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The Dartmouth
May 23, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Beilock: College President Apologizes for Community Harm

College President Sian Leah Beilock addresses the “pain” caused by her administration’s response to last week’s protest.

Dear Dartmouth students:

One of the most critical lessons of the last week here at Dartmouth, and on college campuses across the country, is the importance of maintaining dialogue, especially when we disagree.

Let me start by saying that I am heartbroken by the pain, anger and division on campus. What took place on the Green last Wednesday night was difficult, upsetting and painful. While thoughtful people can disagree over the underlying issues, we can all agree on how awful that night was.

No one, including me, wanted to see heavily armed police officers in the heart of our campus. Nor did we want any members of our community to be arrested. I was extremely concerned that the violence we have seen on so many other campuses would occur at Dartmouth, whether immediately or in the days to follow. Encampments on other campuses incited violent anger, horribly divided student bodies, created exclusionary zones and attracted outside agitators. We have seen clearly over the last few weeks that, too often, encampments do not foster dialogue; they prevent it. 

This is why, after conversation with student protesters hoping to find a solution that avoided the need for police proved unsuccessful, I made the decision to ask the Hanover Police Department for help taking down the encampment. I stand by that decision. Part of a college president’s job is to put the safety and wellbeing of students first. Unfortunately, my attempt to keep all of those on our campus safe made some people feel unsafe. As I have said, actions have consequences. I accept responsibility for that, and I am sorry for the harm this impossible decision has caused. 

Like many with whom I have spoken over the last week, I share the concern for those arrested on May 1 and want to make a few things clear. First, the student journalists for The Dartmouth who were on the Green to report on the protests should not have been arrested for doing their jobs. We are working with local authorities to ensure this error is corrected. Similarly, I have spoken to the two faculty members who were arrested, and both shared that they were only there to support their students. We have already ensured that a campus ban for one of the arrested faculty members issued because of an error in the bail process was quickly lifted. More broadly, we will work with faculty members arrested that evening while helping their students to navigate the legal process and avoid charges. We are also working to ensure that anyone who was inadvertently swept up in the chaos on the Green, but not in violation of any Dartmouth policy, suffers no consequence. 

I also want to assure you that members of my administration are supporting students arrested last week who had planned to participate in end-of-year events like Powwow, Lu’au and Commencement. While Dartmouth does not have the unilateral authority to lift access to the Green restrictions imposed by local authorities, we are working toward a resolution that will allow participation in these important events. 

With war continuing to rage in the Middle East and passions understandably high, it may be too soon to talk about healing. Again, I recognize that what happened last week triggered deep emotions that will remain with all of us for a long time. But I do hope that we can focus on supporting each other, on always making space for dialogue when we disagree and on moving forward in collaboration.

Sian Leah Beilock

President

Guest columns represent the views of their author(s), which are not necessarily those of The Dartmouth.