Dartmouth Review booth evicted from Media Fair

by Richard Lazarus | 9/24/03 5:00am

"Ask questions quickly," said Alston Ramsay '04 to a group of freshmen at his table at Sunday's Media Organizations Fair in Collis Commonground. "We're going to be kicked out soon."

Ramsay was at the fair along with two other students to represent The Dartmouth Review, a conservative editorial publication. For about 10 minutes they spoke with students and gave out back copies of the Review from their table, which was equipped with a large wooden sign and a "Dartmouth Indian" T-shirt.

But Director of Student Activities Linda Kennedy, who organized the event, then warned the group, which her office did not invite to the fair, that if they did not leave within five minutes she would call the Department of Safety and Security to have them removed.

She and Ramsay spoke cordially for another ten minutes and the students declined to leave. Kennedy then followed through on her threat and contacted Safety and Security.

"The event is for recognized student organizations," Kennedy said as she waited behind Collis for the Safety and Security van to arrive. "I don't have anything profound to say about it. You just are or you aren't."

A short time later, Safety and Security Sergeant Rebel Roberts arrived alone to escort Ramsay and his colleagues, Katie Racicot '06 and Amanda Morris '06, out of Collis.

Roberts told Ramsay that the event was for organizations affiliated with the College and that as a group of individuals representing an organization independent from the College they would have to leave. If they stayed, they would be identified by name in the incident report, and if matters progressed, she would have to take it to the next level.

When Ramsay asked "just out of curiosity, what would the next level be?" Roberts answered "I think that should be pretty obvious."

Ramsay said he took this to mean Roberts would call the Hanover Police. But the group was not planning to put up a fight -- at 6:30 p.m., they left without incident.

The issue for Ramsay, as he explained, was whether the group was protected by Dartmouth's dedication to freedom of expression and dissent. However, the Review receives no financial support or recognition from the College, so another issue is when students are considered private individuals and when they are considered students.

Dartmouth General Counsel Bob Donin could not be reached yesterday for comment.

Kennedy pointed out that outside papers, like the Boston Globe or the Valley News, were also not invited to the fair. The Dartmouth, which leases office space from Dartmouth but also receives no assistance from the College, was also not invited to the event.

This was not the first time the Review has courted controversy. Recently, the paper supported the beleaguered Zeta Psi fraternity, which was derecognized in 2001 over a scandal over an internal publication touting its members' sexual exploits, by moving its offices to their physical plant.

When the College put door locks on dormitories last year, the publication got in to a dispute with the administration when they continued to deliver new issues of the Review to students' doors. That dispute reflected issues similar to those raised by the Review's presence at the fair.

Ramsay insisted his group did not come to the fair as a publicity stunt, saying "I would much more have sat and talked to freshmen for an hour than be escorted away and have an article written about it."

The media publications fair was the first of its kind. A recent upswing in the number of student publications on campus prompted a student committee to greatly expand student publications' office space in crowded Robinson Hall, which is the only building on campus occupied only by student organizations.

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