Cantos: Let the Old Traditions Fail

Support the marginalized by rejecting the Homecoming bonfire.

by Jessica Cantos | 10/5/17 1:30am

As we approach Homecoming this weekend, it is important to reflect on who does and, more importantly, who does not feel at home at this school and in this country. Home, whether it is a physical place or a feeling, means something different for everyone. For alumni returning to campus, Homecoming represents an opportunity to relive traditions of their college days. For the administration, it represents an opportunity to raise large sums through alumni donations. These donations, generated by alumni nostalgia, depend on students’ active participation in the time-honored traditions that celebrate Dartmouth.

As the ’21s and the rest of the student body prepare for the tradition of running around the bonfire, we should take a step back and reflect on how students’ feelings of home have been affected by Dartmouth’s other traditions, including its legacy of racism, sexism, white supremacy and other forms of institutional violence against marginalized groups. Faculty of color at Dartmouth have been systematically driven out by institutional racism, especially within the tenure process. When white supremacist groups rioted on a college campus in Charlottesville, Dartmouth released absolutely no statements denouncing white supremacy or supporting our students of color. Many students incorrectly believe that the most egregious injustices are only committed by those in white Ku Klux Klan hoods, but our administration’s complacency within oppressive systems insidiously fuels the very structures that perpetrate this violence.

On Sept. 5, President Donald Trump’s administration rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive order enacted by former President Barack Obama administration in 2012. How does immigration status play into people’s perception of home? More specifically, how does Dartmouth’s response to such federal actions affect undocumented students’ ability to find a home on this campus? Although this school claims to support undocumented students, some of whom are on DACA and some whom are not, the administration’s responses fail to establish concrete actions to ensure protection. In the past year, College President Phil Hanlon has released two statements regarding DACA in which he has said that Dartmouth will do everything “within the bounds of the law” to help undocumented students on campus. What does this really mean? Is rescinding DACA not within the bounds of the law? Is deportation of students not within the bounds of the law? If the College wants to actively stand in solidarity with its undocumented students, Hanlon’s very first step should be to recognize that the law is unjust and cannot govern the school’s response to immigration issues. Legality is not morality.

In light of the College’s lack of concrete plans or protocols, I have collaborated with others to create a concrete plan that Dartmouth can use to support and protect undocumented students at Dartmouth. To start, the Office of Visa and Immigration Services, the Board of Trustees and the President’s Office must establish and disseminate school protocol for situations where students are given deportation notices on campus or on buses up to campus. No such plan exists currently, putting undocumented students in uncertain and stressful positions. Since such students would no longer be work-study eligible, the Office of Financial Aid must replace the student contribution of current DACA recipients with financial aid. Furthermore, the President’s Office and the Financial Planning and Budget Office must transparently provide legal fees for students and family members who are under threat of deportation. No matter what, Safety and Security as well as Hanover Police must refuse to comply without question, in any shape or form, with the demands of federal authorities like U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, including detainment requests. If the college administration is to put its money where its mouth is, they must make this campus a sanctuary campus by meeting these demands to truly support all students.

Participating in the tradition of Homecoming, one that celebrates Dartmouth’s legacy of colonialism, actively supports the administration’s violent negligence of the most vulnerable of our peers. We must not forget that we are celebrating Homecoming on stolen Abenaki land, a fact that the College continues to ignore while the administration claims this land as our home. For the administration, the encouragement of alumni participation in Homecoming traditions has never been a purely nostalgic act but rather a way to solicit donations. When the college fails to support all of its students, especially those whose lives are threatened by Trump's actions, it is all the more obscene to watch them profit from our presence here. When students actively disengage from these traditions, we disrupt the administration’s tactics of monetizing our participation. We take a stand against the privileged complacency of alumni and fellow students who blindly celebrate school pride while ignoring the harm this institution has committed and continues to perpetuate. Homecoming is an opportunity for us, current students, to express our disapproval for the administration’s inaction. First-years and other students, in an act of conscious protest, should therefore support our undocumented and other marginalized students by collectively rejecting the bonfire tradition. This Friday, refuse to run around the bonfire. For once, we should let the old traditions fail.

Cantos is a member of the Class of 2018 and the Inter-Community Council.

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