Hundreds converge on Dartmouth Hall for rally

by Allie Lowe | 11/30/06 6:00am

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A Safety and Security officer waits in front of Parkhurst Hall on Wednesday afternoon while scores of students rallied at nearby Dartmouth Hall in an event named
by Kevin Garland / The Dartmouth
WEB UPDATE, November 30, 3:30 a.m.

Several hundred students, staff and faculty members gathered outside Dartmouth Hall for a "Solidarity Against Hatred" rally on Wednesday afternoon. The event, which was planned in response to a recent issue of The Dartmouth Review, featured speeches from campus administrators and students addressing this and other offensive incidents on campus as well as the broader themes of diversity and community at Dartmouth.

The Nov. 28 cover of The Review featured the title "The Natives are Getting Restless!" and an image of a Native American holding up a scalp, which spurred an impromptu meeting Tuesday night of about 200 students to plan the rally. Students said the event was also a response to other offensive acts against Native American students and a Nov. 27 episode in which three non-students drove through campus shouting racial slurs at black undergraduates.

"My Dartmouth, our Dartmouth, is one that condemns the deliberate mean spiritedness that was demonstrated in the publication released yesterday," College President James Wright said at the rally in reference to The Review.

Wright, Acting Dean of the College Dan Nelson, Dean of the Faculty Carol Folt, Director of the Native American Program Michael Hanitchak and other College administrators denounced racism at the event and encouraged students to make Dartmouth more accepting of different cultures.

"Dartmouth will be what we make it," Wright said. "What sort of Dartmouth do we wish it to be?"

Many students, at the urging of event organizers, wore green Dartmouth clothing and carried umbrellas to symbolize solidarity and unification.

Several students also spoke at the event, which was emceed by Jamal Brown '08 and Soralee Ayvar '07. Many of these speeches focused on taking action against racist incidents as a united campus.

"We are all connected. Those problems of any individual are your problem as long as you are at Dartmouth College," said Robert Cheeks '07, president of the Afro-American Society.

Wednesday's rally recalled a similar event on Oct. 5, 1990 named "Dartmouth United Against Hate," which was organized after an excerpt from Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf was printed in The Review's credo. Though the editors of The Review apologized for this event, which they attributed to sabotage, discontent over this and other issues of campus racism led an estimated 2,500 students and staff members to congregate on the Green. Just as Wright did at Wednesday's rally, College President James Freedman did not mention The Review by name in his speech at the 1990 event.

Wright said that one of the factors that distinguished Wednesday's gathering from the 1990 rally was the overall tone of the event, noting that it was characterized by a "coming together and an affirmation of the positive values of Dartmouth."

"[At the 1990 rally] there was more outward directed anger," Wright said. "There was a warmer sense [Wednesday]."

Nelson similarly praised Wednesday's event for its supportive atmosphere.

"I felt a deep sense of appreciation for the students who organized [the rally], for the way they organized it [and] for the way they made it a positive occasion for building community," he said.

"The real message," Nelson said, "was that the real Dartmouth is based on traditions of respect and civility and interest and appreciation for the wonderful contribution that diversity makes to our education and our lives here and that behaviors that threaten that are ... inconsistent with our values."

Dan Linsalata '07, editor-in-chief of The Review, told The Dartmouth he was unavailable for comment on Wednesday. In an interview with the Associated Press, he said that The Review's cover image responded to "the overdramatic reaction to events this term."

Other members of The Review said they were not permitted to speak to the press at this time.

At the rally, several speakers addressed Dartmouth's history of racial problems, pointing to a history of intolerance at the College. In an interview with The Dartmouth, Wright noted that problems with the Native American community are "ongoing to some extent."

Native American issues "do flare up and I wish I knew why," he said.

Wright pointed to a tendency in American history to be comfortable stereotyping and caricaturing Native Americans as one possible reason for the continued problem.

"[There is a] long tradition of reducing the richness and complexities of Native American life to a few simple caricatures that don't allow us to recognize the real Native American students and people who are in our midst, and that's the real tragedy," he said.

Wright said that although he found The Review's depiction of Native Americans offensive, the administration will not take any action against the publication.

"I don't think it's the job of publications to write things that I approve of," he said.

Echoing the content of his campus wide BlitzMail message before Thanksgiving, however, Wright said that free speech does not mean that publications cannot be criticized.

"Free speech is something that does not immunize you from being criticized or challenged for what it is that you say," he said. "I feel quite free to speak out if I want to challenge something and I would like to encourage other people to speak out if they would like to challenge something."

At the rally, Sam Kohn '09, on behalf of the Native Americans at Dartmouth, called on the College to act on the "College Code of Conduct," which he suggested could allow for disciplinary action against members of The Review.

Lizzy Hennessey '09, who attended both the rally and Tuesday night's meeting in Carson, said that she has been concerned with the campus racial dynamic this term.

"[The issue of The Review] just put me over the edge," she said.

Hennessey, a Hanover resident whose parents both graduated from Dartmouth in the mid-1970s, said that after reading The Review last night she called her mom to inform her of the controversy.

"She couldn't believe that this was still going on," Hennessey said.

Maria Maldonado '08, however, who did not attend the rally, questioned the lasting impact of the event.

"I don't really think demonstrations are necessary," she said. "I don't think they do anything in the long term. They're not like initiatives or plans."

Maldonado pointed to recent discussion programs such as Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity's Monday forum on minority issues as examples of more productive solutions to campus racism.

At the end of the rally, students were asked to read the "Standing Up" petition, which was created in the wake of the Nov. 20 ad in The Dartmouth from the Native American Council and calls upon students to end incidents of prejudice at Dartmouth.

Brown also invited attendees to stay and mingle with each other after the event concluded.

"We're all here for the same cause," he said. "Let's find out ways to work together.