Discontent persists on campus as College rejects SA proposal, students grieve
In between vigils held on Friday and Tuesday, graffiti and banners criticizing the College’s mental health policies appeared on Parkhurst Hall, Baker-Berry Library and Webster Ave.
Graffiti was left on Parkhurst Hall — as well as at Webster Ave. in front of College President Phil Hanlon's house — that criticized the College's mental health policies.
On Monday evening, the College rejected a resolution from Student Assembly requesting the cancellation of Tuesday classes for all students and Wednesday academic obligations for members of the Class of 2024 to grieve the loss of four classmates since November. The legislation, titled “Resolution on Academic Accommodations for a Community in Mourning,” was sent to College President Phil Hanlon, Provost Joseph Helble and Dean of the Faculty Elizabeth Smith on Monday morning.
The resolution followed a student-organized vigil on Friday to mourn the death of Elizabeth Reimer ’24, who died at home in New York two days earlier. A photo obtained by The Dartmouth on the condition of anonymity showed that by early Saturday morning, a white banner had been hung on the side of Baker-Berry Library. In red and black letters, the messages “Dartmouth your students are dying,” “Do better please” and “Don’t abandon us” were painted across the banner, which has since been removed.
Reimer’s death is the fourth student death this academic year. The SA resolution attributed the deaths of Beau DuBray ’24, Connor Tiffany ’24 and Reimer to suicide. DuBray died by suicide and Lamees Kareem ’22 died of a “medical condition unrelated to COVID-19”; The Dartmouth has not confirmed the causes of death of Tiffany or Reimer.
In a written statement, College spokesperson Diana Lawrence said the College rejected the resolution because of “the negative impact” canceled classes would have on student learning “so close to the end of the term.” According to Lawrence, the resolution was given “prompt and thorough consideration.”
According to SA president Cait McGovern ’21, the approaching end of term is “exactly” why classes “needed to be canceled.”
“The College’s decision sends a message that the loss of four undergraduates in the span of six months does not warrant one day off to grieve,” McGovern said. “I think that’s an incredibly difficult message to swallow.”
“It’s really, really deeply disappointing to us that there wasn’t even a compromise to be had here, that there wasn’t any sort of really formalized accommodation for students who might feel uncomfortable asking for extensions or things like that,” SA vice president Jonathan Briffault ’21 said.
McGovern said she finds “hypocrisy” in the College’s decision to deny SA’s resolution.
“I think, as well, that it speaks to a larger pattern of the College telling students to be open about asking for help, to take the steps needed to get support — because they say, a quote from the email, ‘We’ll provide the support and resources needed to help students get through the term,’ — when we consistently see that they do not provide that support or those resources,” she said.
Responding to the College’s encouragement that professors should work to accommodate students’ academic needs on an individual basis, McGovern said that “students should not be put in that position where you have to stand there and explain why you need a day off to your professor.”
“[The College is] once again saying to [students], ‘It’s on you’ to know exactly what you need, at a time when students shouldn’t have to know exactly what they need,” Briffault added.
According to McGovern, Dean of the College Kathryn Lively supported the resolution, but wrote to members of SA that she did not “have sway” over this decision. McGovern said that associate dean for student life Eric Ramsey, who advises SA, was also “a supporter” of the resolution.
Lawrence did not respond to a question about who made the ultimate decision to reject the resolution.
Additional photos obtained on the condition of anonymity depict red graffiti painted at various locations around campus early on Tuesday morning, including the words “3 deaths too many” and “involuntary medical leave is cruel” on Hanlon’s driveway on Webster Ave. “Paint is impermanent. Loss of life is forever” appeared on both Hanlon’s driveway and on the steps of Parkhurst Hall, which houses the office of the president. Red paint was also splattered on the steps leading up to Parkhurst, including tracked footprints.
“Intentional damage to personal or College property is prohibited under the College’s standards of conduct,” Lawrence wrote. “Vandalism to College buildings and public property is reported to the Hanover police.”
At 5:21 a.m. on May 25, the Hanover police department received a call from Dartmouth Safety and Security reporting the graffiti, according to Hanover police chief Charlie Dennis. Dennis said that the Hanover police department did not have information that it was willing to release about potential suspects.
“[The graffiti] is under investigation at this point,” Dennis said. “We’ll see if we can gather some leads and information to help us solve the case.”
Dennis also noted that signs were found overlaying parking space signs on the side of Parkhurst “demanding meaningful change” and referencing “those that lost their lives this year.”
One such flyer, according to a photo obtained on condition of anonymity, demands that the College should not “just send [their] problems away,” referencing the College’s involuntary medical leave policy. The Dartmouth has not confirmed whether any of the students who died were put on involuntary medical leave.
The graffiti and signs have since been removed.
On Tuesday evening, the College held a vigil on the Green to “honor the losses of this past year.” Hundreds of students attended the vigil in what was likely the largest gathering of students since the start of the pandemic.
Kyle Mullins contributed reporting.