A guide to the College’s recent diversity and inclusion efforts

A comprehensive profile of Dartmouth’s recent initiatives around diversity and inclusion.

by Daniel Modesto | 6/12/21 4:30am

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The Native American studies program, located in Sherman House, will ascend to department status this summer. 

by Darren Gu / The Dartmouth

This article is featured in the 2021 Commencement special issue.

In the last year, Dartmouth has reckoned with diversity and inclusion both inside and outside the classroom. From an open letter demanding that Dartmouth address structural racism to a recent petition to create an Asian American studies program, the College has been under increased pressure to take action on issues of racial justice. In January, the College announced a number of initiatives to foster institutionalized support of diversity, equity and inclusion. Despite Dartmouth’s efforts, many students and faculty continue to feel that the College hasn’t done enough.

Last summer, following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, protests for racial justics took place worldwide, including in Hanover. Although College President Phil Hanlon released an email statement on May 31 denouncing structural racism, hundreds of Black faculty, staff and students signed on to an open letter on July 14 criticizing College President Phil Hanlon’s messaging, which they argued did not adequately address institutional racism at Dartmouth. That same day, the College appointed history professor Matthew Delmont as a special advisor to Hanlon on diversity, equity and inclusion within the faculty.  

According to Delmont, part of his responsibility is to develop programs that support diversity and inclusivity at the College. He said that one of the “biggest things” that he worked on in the past year was securing the $20 million grant to the E.E. Just Program, which provides networking and internship opportunities to underrepresented minority students in STEM disciplines.

“These are things that the College has been working on for a number of years,” he said. “They're things that the College wants to renew with emphasis, and they're going to, so part of my role was to offer suggestions and feedback on how the College can do better.”

In early 2021, the College announced several initiatives to support faculty of color. Among these was a push for more representative hiring practices, which aim to make it easier to hire and retain faculty of color. According to Delmont, conversations around diversity and inclusion also encompass the creation of a more welcoming campus for faculty. He noted that Dartmouth should be a place where faculty should “feel like they belong.”

“That's not just a matter of numbers such as compositional diversity and how many [faculty of color] are here, but it's also what kind of policies and practices we have in place and how people are treated on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “That's what we’re really striving to change in terms of campus climate.”

Delmont noted that his position as special advisor is temporary and was only intended to last through the end of this academic year. He said that incoming senior vice president for institutional equity and diversity Shontay Delalue — current serving as vice president for institutional equity and diversity at Brown University — is the College’s “long term position” for addressing diversity and inclusivity at Dartmouth.

Delalue did not respond to requests for comment.

Despite the initiatives the College has announced in recent years to address diversity and inclusion, some student groups argue that it is not enough. According to Al-Nur president Ameena Razzaque ’21, the Muslim community is a “forgotten” community on campus. Being a Muslim student is “very isolating” because the College doesn’t adequately support the community, she said, adding that many Muslim students at Dartmouth face Islamophobia. 

As an example, Razzaque said that as a veiled Muslim woman, she has been at the end of comments from people who have assumed she is “oppressed.”  On one occasion, a woman at Starbucks remarked that she was “glad” that the U.S. had “saved” Razzaque.

“I think it can be really isolating constantly facing Islamophobia on and off campus — there's never an escape,” she said. “I think that it can be isolating, and the fact [is] that you don't feel supported or recognized by Dartmouth.”

Razzaque added that the Muslim community needs more accomodations, such as a larger prayer room and more halal-friendly options. Creating a more inclusive space for Muslim students, she said, “starts with visibility.”

“It starts with having a Halal station [at FOCO], it starts with having a bigger space [at the Tucker Center],” she said. “It starts with a lot of these conversations [about the Muslim community].”

Native Americans at Dartmouth co-presidents Erin Bunner ’22 and Mikaila Ng ’22 said they believe that Indigenous students aren’t supported or included by the administration. Bunner said that her experience — and that of most Native Americans at Dartmouth —  is feeling “othered” on campus.

“As a sociology [major], a lot of the time, I am the only Native student, and it's sort of a burden to always explain an entire history of Indigenous people every time I take a sociology class and we talk about inequality and ongoing settler colonialism,” Bunner said. “I think a lot of Native students are expected to serve [as explainers], in sociology and environmental studies, anthropology and all these other spaces where they're mostly dominated by non-Native or white students.”

Ng said she believes that while Dartmouth tries to acknowledge its history with Native Americans by doing land acknowledgements — statements declaring that someone or something is on land originally occupied by Indigenous people — she views them as “the bare minimum.”

“I think people just like doing it because it makes them look better,” Ng said. “It’s a very performative thing that would be better spent in actual action, such as Indigenous-led grassroots change movements, campaigns, businesses and education initiatives.”

Last summer, the College removed the weathervane atop Baker Tower due to concerns that it offensively portrayed Native Americans. Although both Bunner and Ng said that they were pleased the weathervane was removed, Bunner said it was “bittersweet” because Native American students have advocated for its removal “for decades,” and Ng thought it was a “small step.”

In March, the Native American studies program was promoted to a department and will be renamed the Native American and Indigenous studies department as of this summer. Both Bunner and Ng praised the decision.

While the Native American studies program will become a department, some other ethnic studies on campus face a lack of financial and institutional support on campus. A recent petition in March called for the institutionalization of an Asian American studies program. According to women’s, gender and sexuality studies professor Eng-Beng Lim, although members of the College have asked for the creation of an Asian American studies program for 20 years, “nobody has an answer” as to why the College has yet to acknowledge this desire for Asian American representation in the Dartmouth curriculum.

As director of the Consortium of Studies in Race, Migration and Sexuality, Lim said that RMS allows for students to think about critical ethnic studies as a “comparative, relational, decolonial, intersectional and queer method of understanding race, ethnicity, queerness, sexuality and gender.” He said that the focus on intersectionality makes space for students to study Asian American identity in the absence of an Asian American studies program.

“For two years, we [in RMS] have been engaged in all kinds of future research activities to promote this way of understanding race [and] ethnicity and to help create space for Asian American studies because of its absence on campus,” Lim said.

Lim said the lack of administrative support makes it difficult to create an Asian American studies program, and also highlighted what he described as a lack of Asian American professors.

“Until the College actually invests in Asian American professors, there will be no robust Asian American Studies curriculum,” he said. “It's almost like a chicken and egg question: How do you offer Asian American studies anything when we simply do not have institutional investment in this field?”

According to Delmont, it is important for the College to support ethnic studies because it will prepare students for “the kind of world that they’re entering” after graduation. He highlighted the $400,000 raised by the Class of 1982 in a recent fundraising effort to support the African and African American studies program, which he said will provide additional resources for faculty and student collaborations, additional research and the opportunity to bring visiting speakers that will help put Dartmouth “on the map more nationally” for African and African American studies.

Furthermore, Delmont said ethnic studies programs are important to generate a “sense of belonging” for minority students on campus. 

“I think that's why [ethnic studies] are an important term of the larger conversation about diversity and inclusivity,” he said. “The role that AAAS, NAS [and] [Latin American, Latino and Caribbean studies] play on campus is different from the role that the history department or economics department play [because] there’s a sense of student support and student belonging. That's really at the core of what those programs and departments do, and that’s why they’re so crucial.”

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