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The Dartmouth
June 19, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Students undertake hunger strike

Salas was one of 12 students who planned a 36-hour hunger strike to raise awareness and elicit a more vocal response from the College administration for the DREAM Act, he said. Organizers called off the strike which was scheduled to end on Tuesday morning at around 5:30 p.m. on Monday after College President Jim Yong Kim's Chief of Staff David Spalding sent an e-mail to organizer Irvin Gomez '14 assuring the students that Kim would make his already existing support for the Act more clear.

Gomez said he had sent an e-mail to Kim prior to the strike asking him to support the Act, but did not receive a reply. The participants decided to start the strike this week because the Act will be up for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on Nov. 29, he said.

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, which was first introduced in the U.S. Senate in August 2001, is a piece of legislation that would give high school students who immigrated to the United States as children the opportunity to earn permanent residency after serving two years in the military or completing two years at a four-year institution, according to Gomez.

"All the other Ivy League institutions have made some type of a public statement supporting [the DREAM Act]," Gomez said. "Dartmouth has not yet made a statement about whether they support or oppose it, and we wanted Dartmouth to take a stand."

Spalding said Kim is currently traveling "on College business" and is unable to respond directly to requests from the students. Although the organizers sent an e-mail to Kim last week, Kim was occupied with the College's reaccreditation process and overwhelmed with correspondence, Spalding said.

"President Kim strongly supports the DREAM Act," Spalding said in an interview with The Dartmouth. "Up until this afternoon, no one had clearly asked President Kim, as far as we can tell, what he thought about [it]. There was an e-mail sent from students to President Kim, I gather, although as far as I can tell, he still hasn't been able to find that e-mail."

Representatives from the Dean of the College Office monitored the status of the students and ensured that they were consuming enough liquids, according to Spalding.

"We certainly hope that in the future students will be somewhat more persistent in asking the president's position on something before the undertaking of a hunger strike to draw attention to it," Spalding said.

Students involved in the hunger strike said they felt it was successful in garnering the attention of both the administration and the campus. The group collected 180 signatures on its online petition and over 80 signatures on the Green, according to Gomez.

"A lot of people stopped by the Green," Gomez said. "They were able to learn more about [the DREAM Act] because [many students] did not know a lot about it. And I think we achieved our goal, which was to raise awareness."

Fellow students also showed support for the strikers by providing them with means to stay warm on the Green, according to Salas.

"People who we don't know have stopped by to give us jackets and sleeping bags," Salas said during the strike. "One guy just stopped by in the middle of the night with a stove to give us warm water. It's good to know there are people making sure that everything's all right."

August Oddleifson '13 said he signed the petition to show his support for the Act and the students' determination.

"Regardless of how effective it was, it really shows a great deal of passion and dedication for a cause that is rarely seen on this campus," Oddleifson said.

Royivia Ferguson '14, who spent Monday afternoon on the Green, said she received generally positive reactions, as well as courteous refusals to sign the petition.

"It was all very civil," Ferguson said.