Verbum Ultimum: Changing Channels

by The Dartmouth Editorial Board | 2/27/14 6:04pm

What does it say when a list of proposals for reforming Dartmouth’s culture is anonymously emailed to campus at 2 a.m.?

What does it say, that at our College, students feel that to be heard they must set a deadline for an administrative response and threaten “physical action”?

Our channels of communication are clearly broken. Publicity stunts and anonymous comments have replaced constructive dialogue.

If the College is to move forward, clear, open channels of communication must exist and be accessible to all.

Students are resorting to extreme measures to enact change.

Why not? It seems to work. Students and administrators respond.

But these responses shouldn’t be motivated by fear or a desire to fix the College’s shaky public image.

Functioning, publicized institutional mechanisms for communication between students, faculty and staff should flourish, not flounder.

What has happened to these systems at the College?

Student Assembly’s current administration inherited a broken system, a fact that its members have openly addressed. Other campus groups that communicate with administrators operate behind a veil of secrecy. This is unproductive for bettering the campus climate.

We have reason, however, to be hopeful.

We are encouraged that the President’s Office emailed campus about the Office for Civil Rights investigators’ recent visit to the College. Improve Dartmouth, a new online forum, appears to be establishing itself as a constructive venue for communication between students and administrators.

These are promising steps toward transparency and collaboration.

On Monday, the students who drafted the “Freedom Budget” requested that administrators respond in these pages by March 24. These same students, however, are quick to restrict press access and declare public events off the record. If student activists demand public administrative accountability, for which we too advocate, they must abide by the same standards.

We acknowledge that publicly expressing one’s opinions can come at a cost. Last spring, students who protested the Dimensions show were met with vicious threats, and we understand that there are times in which anonymity can preserve physical safety.

It is appalling that this risk exists. Students deserve the right to voice their opinions publicly without fear of retribution. Student views shouldn’t be confined to Bored at Baker. This anonymous forum contributes to the problem, serving as a campus cesspool for hatemongering.

A culture of anonymity has produced a frightening environment. We have entered an endless loop in which only the most public and extreme calls to action, with or without names attached, receive any response.

The publication of the “Freedom Budget” indicates that more than ever, students deserve working outlets for vibrant debate and open channels for communication.

We need administrators to candidly discuss their plans for the College’s future on the record, and we need students to stand by their words.