President Sian Leah Beilock released an email statement Saturday morning defending the arrest of two Sunrise students the preceding night. She argued that these students threatened “physical action” that “must be considered a threat of violence” and that the arrests were necessary to maintain the “physical safety of all those who call our campus home.” This is a false justification for the College’s true motivations: Squashing our right to peacefully protest. The College's attempt to propagandize these peaceful demonstrators as violent individuals is a deliberate smear campaign to manipulate the student body, isolate and shame the individuals arrested and weaken support for the Dartmouth New Deal.
The administration’s accusation that the demonstrators threatened violence is a lie. Beilock cited a decontextualized sentence from the Dartmouth New Deal as justification for the arrests. But video documentation demonstrates that police arrested students for criminal trespass — for sitting peacefully in a tent on Parkhurst lawn — not for criminal threatening. The College’s concern about violent “physical action” was not expressed to protestors before the arrest. In fact, Dean of the College Scott Brown threatened protestors with arrest and expulsion for trespassing before ever receiving a print copy of the New Deal, and he never cited “physical action.” President Beilock’s statement dangerously misrepresents the intentions of nonviolent protesters and seeks to retroactively manufacture an excuse for Dartmouth’s purposeful crackdown on student protest.
The sentence Beilock criticizes quotes the 2014 Freedom Budget, written by then-students for social justice: “If the Dartmouth administration does not respond by the indicated time, those who believe in freedom will be forced into physical action.” We clarify that physical action encompasses a wide array of nonviolent civil disobedience, from sit-ins during the Civil Rights movement to the shantytown students constructed to highlight Dartmouth’s investment in South African Apartheid. Sitting in a tent is physical action. Hosting vigils for community mourning is physical action.
The College must recognize that “physical action” is not synonymous with violence and our right to free speech protects nonviolent civil disobedience. At no point have we, or will we, advocate violence — Sunrise Movement’s 9th Principle reads, “We oppose state violence with nonviolent action.” Both protestors repeatedly said aloud they would not get into any physical altercations and complied with the officers. But rather than defending the right to free expression or working through school processes, Dartmouth called upon state force after mere hours of protest. This is a blatant tactic to frame all civil disobedience as violent and punish free expression.
We repeat: The College’s attempt to propagandize these peaceful demonstrators as violent individuals is a deliberate smear campaign to manipulate the student body, isolate and shame the individuals arrested and weaken support for the Dartmouth New Deal. Beilock’s misleading statement demonstrates that she is uninterested in working with students in good faith. Dartmouth’s use of force against peaceful students sets a dangerous precedent for the repression of free expression on campus. This precedent will continue if students stay silent.
All students and community members must call out Beilock’s manipulative tactics. They threaten the foundation of the liberal arts education and academic integrity which we come to Dartmouth for. All of us, regardless of political perspective, must stand for students’ right to free speech, expression and civil protest. We compel readers to email or call the College to demand an immediate public apology for these arrests and President Beilock’s false justification.
We encourage all students and interested parties to read the Dartmouth New Deal document and see the true aims of the student protesters firsthand.
Roan V. Wade ’25 is hub coordinator and Kevin Engel ’27 is secretary at Sunrise Movement at Dartmouth. They submitted this guest column on behalf of Sunrise Movement at Dartmouth. Opinion articles represent the views of their author(s), which are not necessarily those of The Dartmouth.
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