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The Dartmouth
May 27, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

DSG fails vote of no confidence in College leadership

The vote, which took place during the closed session, occurred after a public vote earlier in the evening passed with a supermajority.

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On May 5, the Dartmouth Student Government Senate anonymously voted 8 - 9 - 2 in a closed session meeting to fail a vote of no confidence in College President Sian Leah Beilock’s leadership, according to an email to campus from student body president Jessica Chiriboga ’24. The vote in closed session came after Chiriboga vetoed the Senate’s initial vote of no confidence, which had been held in the public meeting and passed 13 - 2 - 3.

In an interview after the meeting, Chiriboga said she vetoed the vote of no confidence taken during the public meeting “because several senators expressed interest in deliberating [the issue] further.” A senator, who asked to remain anonymous in order to speak candidly, said the motion to hold a vote of no confidence in Beilock’s administration during the public meeting was a “surprise” and “shocked” many senators. 

“We were told explicitly that we will not be forced to make a vote like that publicly and that there would be no surprises,” he said. “We were explicitly lied to.”

In her email statement, Chiriboga wrote that “the practice of the Senate is to thoroughly deliberate before a vote is taken” and that she was “not confident” the Senate had done so before the vote was taken.

The vote during the public meeting followed nearly two hours of conversation about the “mass arrests on May 1,” according to the Senate’s meeting agenda. In addition to DSG senators, more than 30 members of the undergraduate student body attended the meeting to express their desire for the Senate to “take action” in response to the arrests of 90 people — including 65 students, three staff members and two faculty members, according to an email from DSG on the morning of May 6 — at the May 1 protest. 

Roan Wade ’25, who was arrested in October on criminal trespass charges after setting up an encampment on the front lawn of Parkhurst Hall, said during the public meeting that she believed the email sent by DSG on May 2 was “completely unsatisfactory” and “reprehensible.” She questioned why the email did not “condemn” the arrests.

“Everybody knows somebody who has been arrested,” she said, which was followed by snaps from some senators and members of the public. “To not be able to say the bare minimum of condemning arrests is making people lose faith in DSG as an entity.”

Sean Wallace ’27 questioned some senators’ belief in “rigid enforcement” of freedom of expression and freedom of dissent policies. They alleged that transgender people were “mocked and bullied by police over their appearance” during the protest, and that Black and brown students were “subject to greater [police] brutality” while being arrested.

“The enforcement of the law is not objective,” Wallace said. “[Rigid enforcement] is an ethically pathetic position to hold for [freedom of expression and dissent policies] that [were] written for no reason.”

A Native American student, who asked to remain anonymous in order to speak candidly, said nine Native American students were arrested on May 1 “at the hands of a military police state, on unceded Abenaki land.” She said she has repeatedly felt “failed” by the College administration in the fall and “again” after the students were arrested, and highlighted that the nine Native students who were arrested will not be able to attend the annual Powwow on the Green on May 11.

“[The Powwow] is a cultural and spiritual event where everyone is welcome — except our nine community members, except those standing in indigenous solidarity with the people of Palestine,” she said.

Many of the outspoken senators at the public meeting voiced criticisms of the arrests, with many specifically referring to the“militarization of the Green.” 

North Park House senator Sabik Jawad ’26 criticized the Senate for being “gridlocked” in its efforts to send out a more extensive statement about the student arrests.

“Over the past year, I have felt DSG becoming more conservative in that we are more cautious and in our willingness to deal with crisis,” he said. “I don’t think we are a brave space anymore.”

In an interview after the meetings, West House senator Samay Sahu ’27 said he did not speak during the meeting because he had “made a firm commitment privately” to advocate for increased student access to mental health resources and had already “made [his] viewpoint very clear” in private DSG meetings.

“I [did] not speak during the public meeting because I [wanted] to give the floor to all the members of the public who [wanted] to speak on this issue,” he said. “I didn’t need to add anything.” 

At the end of the second hour of public debate, East Wheelock House senator Daniel Pruder ’27 motioned for a vote of no confidence in Beilock’s leadership. 

Wade said she received threatening emails after being arrested that contained the words “mass shooting” but did not receive any communication from the Beilock administration in response — despite Beilock and her attorney being carbon copied on the emails. She also characterized Beilock’s responses in meetings after she and Kevin Engel ’27 were arrested as “dismissive” and “unapologetic.”

“My interactions with her have made it clear that she has no concern for student safety,” she said. 

The Senate moved forward with the vote of no confidence after it was seconded by town liaison Nicolás Macri ’24.

After the Senate voted to pass the motion of no confidence, members of the public in attendance cheered and chanted, “This is what democracy looks like.”

North Park House senator Sydney O’Connor ’27, who was one of the two senators who voted in opposition to the vote of no confidence, said she “absolutely [condemns] the behavior [she had] seen” at the meeting. 

“I commend our Jewish students for the strength they have shown this week,” she said. “I commend our Jewish students for the grace they have shown this week.”

A member of the public objected that one of the people arrested was history professor Annelise Orleck, who is Jewish. 

Macri proposed a motion that “we also stand with the Jewish community,” which was applauded by senators and members of the public but not voted on because of the hard stop on the meeting. 

O’Connor also said she “would like to see the email that was sent inviting Hillel and Chabad leadership … and the 8-10% of Jewish population on this campus … to this meeting” in order to “actually have a democratic process where those voices were heard.” A member of the public who had spoken in favor of the vote of no confidence said they had not received an email inviting them to the meeting. 

In an interview after the meeting, O’Connor said she had received a text from a member of the public at the meeting. In it, the student wrote that they had shared “what [she] said” with other students, who were “really happy and proud of [her].”

The anonymous senator who was surprised by the no confidence vote said he and many of his fellow senators initially voted yes to no confidence “out of fear of being doxxed” for voting against the measure. 

In a follow-up statement to The Dartmouth, he explained that members of the public at the meeting were being "intimidating" and "purposefully" taking photographs of senators in order to "retaliate if things didn't go their way."

"Senators were messaging privately trying to close the meeting but no one had the courage," he continued.  

In his initial interview, the senator said senators changed their votes of no confidence during the closed session when they felt safer to express their own beliefs.

The anonymous senator also said he believed that, “through conversation,” Beilock will “apologize for her actions and take some sort of responsibility and make an effort to bring our community together.” He said he also believed that the vote of no confidence would damage the relationship between DSG and the College administration. 

“How will we be able to help student protesters in the future if [the College] administration doesn’t want to listen to us?” he said. “The no confidence vote would have burned a bridge for nothing.”

In an email addressed to Beilock and sent to campus in the evening of May 6, DSG wrote that it “request[s]” a meeting with the President on May 7 or 8 to “discuss [her] response” to DSG’s earlier statement about “the actions necessary to make amends so the Dartmouth community can heal.” 

DSG also wrote that they had “heard that many faculty shared that they had no confidence in [Beilock’s] leadership” during a general faculty meeting that day. The group announced that it plans to hold a student referendum on a vote of no confidence on the morning of May 9 to “better understand how the undergraduate student body feels about [Beilock’s] leadership.”

“We would want the undergraduate student body to take into account your planned next steps on Dartmouth Student Government’s actions for healing before the student referendum opens,” they wrote. 

DSG Senate meetings occur weekly on Sundays at 7 p.m. in Collis 101 and are open to all students. 

Updated (May 7, 4:47 p.m.): This article has been updated to include additional clarification from the anonymous DSG senator about why he believed members of the public could dox senators with whom they disagreed.