About 300 attend rally on Collis porch

by Brad Russo | 11/16/98 6:00am

A rally on the steps of the Collis Center Friday afternoon drew about 300 people for some portions and featured short speeches by President James Wright, Susan Wright and Acting Dean of the College Dan Nelson as well as students, professors and faculty members.

The "Speak Out Against the silence" event continued a week of activities designed to raise awareness of diversity issues on campus. Last week also saw a demonstration in Food Court dining hall Monday and a walk-out on the Green Wednesday.

After the rally, approximately 75 people formed a ring on the Green similar to the one formed as part of Wednesday's walk-out.

The events were organized as a response to recent incidents including a semi-formal dance co-sponsored by Chi Gamma Epsilon fraternity and Alpha Xi Delta sorority advertised as having a "ghetto" theme and "Yale Sucks" t-shirts sold during Homecoming which depicted a bulldog performing oral sex on a Native American.

The Dean of the College's Office and the Office of Student Life provided funding for the rally's promotional fliers and the beverages served outside Collis Friday afternoon.

Wright told the crowd he was pleased the event was organized but was disappointed that incidents warranted it.

"I wanted to be with you today because this is a special moment ... I so badly want to change the things that brought us together," Wright said. "It's necessary for all of us to learn from each other. Not to have to repeat this assembly in a year or two -- that should be our commitment."

Wright said the Dartmouth community should not yield to anger, despair or frustration when it is confronted with acts of racial intolerance but should instead actively work to end them.

Susan Wright also brought a positive message to the rally, saying she sees the College as a wonderful place which can fix any problems which may arise.

"Indeed I brag about you. Each and every one of you brings something special and different to Dartmouth," Susan Wright said. "Your proclivity to change makes this a vibrant community."

Acting Dean of the College and alum Dan Nelson said events like the Collis rally that work to increase tolerance on campus are the best aspects of the Dartmouth tradition.

"At times like this I have a variety of conflicting thoughts of being an alum ... and employee of the College," Nelson said. "But I couldn't work here ... if I were not an optimist and did not firmly believe there are more reasons for optimism and hope than pessimism and despair."

"You are claiming what is best about the Dartmouth tradition," Nelson said. "The authentic Dartmouth community has no room for bigotry and intolerance."

Nicole Vanatko '01, who began much of the "ghetto" discussion with a column in The Dartmouth, said the week's events were not an overreaction.

"Sometimes I look around and everything seems so perfect ... but it's not perfect, because people are hurting," Vanatko said.

She said she too was to blame for the Greek "ghetto" party.

"If people are going to look at the two houses that threw the party and say what a mistake, then look at me too," Vanatko said. "Just like the rest of you, I had midterms. I was too busy to think about what I was feeling."

Chi Gam brother Curran Stockwell '00 said he just realized the party idea was a mistake.

"I sat in my mostly white fraternity and didn't say anything about the 'ghetto' party. It wasn't until last night that I realized how wrong we were," Stockwell said. "If you feel something wrong is being done to someone else you have to say something."

A member of the Class of 1938 said he thinks past students of the College would also see something wrong with intolerant actions and would applaud the tolerance events of the past week.

"I live in Hanover, and I see you folks walking by ... I'm sure the alumni body would support and admire every single one of you."

The circle on the Green after the rally lasted about 10 minutes.

The Collis Center rally was organized by a group including Shauna Brown '99, Vanessa Ferro '00, Shaunda Miles '99, Janelle Ruley '00 and Rahsaan Sales '99.