Kim: Organize Our Way Out
Students who seek to create a more just, kinder world should do so alongside the burgeoning student movements at Dartmouth.
This article is featured in the 2022 Freshman special issue.
There is a long history of Dartmouth students organizing for a peaceful, equitable world, from occupations of the Green against the College’s investments in South African apartheid to Indigenous protests in 1993 against Dartmouth’s support of Hydro-Quebec’s dams on Cree Land. This legacy has continued: Unionized dining worker students with the Student Worker Collective at Dartmouth have bargained for victories beyond universal sick pay and 1.5x pay increases, and coalitions of Black students under the Black Student Congress are confronting chronic underfunding and racism. If you are a student who believes in a better world and wants to be a part of shaping it, joining existing student organizations on campus is the best way to do so. Organizing creates student power, but also offers spaces of energy and hope for the future — spaces that can and must be continued by the energy of new students.
Scholar-revolutionary Angela Davis wrote: “I want to feel that there is an enormous community of human beings who share a vision of the future.” It is movements at Dartmouth that allow us to feel glimpses of that community, of that loving anger. As I enter my fourth year at Dartmouth, half my experience has felt a painted mess. From dual COVID-19 and monkeypox pandemics to everlasting economic precarity to hurtling toward environmental disaster, getting out of bed every morning becomes a Herculean task.
But organizing offers us new solutions, glimpses of possibility that suggest this does not have to be our future. Nothing has kept me going more than fellow students, here and across the world, who refuse a world defined by casual cruelty — students who, as a part of numerous and coalescing movements, organize against the prison-industrial complex to the exploitation of workers, from the Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign to the Youth Democratic Socialists of America’s Red Hot Summer program that taught hundreds of university students across the nation the foundations of youth labor environment. Organizing at Dartmouth connects you to these movements and to other students who fight the good fight.
It also shows us that we are our own best way out. When the beginning of the pandemic left students devastated and stranded financially and socially, there was outrage and hopelessness at the College’s response. To fulfill the intense demand on campus, The Dartmouth Student Union arose, creating a mutual aid fund that facilitated networks of care so students could afford to survive. But in doing so, it did more than that. It advocated for a future free from capital and its exploitation; as students, we do not receive the value that we give to the school, and all we have is each other. When students rushed back to campus as COVID-19 continued, it was the Student Worker Collective at Dartmouth that placed deep pressure onto the College to pay fair wages and give student workers sick pay.
But not only do these organizations offer students material wins, they are also vital ideological spaces for political discussion and learning, such as the DSU’s Freedom Schools on abolitionist justice in Miami and Dartmouth YDSA’s crash courses on Marx in relation to the strike wave. In learning about these international movements, and gaining the vocabulary to discuss them and what we can learn from them in Hanover, New Hampshire, we develop the ability to connect these movements to our own struggles and experiences. Learning, for example, about how past students organized against mass death and economic exploitation allowed me to connect my current work, from SWCD to Korean militarism, to international movements.
I do not write to prove that crises exist, but to recognize that they do, and we can dream of more. I, and others, implore students coming into Dartmouth, or even existing students who want to get involved but feel unsure, lost or cynical, to join a burgeoning student movement — to refuse passivity, and find joy and love in what is possible. Angela Davis finishes her quote with this: “So let me conclude now with a simple, final message that is really a plea. Please get involved. Please try to make a difference. Please try to turn this country, and the world, around.” Folks here welcome you with open arms when you do, and it is a choice that makes your time here infinitely more transformative than you could imagine.