Nearly 1,000 Dartmouth community members sign petition calling on College to dissociate from the Review

by Soleil Gaylord | 8/7/20 2:00am

5-14-19-parkhurst-michaellin
by Michael Lin / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

More than 950 Dartmouth students, alumni, faculty, employees and family members have signed a petition calling on Dartmouth to formally dissociate from the conservative student newspaper, The Dartmouth Review. The petition, first released on July 20, came in response to former Review staffer Blake Neff ’13’s resignation from Fox News after bigoted commentary he made on an anonymous forum was uncovered. 

The petition calls for the College to dissociate itself from the Review and to “hold student staffers accountable for their bigotry.” The petition also calls for the Review to remove “Dartmouth” from its name and brand. 

In response to the petition, the Review has stated that it is an independent news organization that has never been affiliated with the College, despite its use of Dartmouth’s name in its title. The Review also stated it does not stand by past editorships that published “objectionable” articles. 

According to Diana Whitney ’95, who helped organize the petition, when Neff's story initially broke on CNN, it was shared on the Women of Dartmouth Unofficial Facebook page and the outrage was immediately apparent. 

“There were hundreds of comments, people were appalled and disgusted by the blatant racism, and very quickly the conversation turned to the Review as a breeding ground of these racist ideas,” Whitney said. 

According to Whitney, Laura Tyson Li ’85 then had the idea to write a letter to Dartmouth leadership, specifically in light of the College’s open letter sent on July 1. This letter stated solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and eradicating systemic racism on campus.

“We thought, how can the senior leadership of Dartmouth, President Hanlon and the trustees write this letter to every member of the community, and then continue in silent complicity with a publication that since its inception has consistently been an incubator of racist hate and white supremacy?” Whitney said. 

Whitney said the Review has a long history of racism, and numerous protests against the Review have occurred. Whitney added that she is hopeful the petition will allow the College to revisit the issue. 

“We are expecting President Hanlon and the Board of Trustees to respond directly to our demands, and we haven’t heard anything yet,” Whitney said. “Dartmouth’s name being associated with this brand of racism is actually defaming Dartmouth.”

Adrienne Lotson ’82, former Alumni Council president and a signatory on the petition, said the Review has been controversial since its creation, a time when she was on campus as an undergraduate. 

“Dartmouth lost an opportunity in the 1980s when the Review was founded to make a firm standing on not using the Dartmouth name,” Lotson said. “People are always talking about free speech issues, this isn't a matter of shutting down the paper, this is a matter of not using the Dartmouth name.”

Even though the Review serves as an independent news organization, it interacts heavily with the Dartmouth student body. As a freshman, Tyson Li said she would often receive the Review’s most recent publication under her door and found some of the articles “pretty outrageous.” According to Tyson Li, the Review’s omnipresence on campus demonstrates the College’s “quiet tolerance” of the publication and its values. 

Lotson said the paper has a legacy of racism and bigotry from which the College should distance itself.

“This petition is about having the College distance itself to make a clear and definite statement that what the Review does is abhorrent to what the College is about and what the College stands for,” Lotson said. “Racism, sexism and homophobia are not a part of the Dartmouth Review — they are its DNA.” 

Lotson added the College should urge the Review to remove “Dartmouth” from its title. 

“What we are looking for is a bold, broad statement of the newspaper and the division it has sown at Dartmouth,” Lotson said.  

Review editor-in-chief Rachel Gambee ’21 said the petition calls out issues between the paper and the College that have already been solved, including the paper’s use of the weathervane in its logo. Gambee said the weathervane icon is the Review’s own.

“It is not an exact depiction of the weathervane — it is an artistic interpretation created by the staffers for our own use,” Gambee said. 

Gambee added that the Review has never had any formal affiliation with the College despite using Dartmouth’s name, and has remained true to its mission of remaining an independent news source.

“The extent of our relationship is just that the Review is staffed by Dartmouth students,” Gambee said. “Our use of the name or images that are generally associated with the College was all litigated in the early ’90s.”

Gambee also spoke on two of the Review’s more recent editorials, both mentioned within the petition as “insidiously racist pieces.” These include “On Moral Currency,” written by Review president Zachary Wang ’20, and “Bridging the Gap: On Affirmative Action” by Ethan Cai ’23.

“Zachary Wang is first-generation — his parents are from China,” Gambee said. “He wrote about growing up as the Asian child of immigrants on Long Island, and what it means to be a first-generation American and what it means to be Asian American.”

Gambee added that Cai, who is also a first-generation Asian American, wrote an article presenting a spectrum of arguments concerning affirmative action during the case being brought against Harvard University.

“I defend them wholeheartedly,” Gambee said. “They had absolutely no intent to race-bait or to fuel the flames of bigotry.” 

According to Gambee, older pieces mentioned in the petition, including Keeney Jones’ 1982 piece "Dis Sho Ain't No Jive, Bro" have been extensively condemned by the Review. 

“There are several articles cited in that petition, many of which are from the early ’80s,” Gambee said. “I totally understand the vitriol and the discontent associated with those pieces.”

She emphasized that the paper has addressed and seeks to correct its controversial history. 

“Current staffers are well aware that like any student organization, we have periods in our history that would never be published today, but we have come an enormous way,” Gambee said. “Our current staff are in no way representative of the editorships in the past that have run extremely controversial and objectionable content.” 

Considering its controversial history, Gambee added that the Review is proud of its current operation. 

“It is a very diverse community — we are so proud of this diversity because it reflects a positive change of culture in the paper,” Gambee said. “We are independent and we do retain the right to criticize the College or other student groups, but that doesn't mean we are trying to do that with malicious intent.”

As a representative of the Review, Gambee said she has personally condemned Neff. 

“His comments do not represent the Review at all,” Gambee said.

It is unclear whether the petition’s call on the College to dissociate from the Review will be realizable. College spokesperson Diana Lawrence wrote in an email statement that the Review is already “not a recognized student organization and receives no funding or support from Dartmouth.”

“All students, faculty, and staff enjoy the freedom to speak, write and listen, and are encouraged to challenge ideas, in pursuit of better learning and understanding,” Lawrence wrote. “However, bias or discrimination in any form — including racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia — are contrary to Dartmouth values.”

Advertise your student group in The Dartmouth for free!