Student rally mourns Calif. Proposition 209

by Beth Duncan And Erik Tanouye | 11/21/96 6:00am

A group of students, faculty members and administrators, including Dean of the College Lee Pelton, denounced Proposition 209 to an audience that was at times as large as 200 people in front of the Collis Center yesterday.

The "speak out" started at noon after about 50 students conducted a mock funeral procession marching around the campus carrying a coffin that had "Here lies affirmative action" painted on its side before arriving in front of Collis.

A group calling itself the Dartmouth Coalition for Equal Access and Opportunity planned the event, which started with presentations by speakers followed by an open microphone.

Pelton said he was speaking "as one who has proudly benefited from the American principle to act affirmatively."

"Proposition 209 is neither social nor is it just. It targets the most vulnerable people in our society," Pelton said.

"Dartmouth College's commitment to affirmative action, despite the forces of opposition elsewhere, is unswerving, clear and as rock solid as the granite that graces the New Hampshire hillside," Pelton said.

Unai Montes-Irueste '98 read an e-mail message from College President James Freedman who was out of town yesterday.

"I want to say, clearly and unambiguously, that Dartmouth is and will remain strongly committed to affirmative action in its hiring and to the pursuit of multifaceted diversity among its students," Freedman's message said.

Director of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Mary Childers told the gathering that students should celebrate being at a private institution with an administration that supports affirmative action.

Childers said the debate over affirmative action is a sign of the need for it.

Childers said the country's current affirmative action policy "was a cautious program from the beginning" and that it "is a minimal program."

Childers also explained that federally mandated affirmative action does not fall under the jurisdiction of Proposition 209.

But Proposition 209 will weaken and minimize government intervention in regards to affirmative action, Childers said.

Proposition 209 will make it harder to foster diversity, Childers said. "If people don't have access to education," she said, they will not be able to get jobs.

"This is not just about black and white," Childers said, "this is about all of us."

Although "there are complex issues that we shouldn't ignore about redistributive justice," she said. "The entire nation will lose out if we don't keep affirmative action."

Director of the Women's Resource Center Giavanna Munafo said the issue of affirmative action is not just about race but about gender and sexual orientation as well.

Munafo said she felt both the impulse to change people's behavior and to change people's hearts. "It's very important to change behavior," Munafo said.

Miranda Johnson '97, who helped organize the event said, "After 209 passed in California a large number of students here were outraged. We feared the ending of affirmative action would spread."

Johnson said Proposition 209 is much larger than most people realize and will affect affirmative action in education and unemployment.

"We thought it was really important that people at Dartmouth knew that this [passage of 209] happened and the repercussions it will have," she said.

The rally, "is also an opportunity to celebrate the diversity on campus and the progress we've made over the past 25 years," she said.