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The Dartmouth
April 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Student protestors arrested in October arraigned on charges of criminal trespassing

Roan V. Wade ’25 and Kevin Engel ’27, who argue that they have a right to protest, plan to fight the charges in court.

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Roan V. Wade ’25 and Kevin Engel ’27, who were arrested outside Parkhurst Hall in October, have been charged with misdemeanor counts of trespassing, according to Wade. Wade and Engel said they plan to fight the charges, which do not carry jail time.

Wade and Engel were arrested on Oct. 27 while participating in a sit-in on the front lawn of Parkhurst Hall to protest the Israel-Hamas war and advocate for the Dartmouth New Deal — a document released by Sunrise Dartmouth demanding that the College make efforts to divest from fossil fuels and military entities, among other points. They were released from custody on bail the same night, according to Wade. Both pleaded not guilty to the trespassing charge during their Dec. 18 court arraignment. 

“They haven’t let us know when our court date is going to be, but we’re anticipating it’s probably going to be towards the end of January,” Wade said. 

In an email statement to The Dartmouth, College media relations strategist Jana Barnello said that the College “cannot comment on an ongoing case.” Barnello added that Dartmouth is “complying fully with requests from the [state] prosecutor’s office, which makes the final decision on bringing or dropping charges.”

Wade said that they and Engel will be represented by attorney and Hanover High School graduate Kira Kelley, who works for the environmental legal advocacy group Climate Defense Project. 

“We are really lucky that we have a lawyer who is willing to work for us pro bono,” Wade said. “We have said that we’re not guilty. We plan on continuing that fight.”

According to Wade, they and Engel are determined to fight the criminal charges because there has been an “unprecedented crackdown on student activism” nationwide.

“We’re seeing this play out across the country, which Dartmouth set the precedent for: Arresting students and taking this escalated crackdown on our right to dissent,” Wade said. 

Engel added that their protest followed the “direct lineage of precedent of student activism” at Dartmouth, referencing the 1980s anti-Apartheid protests that similarly encamped on College property. 

“Not only do we have the right to protest … we also have a right to that space [as Dartmouth students],” Engel said. 

In addition to the criminal trespassing charge, Wade and Engel were placed on probation during an administrative hearing on Nov. 10. 

In response to a question about why Wade and Engel were put on probation, Barnello wrote that the College “cannot comment on individual disciplinary actions through Dartmouth’s internal process.”

According to Engel, the hearing was a 30-minute Zoom meeting in which they and Wade were found in violation of College policies regarding encampment, obeying College officials and obstructing the College’s normal operations. Wade said that if the two violate College policy again over the course of the next two terms, they will face the risk of expulsion. 

Engel said that they were also told during the administrative hearing that neither student was “found in violation of any policies regarding violence.”

Engel added that they and Wade are no longer permitted in the vicinity of Parkhurst Hall, where the Title IX office is located. 

“As students, we are physically no longer able to access Title IX,” Wade said.

Both Wade and Engel noted that they have received an influx of in-person and online hate following the arrests and College President Sian Beilock’s initial Oct. 28 email to the Dartmouth community explaining the events leading to the arrests. 

“We have been targeted a lot,” Wade said. “I’ve experienced a significant rise in the number of times I’ve been called [homophobic and misogynist slurs]. It’s exhausting to have to wake up and look at my phone and have those messages.”

Engel attributed the online hate they received to the “President’s statement the next day calling us violent.”

“That email got sent out to every student, every parent, all the faculty,” Engel added. “Not only was Dartmouth not really interested in our safety when they arrested us, but they weren’t interested in our safety the next day when they released statements that called us violent.” 

Beilock’s Oct. 28 email pointed to the phrase “physical action” found in the Dartmouth New Deal and said that “campus security must consider [the threat of ‘physical action’] to be a threat of violence.”

Wade stated that it “wasn’t until weeks after our arrest that … the administration actually reached out to us to check in at all.” However, they said that professors and the broader Dartmouth community have been “incredibly supportive.”

“We ended up having a meeting with President Beilock weeks after we were arrested, during which … I expressed that I was concerned for my safety, and that I had been experiencing harassment,” Wade said. “But she didn’t apologize. She doubled down on her narrative … that we were violent.”

Barnello wrote that Dartmouth had contacted the local prosecutor’s office after the arrests “to learn about the legal process the students will go through and how we can best support them during this time.”

In a campus-wide winter term welcome email on Jan. 3, Beilock announced that the College will be introducing new initiatives for students, faculty and staff to engage in dialogue.

“In a message sent out Wednesday, President Beilock reiterated Dartmouth’s goal to center respectful dialogue and debate and previewed several ways in which Dartmouth will create opportunities to do so this term,” Barnello wrote.

Jan. 3 was also the date Sunrise Dartmouth selected as a deadline for the College to respond to the demands listed in the Dartmouth New Deal. As of the time of publication, the College has not issued a response to the Dartmouth New Deal.

Correction Appended (Jan. 6, 3:40 p.m.): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Wade and Engel have been placed on academic probation. The article has been updated to clarify that the probation is for disciplinary rather than academic reasons.