Campus responds to racist emails

by Wally Joe Cook | 2/22/19 3:15am

Student Assembly has put forth a proposal to reform Dartmouth’s response to bias incidents, following backlash surrounding the College’s handling of a series of racist and sexually explicit emails sent to Dartmouth community members and campus. In a resolution emailed to campus on Feb. 14, Student Assembly called for the College to implement a more efficient and transparent system for responding to bias incidents, and SA leadership met with administrators on Feb. 20 to discuss the system for reporting bias incidents.

“An insufficient reaction has been made by the administration, Residential Life and the Department of Safety and Security to further prevent intolerant individuals from acting against the wellbeing and unity of the Dartmouth community,” the resolution read. “The college will prioritize investigating these harmful actions by instituting a more effective response system in order to offer resolution within two weeks of the first report and a network of care to support students by informing them of the progress of the on-going investigations and offering further assistance.”

“We wanted students to really know that we had their backs,” Student Assembly vice president Nicole Knape ’19 said. “We wanted to start working with the administration immediately and be able to construct something that could improve the process of reporting bias on this campus.”

Student Assembly president Monik Walters ’19 said that she first informed President Phil Hanlon of one of the racist emails on Dec. 10, and that Hanlon advised the recipient to talk with Safety and Security.

“There was a lack of judicial action made apparent to [the recipients],” she added.

Walters said she believes that the IT department sent an email addressing the issue on Feb. 11 because Student Assembly held a meeting on the topic that morning.

“They didn’t feel like SNS or IT were updating them adequately,” Knape said. “They would receive automated responses saying that their case was under review. It felt impersonal to them, so [Waters] and I want to work with the administration to come up with a more personal, more supportive network that is initiated once a student reports bias.”

She said she thinks the website is poorly built and does not give students information about how the investigations are conducted. In the meeting, they agreed on changes including updating the website and coming up with a support network to reach out to people and make sure they are okay.

“We pointed out many flaws that they do have in their bias reporting process,” Knape said. “They did recognize that they could iron some of these details out with us, which we are going to be doing this week.”

Walters said that they will publish an action plan on Friday. She also discussed the campus climate surrounding the emails.

“I think there were some people who were completely outraged by this, but when I heard this incident, it sounded normal for me because I’ve heard about a lot of these incidents on campus,” Walters said. “For me it’s indicative of an undertone that may be inherent in the institution and its history.”

Joelle Park ’19, a YouTuber with over 6,000 followers, used social media to discuss the issue.

“This has been going on for several months now and it has affected people who I know personally and really care about and I want you to be aware that this is happening,” Park said in an Instagram story. “If you see or know anyone who is doing this, please just make them stop.”

In an interview with The Dartmouth, Park said that she first became aware of the emails when her friend received one over winter break.

“Being someone that often endorses Dartmouth and often tries to give people an inside look at my personal experience at Dartmouth, I felt obligated in a way to share about the totality of the experience,” she said. “I felt like it was something that people needed to be aware was happening on campus.”

Park said that email recipients reached out to her after she posted her Instagram story to talk about the issue. She said that some of them contacted the administration about the emails.

“It felt like the administration hadn’t done anything,” Park added. “I get that there are definitely barriers to the administration doing things, but I felt like it was getting pandered off to whoever. People would refer you to the next person or the next office and everyone is sitting there unsure what to do next, which led to a lot of inaction.”

Park added that the College should confront the issue of the emails by taking action similarly to how it has in the past. She cited the College’s handling of a graffiti incident at Kappa Delta Epsilon sorority as an example.

“I’d like to see something material out of this,” she said. “It is completely absurd for someone to feel unsafe and like they’re being targeted and watched on campus, just waiting for another creepy anonymous email to slide in their Blitz.”

Park also discussed the administration’s reaction to the emails.

“I think the bigger issue almost is the administration’s reaction. I think the administration has a really good opportunity to really start to enforce the type of Dartmouth that they would like to see, which is one that’s inclusive and safe for people,” she said. “If the administration were to just stand silent and let this happen, I think for sure that means we have a way bigger issue.”