space to meet needs that the institution will not, George said.

“This has been a very healing space for a lot of people, especially those arrested on May 1, but really for a lot of people on campus, because it was scary. Even if you weren’t one of the people that arrested It was scary,” George said.

George isn’t persuaded by the administration’s claims that Dartmouth cannot get more involved with the judicial process.”It will take one phone call for the charges to be dropped,” he said.

Beilock will take the stage on Sunday with the full support of her bosses, the college’s trustees.

The governing board “supports the difficult decisions President Beilock made,” Chairperson Liz Lempres said by email Thursday. “The Board also recognizes that those decisions, as the president herself has acknowledged, caused real pain for many in the community.”

Beilock is mulling the creation of a trained de-escalation team as well as “considering whether Dartmouth should formally adopt a position of institutional neutrality,” Lempres said.

For Orleck, the path forward starts with the Beilock administration admitting it “shouldn’t have called riot police onto campus or ordered students to be arrested for violation of what was essentially college policies.” She is also urging the college to drop criminal proceedings against the students.

“Those are three very simple things that would take us a long way toward healing,” Orleck said.

Christina Dolan can be r eached at cdolan@vnews.com or 603-727-3208.

CORRECTION: Dr. Estevan Garcia became Dartmouth College's first chief health and wellness officer in March. Dartmouth College plans to   redevelop   a 1-acre property on West Wheelock Street in Hanover into a 290-bed apartment-style living space for students. A previous version of this story misspelled Garcia’s first name and misstated the number of residents the West Wheelock building would house.