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The Dartmouth
June 17, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Bartram: Actions — and Inactions — Speak Louder Than Words

College President Sian Leah Beilock should demonstrate her commitment to the community by releasing a public statement in support of dropping all charges against protesters affiliated with Dartmouth.

Re: College President Apologizes for Community Harm

Dear President Beilock,

Your apology letter rings hollow to me and to many of my peers. While your stated goal to “put the safety and wellbeing of students first” is commendable, your contradictory actions have endangered and fractured our community.

Firstly, your decision to deploy the Hanover Police Department on the Green was an unnecessary escalation, and it only drew more attention and tension to the Green. So many people were at the Green that night purely because of the massive police presence — which utilized armored vehicles and our own DOC vans — all in response to five tents.

Secondly, your claim that “encampments do not foster dialogue; they prevent it,” is misleading at best. We saw at Brown University that dialogue continued after encampments went up, leading to an agreement between the parties to a fall vote on divestment and the peaceful dissolution of the encampment. In contrast, while dialogue did occur between the College and Dartmouth activists before the encampment, it was your administration that stated on the eve of the arrests, “if there is an encampment, there will be no dialogue.” You could have maintained communication during the encampment, but, instead, you chose to deny any further conversations as a tool of leverage. 

Thirdly, and most frustratingly, you have refused to take any meaningful action to correct your mistakes. Many have stated that Dartmouth does not hold the power to drop the charges against those who were arrested at the protest. This is true, but it does not excuse your conspicuous inaction. While I am relieved that the student reporters are no longer being prosecuted, it is not difficult to release a statement publicly calling for the charges against all of the protesters affiliated with Dartmouth to be dropped. Nor is it a difficult thing to release a statement directly asking law enforcement that the bail conditions — prohibition from the Green, Parkhurst, and 14 Webster Ave. — be lifted, at the very least for the Commencement ceremony on June 9. While I appreciate that your administration is “supporting” petitions to lift the bail conditions, this unfairly places the burden on students. Take action yourself, and call for the prohibition to be lifted.

If you are concerned about additional tents, condition your statements on their promise to abstain from any future encampments. It is true that you do not hold the power to make those changes yourself, but these statements would clearly demonstrate, both to us in the community and to the prosecutors, that you are not the one pursuing these charges. Your inaction to publish a simple statement defending your own community is an indication that you want your students to be charged for peacefully protesting.

You chose to shut down any dialogue at the onset of the encampment, not us. You chose to authorize the escalation of police presence, not us. You chose to do so in a manner that ensured crowds would gather, increasing attention on the protest itself and heightening tensions for both the protesters and law enforcement trying to clear the Green. And now, you have chosen to take deliberate inaction to correct the damage you have caused. 

If you truly wish to apologize, to “put the safety and wellbeing of students first” and begin to foster the healing and dialogue that you claim to seek, take these actions. Publicly ask for the bail conditions to be lifted, at the very least for Commencement. Make it clear to our community that you are not the one pursuing the charges against students and faculty. Acknowledge and take responsibility for your own actions, rather than characterizing them as “impossible decision[s]” that you were forced to make. 

I sincerely hope that you will take these actions. I hate seeing our community in such pain and division, and I agree that we need healing and dialogue now more than ever. But dialogue resides in actions, not just words, and we are calling on you to repair our confidence in your leadership.

Edward Bartram is a member of the Class of 2025. Guest columns represent the views of their author(s), which are not necessarily those of The Dartmouth.