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The Dartmouth
June 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Moreton, Huang and Voekel: Staff and Faculty Open Letter In Response to the College’s ‘Day for Community’

Over 120 staff and faculty members argue that community repair begins with administrative accountability

We appreciate that our colleagues working on student well-being face incredible pressure and are constrained by Dartmouth’s definition of the problem. We were, nonetheless, stunned by the framing of the May 23 “Day for Community” as a “journey of reflection, connection and community building following the protest on the Green on May 1,” according to a message from the College’s chief health and wellness officer, Estevan Garcia. Last Thursday’s event was advertised as an opportunity for healing — healing, apparently, from the peaceful May 1 protest, but not from the mass arrests, physical injuries and collective harm inflicted on students, faculty and staff by the police response to that protest.

The campus departments that conduct activities like the “Day for Community” have no more power to provide actual solutions than any of us has individually. Real solutions include dropping the charges and bans placed on arrested community members, correcting the dangerous mischaracterization of protesters as violent or antisemitic, restoring safety for the Pan-Asian Council whose space has been repeatedly vandalized in apparent retaliation for supporting Palestinians and pledging that the place in which students live and study will not be thrown open to the armed agents who make them and their communities fearful in the name of “safety.”

Such substantive steps are, however, well within the power of the administration. It is the gulf between those solutions and the “Day for Community” that feels like such a slap in the face to us, some of the many people who are managing the fallout on the front lines of student support.

Very few faculty, staff and students were invited to design the May 23 “Day for Community.” However, many campus employees in junior, contingent or staff positions were asked to volunteer for the program alongside paid external consultants. Those solicitations were distributed in part through the “Employee Resource Networks” for LGBTQ+, Asian and Pacific Islander, Latinx-Hispanic-Caribbean and women of color employees, among others. 

Many of those who were asked to volunteer had been working themselves into emotional and physical exhaustion to support the most affected students. Many of our colleagues — including student services staff, house professors, contingent faculty and junior faculty — have been responding to students who have been doxxed or are facing harassment. We have been connecting students with legal support, facilitating small group processing sessions, raising bail fees and strike funds and working to address threats against their physical safety. 

When many of us are working to meet students’ needs, the request for volunteers adds insult to injury — especially as some of us were on the Green supporting the protestors on the night of May 1.

No previous Dartmouth administration has deployed such force against its own students and faculty, and thus no previous administration has been called on to address this scale of community repair. However, the “Day for Community” echoes a recurring mismatch between some of the most consistent sources of campus distress and the managerial or techno-solutionist interventions the College seems willing to provide. 

For example, 250 faculty signed a petition last fall supporting higher staffing levels, better wages and more democratic workplaces for the staff who are integral to the student experience. The administration responded by creating an online portal to solicit faculty praise for staff members — an individualist solution to a structural problem, one that many found deeply condescending. 

Recently, the College hired an outside consultant to “better understand the specific challenges of undergraduates,” according to an email we received encouraging dialogue between Dartmouth staff and faculty and the consultants. Our students’ challenges include spending six weeks in an empty dorm over winter break because they can’t afford a plane ticket home, or turning in a paper late because their cousin is being held in a migrant detention center and they are the only bilingual member of their family. The consultants suggested an app that periodically reminds users, “Go outside.” 

Student distress is not an individual problem with individual solutions. Rather, it is produced through institutional structures and environments that make students unwell.

Several students reported that the 2022 “Day of Caring” made them feel “gaslit” by the institution. Instead of difficult, vulnerable discussions about the classmates and friends they had lost to suicide, they reported feeling infantilized with rock painting and a petting zoo.

Likewise, the “Day for Community” may cause more of the harm that it seeks to undo, despite the best intentions of those staffing its activities. The same institution that endangered all of us and shattered our sense of safety and trust cannot determine the process of repair. Rebuilding can only come after the administration accepts accountability for the harm it has inflicted — which begins with dropping charges and bans — and engages with students, faculty and staff from the bottom up, not the top down. A “Day for Community” that cannot even name the source of harm while drawing on the labor of those already working overtime is emblematic of the major gap in administrative understanding. 

Others are less confused about causes and effects. Graduate students are on strike for demanding concrete improvements to their working conditions. Students and faculty have returned historic votes of no confidence and censure in response to the administration’s actions on May 1. Representatives of the Black Alumni Network, Dartmouth Association of Latino/a/x Alumni, Dartmouth Asia Pacific American Alumni Association, Dartmouth LGBTQIA+ Association, Native American Alumni Association of Dartmouth and Women of Dartmouth pointed out the obvious in a May 15 letter to Beilock, Provost David Kotz and the Board of Trustees: “When troopers arrived in riot gear they threatened the safety of everyone on campus, especially those historically and disproportionately targeted and mistreated by law enforcement officers.” 

So long as the College leaves in place the structures that undermine student well-being and offers instead corporate wellness hacks, it will waste the commitment of the very people it consistently turns to for community repair — but never for their analysis of the source of harm.

Vigorous community-building is going on all around campus — in the mutual aid and education among students, staff and faculty at the Brave Space; in the growing number of employee unions; in the community-wide mobilization to endorse the protest and denounce the armed response to it. We are not waiting to be asked for advisory input by an administration that will not listen. In the absence of democratic structures and substantive responses to real problems, we are building them ourselves.   

In solidarity,

1. Bethany Moreton (Department of History)

2. Mingwei Huang (Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies)

3. Pamela Voekel (Department of History)

4. Bench Ansfield (Department of History)

5. Ainsley Morse (Departments of East European, Eurasian and Russian Studies and Comparative Literature)

6. Samantha Wray (Departments of Linguistics and Cognitive Science)

7. Carly M. Lesoski (Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning)

8. Jodi Kim (Department of English and Creative Writing)

9. Aanchal Saraf (Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies)

10. Jonathan Cohn (Department of Physics and Astronomy)

11. Daniel Lin (Dartmouth Libraries)

12. Nataliya Braginsky (Academic Skills Center)

13. Matt Hooley (Department of Native American and Indigenous Studies)

14. Rebecca Clark (Department of English and Creative Writing)

15. Paula Olson (Design Initiative at Dartmouth)

16. Anonymous Staff Member (Hood Museum of Art)

17. Nichelle Gaumont (Hood Museum of Art)

18. Anonymous Staff Member (Hood Museum of Art)

19. Katherine Achacoso (Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies)

20. Anonymous Staff Member (Hood Museum of Art)

21. Kellen Appleton (Outdoor Programs Office)

22. Jorge Cuéllar (Department of Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies)

23. Anonymous (Department of History)

24. Eman Morsi (Department of Comparative Literature)

25. Daisy Goodman (Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Obstetrics and Gynecology)

26. Alexandra Leewon Schultz (Department of Classics)

27. Bruch Lehmann (Department of History)

28. Annelise Orleck (Department of History)

29. Anonymous (Department of History)

30. Julia Rabig (Department of History)

31. Patricia Stuelke (Department of English and Creative Writing)

32. Anonymous Staff Member (Campus Services)

33. Anonymous Lecturer

34. Mary K. Coffey (Departments of Art History and Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies)

35. Thomas Pike (Department of Classics)

36. Daniel Abosso (Dartmouth Libraries)

37. Yuliya Komska (Department of German Studies)

38. Melissa Zeiger (Departments of English and Creative Writing and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies)

39. King Ray (Native American Program)

40. Anjuli Fatima Raza Kolb (Department of English and Creative Writing)

41. Jane Henderson (Department of Geography)

42. Kate Gibbel (English and Creative Writing Department administrator)

43. Anonymous Assistant Professor (College of Arts and Sciences)

44. Emily Walton (Department of Sociology)

45. Anonymous Staff Member

46. Steven Ericson (Department of History)

47. Anonymous (Department of Anthropology)

48. Anonymous Staff Member (Hood Museum of Art)

49. Annabel Martín (Departments of Spanish and Portuguese, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Comparative Literature)

50. Anonymous Staff Member (Campus Services)

51. Anonymous Staff Member

52. Anonymous Staff Member (Department of Student Affairs)

53. Anonymous Staff Member (Thayer School of Engineering)

54. Patricia Lopez (Department of Geography)

55. Laura Edmondson (Department of Theater)

56. Eng-Beng Lim (Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies)

57. Casey Stockstill (Department of Sociology)

58. Anonymous Lecturer

59. Giselle Hart (Hood Museum of Art)

60. Lilly E. Linden (Dartmouth Libraries)

61. Anonymous Staff Member

62. Val Werner (Dartmouth Libraries)

63. Katie McCabe (Hopkins Center for the Arts)

64. Harold Swartz (Geisel School of Medicine)

65. Anonymous Staff Member (Hood Museum of Art)

66. Silvia Spitta (Departments ofSpanish and Portuguese and Comparative Literature)

67. Anonymous Staff Member (Advancement Division)

68. Lee Witters (Geisel School of Medicine)

69. Gerd Gemunden (Department of Film and Media Studies)

70. Irene Kacandes (Departments of German Studies, Comparative Literature, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Jewish Studies and Classics)

71. Anonymous (Department of Anthropology)

72. Anonymous Staff Member

73. Matt Garcia (Department of Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies)

74. Anonymous Senior Lecturer

75. Anonymous Staff (College of Arts and Sciences)

76. Ann Barry Flood (Professor Emerita, Geisel School of Medicine)

77. Anonymous Staff Member,

78. Aden Evens (Department of English and Creative Writing)

79. Casey Stockstill (Department of Sociology)

80. Anonymous Lecturer

81. Lilly E. Linden (Dartmouth Libraries)

82. Anonymous Staff Member

83. Anonymous Staff Member

84. Anonymous Staff Member

85. Aden Evens (Department of English and Creative Writing)

86. Tania Balderas (Department of English and Creative Writing)

87. Roopika Risam (Departments of Film and Media Studies and Comparative Literature)

88. Klaus Mladek (Departments of German Studies and Comparative Literature)

89. Anonymous Staff Member (Tuck School of Business)

90. Elaina Vitale (Dartmouth Libraries)

91. Maria Clara de Greiff (Department of Spanish and Portuguese)

92. Veronica Golden (Dartmouth Libraries)

93. Laura Braunstein (Dartmouth Libraries)

94. Tricia Martone (Dartmouth Libraries)

95. Shea Roll (Dartmouth Libraries)

96. Anonymous Staff Member

97. Tracey Dugdale (Dartmouth Libraries)

98. Anna Grallert (Dartmouth Libraries)

99. Jentry Campbell (Dartmouth Libraries)

100. Alexander Chee (Department of English and Creative Writing)

101. Smriti Upadhyay (Department of Sociology)

102. Eli Hecht (Department of Cognitive Science Staff Member)

103. Dae Houlihan (Cognitive Science Program)

104. Nelson Kasfir (Professor Emeritus of Government)

105. Misagh Parsa (Professor Emeritus of Sociology)

106. Miles Blencowe (Department of Physics)

107. Susan Ackerman (Department of Religion)

108. Desiree Garcia (Department of Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies)

109. John Kulvicki (Department of Philosophy)

110. Jack Wilson (Department of Studio Art)

111. Anonymous (Department of Studio Art)

112. Ivy Schweitzer (Professor Emeritus of English and Creative Writing)

113. Graziella Parati (Department of French and Italian)

114. Roberta Stewart (Department of Classical Studies)

115. Donald Kollisch (Geisel School of Medicine)

116. Aseel Najib  (Department of History)

117. Anonymous Staff Member

118. Anonymous Staff Member

119. Kate Collins (Dickey Center for International Understanding)

120. Toben Traver (Dartmouth Libraries)

121. Leo Spitzer (Professor Emeritus of History)

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