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The Dartmouth
June 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Markman: In Support of Beilock’s Decision to Maintain Order and Protect Students

Beilock’s choices reflected the limited options available to her given the behavior and intent of student protesters.

I praise College President Sian Leah Beilock for her decisive actions to maintain order and protect students on May 1. Beilock has done an incredible job balancing the First Amendment rights of protesters with the need to protect all members of the Dartmouth community and ensure all students are included in all areas of campus.

My support for Beilock is predicated on two key points. First, the protests espoused hate and had the potential to explode into chaos. Second, Beilock and Dartmouth’s administration took significant steps to ensure students could protest. Thus, the arrests that resulted can only be attributed to the direct provocation of protesters.

Chants by protesters contained hatred, and could well have led to future violence if left unchecked. The chant “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state that encompasses all of Israel, which could be done only through the violent removal of all Jews from Israel. The history of the phrase confirms this meaning. It originated in the form “From the water to the water, Palestine is Arab.” It explicitly called for the violent removal of all non-Arabs from Israel. It has since been adopted by terrorist organizations, most notably Hamas, to express their desire to eliminate the Jewish people both in Israel and around the world.

Protesters often deflect these accusations by claiming that they don’t mean it in that way. This response is meaningless. This would not be a valid response to any other form of hatred. Imagine students quoting David Duke, then claiming that they didn’t mean it that way. There would rightly be outrage. So why do we view the repetition of Hamas’s calls for genocide as acceptable? Why does intent outweigh impact only when the Jewish community is targeted? I commend some protesters for no longer using the phrase, but too many have made their desire to target Jews both on campus and abroad abundantly clear.

Protesters also advocated for a global “intifada.” The word in English refers to the first and second Intifadas in Israel in which thousands of Israelis and Palestinians died. Both were characterized by widespread violence against Israeli civilians, including bombings that targeted hotels, malls, restaurants and buses, resulting in more than 1,000 Israeli deaths. Don’t be mistaken: this is what an intifada is and what is being called for around the world.

On top of these calls to violence, students have also directly endorsed the Oct. 7 attack, chanting, “When people are occupied, resistance is justified.” This chant serves to justify the Oct. 7 massacre in which Hamas indiscriminately killed, raped, mutilated, burned and kidnapped any living being, regardless of their religion, ethnicity or country of origin. It is especially troubling given the fact that Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005. Hamas’ actions are indefensible and were not a response to occupation, but rather a reflection of their desire to murder as many Jews and Israelis as they possibly could.

Both the organization and the rhetoric of the Dartmouth encampment closely align with actions undertaken by students on other campuses, specifically Columbia University, which turned violent. In both places students chanted “river to sea,” called for “Intifada” and claimed “resistance is justified.” Both served to, in effect, hold campus and Jewish students hostage by putting up tents. If the administration allowed the encampment to continue, their actions could have become increasingly hostile until their demands were met. We saw this at Columbia University — when an encampment was not enough, students broke into and barricaded themselves in a university building. On both campuses, students chose to put up encampments, which in no way facilitated their speech — and instead served to violate campus rules and exacerbate tensions. Students refused to follow the lawful orders of police and to comply with warnings from school administrators. Based on the rhetoric of the protesters, their explicit inflammatory actions and the precedent set by other similar protests, there was a real possibility of violence on May 1.

There have been many protests on campus that have been peaceful and provoked no response from the College. If the College was actually silencing Palestinian voices on campus, this would not be the case. What makes this protest different is not the speech, but the manner students went about saying it.

Moreover, on May 1, the administration took numerous steps to prevent arrests and allow for a peaceful resolution to the conflict on campus. First, despite the protest not having an outdoor activities permit or approval from the town of Hanover for amplified sound, the College administration took no action while students chanted and gave speeches. Second, administrators repeatedly warned before the protest that, if protesters set up an encampment, they would be arrested. They made it very clear that as long as the protest was just a protest, it would be permitted and protected, but encampments would be unacceptable and lead to arrests. Οnce the encampment arose, administrators and police continued warning protesters to disperse. As students ignored these warnings, the administration went as far as to create a pathway to a divestment vote, according to a campus-wide email sent by Dartmouth Student Government on May 6. Students, though, still put up an encampment and refused to leave the Green. The only way in which these actions make sense to me is if protesters intended to be arrested.

In response to possible violence and a group of protesters not willing to act in good faith, all Beilock did was take the rather moderate step of calling the Hanover Police Department. She did not call riot police or armored vehicles or police with machine guns — those were all professional decisions by police after being called. In the face of a hostile and potentially violent crowd who chose to violate college policy and ignore legal commands, Beilock made the only choice she could have. She protected all students and faculty on campus, ended a potentially violent situation and ensured Dartmouth would be a place for open dialogue where all students could share their voices.

Ultimately, this debate comes down to the very simple fact that protesters signed up to be on the Green when they knew they were likely to get arrested, while Jewish and non-Jewish students alike did not sign up to be excluded from campus spaces and experience hate. Students should be free to use the Green to play sports and hang out with friends without having to enter a place where they are confronted by hatred. Beilock’s ultimate responsibility is not to cater to a loud, hate-filled minority, but rather to protect all students. This is what her actions did. She simultaneously fostered numerous pathways for protesters to express their discontent, protected Jewish members of the community and kept Dartmouth an open and inviting space for all members of the community.

Jacob Markman is a '27 at Dartmouth College. Opinion articles represent the views of their author(s), which are not necessarily those of The Dartmouth.