Instagram account shares anonymous stories from Black students

by Veronica Winham | 7/10/20 2:15am

The recently created Instagram account @blackatdartmouth has given Black students a platform to anonymously share their experiences at the College. 

According to the account’s description, the platform is for “Black alumni, faculty and students to share their stories and amplify their voices.” With over 2,200 followers, the account posts short quotes from Black students detailing interactions with classmates and professors. The stories come from a variety of social spaces on campus, from athletic teams to Greek organizations and senior societies.

“I think the academic [stories] are really important, but I just think the social [stories] are more indicative of campus culture,” Leeza Petrov ’22, who follows the account, said. “Having specific stories does make it more concrete, even if you don’t get to put a name to a face or a face to an event.”

According to the account administrator who has asked to remain anonymous, there have been a couple of comments questioning the validity of some stories shared on the account. They said for the most part, however, Dartmouth students have been engaging positively and thoughtfully with the account. 

“I have had some non-Black students reach out to me and a lot of these stories are so crazy to them ... they’re seeing things in a new light,” the administrator said. “[The] account would have been [received] a lot differently a few years ago ... people are more receptive and open now.”

The stories about social spaces range from microaggressions to overtly racist actions. One story shared by a female ’23 recounts a time in Gamma Delta Chi when she said a male student used her hair to dry off another student’s wet phone.

Many other posts on the account refer to incidents involving Black students’ hair. Grace Goodwin ’23, another student who follows the account, said this recurring theme surprised her.

“Those are the ones that stand out to me, because I’ve never experienced that or thought about that,” she said.

Multiple posts also talk about how the Hanover police have been called on Black students who fell asleep in dorm common spaces.

“An account like this brings awareness to the fact that while some people are having one Dartmouth experience, another group of people are having a completely different one,” said Samantha Carranza ’22, who follows the account.

While all posts are anonymous, some include a class year or gender. While Londyn Crenshaw ’22 has not submitted any stories herself, she said she thought it was important to protect anonymity, particularly at such a small school.

“It’s good for people to feel like they’re anonymous and they can say things without direct consequences,” Crenshaw said. 

As Crenshaw noted, consequences not only come from peers, but also faculty. A recent post on the Instagram page talks about how a Black student-athlete was not taken seriously by the College after coming forward about their racist teammate.

The account administrator of @blackatdartmouth also spoke about this specific incident. They said that now that the story is public rather than “a private internal issue,” the athletic team is having conversations with its coaches and members. 

“I hope that Dartmouth as an institution starts to look at the page more often too and understand their role ... to prevent or right wrongs,” the administrator said. “I hope that the page can continue to serve as a way for people to get action when they haven’t been able to in the past.”

Garrison Wade ’22 said the account was important in spreading awareness of inclusivity issues at the College that might otherwise be overlooked. 

“If you choose not to associate with Black people at Dartmouth, it can be very easy to think this campus is a safe haven,” Wade said. “Unless you hear about the one incident that reaches the masses, you can be trapped in a bubble.”

Current Dartmouth students are not the only ones coming forward on Instagram. Alumni are active on the account as well, Wade and Goodwin said. 

“It should be super telling to the College that this isn’t a recent problem, and this is a problem that clearly hasn’t been addressed well enough in the past, or at all,” Goodwin said. “The fact that it ranges from age and gender and all of those things is really telling about how much change there needs to be.”

Petrov said the account helps her reflect on her own Dartmouth experience and that she wants to see change in various campus groups.

“It’s really made me think a lot about what organizations at Dartmouth I’m a part of,” Petrov said. She added that the existence of the account helped her in “recognizing that Black voices at Dartmouth haven’t really been given a platform or given a spotlight.”

The Instagram page coincides with another popular social media platform at Dartmouth, Librex. 

“I think [the Instagram account] is important especially because, just with Librex and stuff, a lot of racist people have a platform, so why shouldn’t Black students have a platform?” Crenshaw said. 

The black@ account template is not unique to Dartmouth. Petrov and Goodwin both said their high schools have created similar accounts. Many colleges have done the same, with pages like @blackatcornell, @blackatharvardlaw, @blackatskidmore and @blackivysstories.

“This page is a continuation of other pages from other schools, so it’s interesting to see this is not just happening on our campus, this is happening nationwide,” Carranza said. 

Another feature of the Instagram account is that students can personally engage with the testimonials despite being spread out across the world due to COVID-19. Instagram allows users to share posts to their own personal stories and many Dartmouth students have been responding to this feature by reposting @blackatdartmouth’s posts.

“I think the point of this account is giving Black people a platform to elevate their voice and it’s our responsibility, everyone else in the community, to uplift and elevate that voice,” Petrov said. “When I see these shares of these stories on people’s feeds, that’s so important to me to see these Black voices, whether they’re anonymous or not, spread through our community.”

The account administrator sees the future of the page as going in a variety of directions. They want the platform to give Dartmouth community members the space to use their voices anonymously and be empowered to share stories of any kind.

“I’m trying to think about how I can make this page not just about Black trauma, but also about Black success stories and achievements as well,” they said.