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The Dartmouth
May 27, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Bachman DeSilva, Beauvineau and Johnson-Jennings: An Open Letter to Dartmouth’s Administration

The letter, authored by a group of parents of current and former Dartmouth students, criticizes the Beilock administration’s response to student protest.

We, concerned parents of current Dartmouth students and alumnae/alumni, are writing to voice our strong objection to the Dartmouth administration’s response to the peaceful protest on the Green on May 1. We are especially disappointed that the College allowed state law enforcement onto campus, and we condemn the physical violence used against peaceful students, faculty, staff and community members. We ask that the College call for charges to be dropped against all students involved in the nonviolent protest and end their bans from spaces on campus. 

We believe that a critical error was made in calling the state police, which escalated tensions and put students and faculty at risk of bodily harm. We are troubled by College President Sian Leah Beilock’s violation of a long-established precedent of free speech and peaceful protest demonstrations on the Green and by her inadequate justification for the use of police against the protesters in her May 2 letter to the Dartmouth community. Moreover, the assertions that the protest “interfere[d] with the academic mission” of the school and “increase[d] safety risks to members of our community” seem exaggerated. Finally, Beilock’s reference to the disruptions at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Columbia University fails to mention the schools — Brown University and Northwestern University among them — at which ongoing dialogue between protesters and administrations has been fruitful. The presence of biased information in her letter is deeply troubling and jeopardizes our trust in the administration.

We are shocked by the contrast between what Beilock promised when she was inaugurated and how she chose to respond to a peaceful protest on campus. In August 2023, Beilock told incoming students and their families at a welcome ceremony at Memorial Field that Dartmouth would serve as a safety net for students who took risks. In her inaugural address on Sept. 22, 2023, she described “mental health” and “brave spaces” as two of the five pillars upon which she was building her administration. Allowing riot police on the Green undermined those stated goals. We anticipate that the emotional and psychological trauma experienced by those arrested, as well as other witnesses, faculty and staff, family members, friends and even benefactors to the College will be long lasting. Some of us are parents of arrested students, and we demand that the College provide outside counseling for the students who were traumatized and begin a restorative practice to repair the harm that was done to the community. 

We also ask that those students who were arrested be allowed to walk on the Green again. The Green is often a meeting place for academic functions and informal study groups. Without this space, many arrested students may feel upset or socially isolated. Being banned from the Green further exacerbates their trauma, which directly contradicts Beilock’s goal of improving student mental health. An example of this occurred this past weekend when some Native Americans at Dartmouth felt uncomfortable holding the Powwow on the Green, where it has been held for decades. Instead, it was moved to Leede Arena, perceived to be a safer space that would allow inclusion of all students, including the 65 who were arrested.

We are deeply saddened that a place where we hoped our children would learn, thrive and take intellectual risks has abruptly become a place where many have been criminalized and intimidated. In the case of the student journalists who were arrested before learning the charges would not be pressed one week later, their credentials have been drawn into partisan debates connected with the election, and their ethics as independent journalists have been mocked. We have to ask, what is Dartmouth doing to protect the safety of the students and faculty members arrested? This episode has compromised Beilock’s role as a leader of “dialogue” on the complex issue of the Israel-Hamas war and, even more, her ability to serve as a moral role model for all students and the institution she leads. Our faith in her has been severely shaken.

Mary Bachman DeSilva '90, Corrie Beauvineau and Michelle Johnson-Jennings are parents of current and former Dartmouth students. Guest columns represent the views of their author(s), which are not necessarily those of The Dartmouth.