Verbum Ultimum: A Productive First Step

by The Dartmouth Editorial Board | 4/25/13 10:00pm

At the close of one of the most tumultuous weeks on campus in recent memory, we would like to reflect on what has transpired and articulate our hopes for the future. The decision to cancel classes on Wednesday was indeed a momentous one, and we are proud that students, faculty, staff and administrators came out in great numbers to reaffirm the values of our community. However, we remain skeptical of the administration's motives for the suspension of academic activity and are determined to see continued efforts by the College to keep Wednesday's conversations moving forward.

While the administration couched Wednesday's events in terms of responding to dangerous and deplorable threats made against members of our student body, we are forced to wonder how much of the day's programming was designed simply to save face. As the protest and its aftermath begin attracting national attention, choosing to cancel classes appears logical from a public relations perspective indeed, the decision was characterized by Bloomberg as an effort by the College to "repair its image." This development is potentially problematic, as it means that the administration may be tempted to spend more time focussed on winning the public relations war than addressing issues directly affecting students.

To the extent that the cancellation of Wednesday's classes provided an opportunity for education that we do not normally receive in our coursework, the day's events were a productive first step in what must remain an ongoing discussion. We commend the individuals who participated in the listening and reflection that will be essential to sustaining a healthier campus climate. Yet the College remains mum on any larger plans to ensure that our community does not forget these lessons by the middle of next week or the end of spring term. A true transformation in campus culture can only come from the student body, but the administration must be there to structure and facilitate this change. We are disappointed by the absence of focus on this crucial piece of the puzzle and worry that the challenge of national media coverage will only distract the administration from its duty to students. We would be better served by an administration that spends less time worrying about the vicissitudes of popular opinion of the College and more time providing effective solutions to obvious issues. Actual solutions to these problems will go farther than even the most adroit public relations management.

More importantly, we also fear that the campus climate might simply revert to the status quo now that Wednesday's events are over. While Dartmouth is a great institution, problems such as sexual assault and bigotry are both very real and very serious. We students all need to do our utmost to make this College a safe and welcoming place to all community members. Let us make sure that we do not stop pursuing this goal simply because this week is over.

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