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The Dartmouth
February 27, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Students, faculty offer praise and criticism to College President Sian Beilock’s first few months

Over two terms have passed since Beilock was sworn in on June 12, 2023.

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This article is featured in the 2024 Winter Carnival special issue. 

College President Sian Beilock was sworn in on June 12, 2023, translating to about two and a half terms in office. At her inauguration on Sept. 22, 2023, Beilock announced that her tenure will focus on five key issues: mental health, Dartmouth for life, climate action, breakthrough innovation and brave spaces. The Dartmouth spoke to faculty, staff and students about their perspectives on Beilock’s first few months in office, and whether they believe Beilock has begun to address these core initiatives. 

Some students, such as Chloe Buschmann ’27, feel like Beilock has notably retreated from the public eye since her inauguration.

“I think she’s doing fine as a figurehead, although I haven’t seen her as much since she got inaugurated,” Buschmann said. “I feel like she was around a lot in the beginning.” 

Harper Richardson ’27 noted that she thought that Beilock’s “first couple of months have gone as expected.” 

“I don’t think she’s broken any mold or any glass ceiling,” Richardson said. “I think she’s been pretty standard.” 

Richardson, a member of the student organization Fossil Free Dartmouth, noted that she appreciated how Beilock expressed her support for climate action in her inaugural address. At the same time, however, Richardson said she has felt a sense of hesitancy from Beilock on embracing climate activism.

“In private meetings with [Beilock], I have been disappointed, to some degree, of her hesitation to engage with climate activism in terms of fossil-free research policies,” she said. 

Although Logan Lumby ’26 was on an off-term in the fall, he thought Beilock’s first couple of months “seemed a bit shaky, to put it lightly … it’s certainly a big change for the student body, to have a new face after [former President Phil Hanlon] left.”

Lumby criticized the suspension and alcohol prohibition of several fraternities and sororities at the start of the fall. Lumby, who is unaffiliated, said that he believed the multiple suspensions “seemed like a message” from the administration. 

“There’s always wild rumors going around about what [Beilock’s] true intentions are, but it just seems that she’s making a point, and she’s making it pretty clear.”

Many students pointed to Beilock’s rhetoric when the war began in Israel and Gaza, as well as the arrest of two student protesters in October 2023, as tense moments early in her presidency. 

“Arresting the students was not great, but I also don’t think that falls solely on her,” Buschmann said.

Richardson, a member of the Palestine Solidarity Coalition, said that “the arrests of Kevin [Engel ’27] and [Roan Wade ’27] were simply ludicrous, and I think makes a very dangerous statement on the state of free speech today.”

In an email statement following the arrests, Beilock wrote that College officials decided to involve Hanover Police when “two students entered [a] tent [on Parkhurst Hall lawn] and threatened in writing to ‘escalate and take further action,’ including ‘physical action,’ if their demands were not met.”

Richardson also said that she was “very disappointed that [Beilock] only went to the vigil held specifically for Israeli [lives] lost and the hostages, and did not attend the vigil for all lives lost that was hosted by the PSC … I think that is a poor reflection of the diverse student body and its perspectives.”

Grace Dean-Saadati ’24, Hillel at Dartmouth’s president, wrote in an email statement that she was “thoroughly impressed with President Beilock’s initial months in office” and called Beilock’s handling of the campus environment during the war in Israel and Gaza a “success.” 

Following the Oct. 7 attacks in Israel, faculty in the Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern studies departments held two public forums in which they discussed the outbreak of war in Israel and Gaza. 

Ezzadine Fishere, a senior lecturer in the Middle Eastern Studies and Jewish Studies departments, served as a panelist on the public forum about the war in Israel and Gaza in early October of last year. In an email statement, Fishere reflected on Beilock’s leadership when the war broke out.  

“She did what I think great leaders do: empower members of the community to collaborate and face the challenge that falls within their expertise,” Fishere wrote.

Fishere also wrote about the faculty forums that he was part of in October.

“Without her intervention, our effort would have been a regular faculty lunch or event; she turned it into a College affair,” Fishere wrote. “President Beilock stepped in, not directly, but to utilize the college resources — its faculty — and enable them to carry out their mission, which is to explain, teach, question and explore options.”

Not only has Beilock “engaged in thoughtful conversations with students representing various positions on [the Israel-Hamas War],” but she has also equipped “students with the necessary knowledge for productive conversations [about the war] and a space for such discussions,” Dean-Saadati wrote. 

On Jan. 10, Beilock announced the launch of Dartmouth Dialogues, a series of initiatives “dedicated to facilitating conversations and skills that bridge political and personal divides.” One aspect of Dartmouth Dialogues is a speaker series focused on conflict in the Middle East. 

Dean-Saadati also highlighted the national coverage the College has received as a result of its response to the conflict.  

“Numerous media outlets have lauded Dartmouth as the institution that ‘got it right’ in responding to the Israel-Hamas War, and I firmly believe that President Beilock has played a pivotal role in this achievement,” she wrote. 

On the other hand, Richardson thought that the College’s response has not produced a “safe space for Palestinian activists.” 

“I think Dartmouth has a reputation in the media right now that is incorrect, that [Dartmouth] is hosting these opening dialogues and having difficult conversations, which I think are all part of this idea of ‘[brave] spaces,’” she said. “Yet, the campus as a whole is not a safe space for Palestinian activists right now.”

In Beilock’s Jan. 3 email to campus welcoming students back for the winter term, she addressed “divisions” and ongoing international conflict, while stating her admiration of Dartmouth’s response to such issues. 

“Even as we look ahead with hope, we continue to face conflict around the world and deep divisions here in the U.S. I want to acknowledge these challenges, and the pain many continue to feel. I also feel profound gratitude and admiration for the ways in which Dartmouth has come together to face this adversity, demonstrating real leadership that has resonated far beyond the bounds of our campus.”

Xavier Orlic ’27 said that he thinks Beilock “has done a very solid job” in dealing with  “different issues around the school and different controversies.”

“There’s still a long way to go, but that’s true for any incoming president,” Orlic said.