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The Dartmouth
May 26, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Week of student activism leads to tension with College administration, arrest of two undergraduates

For over a week, student protestors participated in a sit-in on Parkhurst lawn, which ended when two students were arrested on the night of Oct. 27 for criminal trespassing.

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On the night of Oct. 27, the arrest of two student protesters outside Parkhurst Hall for criminal trespassing charges capped off a period of tension between the Dartmouth administration and student protestors. The Dartmouth examined the events from Oct. 19 to Oct. 27 to see how tensions with the College administration mounted over the course of the week. 

On Oct. 19, a vigil was held for victims of the Israel-Hamas War by Al-Nur and the Palestine Solidarity Coalition. At the end of the vigil, students walked from Collis Center lawn to outside Parkhurst Hall, where they planted 100 black flags into the ground that each represented 300 lives lost — or 3,000 in total —  in the Israel-Palestine conflict over the years, according to The Dartmouth’s past coverage.

Immediately following the vigil, protestors began participating in a sit-in outside Parkhurst Hall. The sit-in sought to bring attention to the Israel-Hamas War and call for Dartmouth’s divestment from “apartheid,” purporting that the College profits off of the war. 

In a written statement, Ramsey Alsheikh ’26 noted that during the sit-in, College officials attempted to get students to leave “by harassing them, taking away their food, removing their tent in the rain, refusing to let them sit down,” so officials could remove the flags from the lawn. In reaction, Sunrise Dartmouth and other student groups organized a protest on Oct. 25, which The Dartmouth Radical advertised on Instagram as the “Defend the Parkhurst Vigil.” 

At this vigil, participants repeatedly chanted “Beilock, Beilock you can’t hide, you’re supporting genocide” and “Gazans dying in your face, give me, give me brave space,” in reference to Beilock’s promise to create “brave spaces” — an initiative she described as a commitment to “foster an environment where ideas of integrity are responsibly aired and debated” in her inauguration speech on Sept. 22.

Anh-Ton Nguyen ’26 also delivered a speech, in which he explained how the College had been “making life and freedom as hard as possible for students who have been mourning.” 

Nguyen stated that officers had denied student protestors the right to eat in front of Parkhurst and forced “students in mourning” to show their Dartmouth IDs. When protesters set up a tent on Parkhurst lawn on Oct. 20 to shelter themselves from the rain, Department of Safety and Security director Keiselim Montás “threatened” protesters with community standards violations and “coerced” students into taking down their tent. 

Montás did not respond to requests for comment by time of publication. 

Dartmouth’s “Use of the College Green and Campus Grounds” policy states that temporary structures require written approval of the Conferences and Special Events Office. 

Nguyen added that Montás told students that freedom of speech and expression at Dartmouth can only exist at designated campus spaces that have been reserved days in advance with the Office of Student Life and Campus events. 

“Do we need a permit to have freedom of speech?,” Nguyen asked the crowd of protestors. 

Office of Communications strategist Jana Barnello wrote in an email statement to The Dartmouth that the College approached discussions with demonstrators with “care and respect” in the period following Oct. 19, and that that the College supports peaceful free speech and the right of individuals to express dissent. 

During the vigil, students also attempted to enter Parkhurst and give hand-written letters to Beilock. These students were initially stopped by a Safety and Security officer but later allowed to enter the building in groups of five. According to Nguyen, students were unable to speak with or give their letters to Beilock directly, instead handing their letters to a senior member of the administration.

On the night of Oct. 27, a few protestors remained at the sit-in in front of Parkhurst Hall, engaged in negotiations with the College over the terms of their protest. The protestors ultimately refused the administration’s conditions — which included an offer to meet with Beilock at another time and to maintain a collection of black flags planted during the initial Oct. 19 memorial service.

The Office of Student Life and Safety and Security had previously offered the protestors permits to other locations that night, such as the front of Collis, but the protesters declined, according to an email from Dartmouth Student Government on Oct. 28 that sought to recap what happened.

The protestors were instead “seeking to connect their ongoing protests to the legacy of nonviolent civil disobedience at Parkhurst Hall specifically,” according to DSG’s email, which added that the use of tents was inspired by the student shantytown protests in the 1980s. 

Shortly before the two student protestors were arrested, they presented to the College administration a copy of The Dartmouth New Deal, a policy proposal by Sunrise Dartmouth, which demands that Dartmouth “comply with the recommendations of the 2022 Amnesty International report on Israeli apartheid by divesting,” along with several other requests.

As noted in Beilock’s email from the morning after the arrests, the student protestors threatened in writing to “escalate and take further action,” including “physical action,” if their demands were not met. These actions ultimately led to the arrests of Roan V. Wade ’25 and Kevin Engel ’27. 

“The threat of “physical action,” which our campus security must consider to be a threat of violence, meant the situation had to be brought to resolution,” Beilock wrote. 

Barnello emphasized that the College cannot tolerate forms of speech that invoke force.

“Protest or demonstration, which are valid forms of speech, are not discouraged so long as neither force nor the threat of force is used, and so long as Dartmouth’s orderly processes are not deliberately obstructed,” Barnello wrote. “Membership in the Dartmouth community carries with it, as a necessary condition, the agreement to honor and abide by this policy.”

Following the arrests, a petition has circulated around campus, titled “Where’s the Brave Space: Statement on the Arrest of Student Activists Outside Parkhurst.” As of Nov. 5, 48 organizations and over 650 individuals, including undergraduate and graduate students, alumni, community members, faculty and staff have signed it. 

The petition condemns the arrests and describes them as the “last, desperate resort of an administration which does not want student protest to mar the image of this institution” and also asserts that “the arrest of these students destroys any hope for ‘brave space’ and creates a campus where members of our community do not feel safe questioning the administration.”