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The Dartmouth
June 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Nadeem: No, I Don’t Want Your Mental Health Advocacy

The College’s “Day of Community” failed to address true student concerns.

On May 23, the Dartmouth administration paid a company more than $8,500 to host a “Day for Community” in the Hinman Forum in the Rockefeller Center. Attendees were encouraged to write reflections suggesting how to rebuild our community and received a free burrito catered by Boloco. That same day, Dartmouth Student Government separately hosted a mental wellness event at Collis Common Ground, where they distributed free journals and desserts. DSG had previously discussed programming “related to engaging in dialogue across difference and addressing wellness and providing resources” during its May 12 weekly meeting.

According to a campus-wide email from chief health and wellness officer Estevan Garcia on May 21, the Day for Community was intended to provide “one step” in Dartmouth’s “journey of connection and community building following the impact the evening of May 1 has had on our campus community.” The idea that journaling and mindfulness can properly address the plethora of issues affecting the Dartmouth community is dangerous and ignorant. It places the blame on the student body, suggesting that peaceful protesters and activists are responsible for the unrest disturbing our campus. It places the onus on them to work toward improving their mental health, assuming that journaling and mindfulness would help them in coping with the mounting charges and the war in Gaza that has traumatized them. It is a performative solution that assuages the administration from any real impact. 

If the administration would truly like to know how to rebuild a sense of community, I propose that they encourage the county prosecutor to drop the charges against all individuals arrested on May 1 and disclose and divest from companies supporting Israeli apartheid. 

The first event in the schedule of the “Day for Community” was a webinar titled “Calming Everyday Anxiety.” The only thing capable of “calming my anxiety” right now is a permanent and immediate ceasefire ending the genocide in Gaza. The inescapable curse of seeing the world for what it is sadly doesn’t allow me to journal in the ones that DSG handed out. When I open the journal, the images and the cries of Palestinians experiencing tremendous brutality occupy my mind.

College President Sian Leah Beilock’s administration has gaslit the student body by suggesting that our “spirit of community” can be rebuilt, even partially, through arts and crafts while actively supporting the abuses committed by the Israeli government. It must have taken a lot of courage to call the police, let students get arrested and then proceed to pretend to care about our mental health. 

This is not restricted to just the events hosted by the administration or DSG. This is about the consistent narrative furthered by both groups that they care about our mental well being, and that they are spending money and effort on us when these acts are clearly performative. The groups have never consulted or checked up on the protestors. 

I was 14 when I came across a poem written in Urdu by Ahmad Faiz, a progressive leftist poet exiled from Pakistan for speaking out against the military. He wrote about how he loves his lover but can’t take his eyes off the flesh and plague in the alleys. For him, love and happiness are unnatural when people are dying right before his eyes. This is the story of so many of us. I am sorry that when I sit down to ‘journal’ — as I have for the past 24 days — my hands can only produce spirals, and my mind can only think about the people of Gaza, that all before my eyes is blood, tears and screams. If you really want to ‘heal’ the community, donate that $8,500 to Gaza.

Aina Nadeem is a member of the Class of 2027. Guest columns represent the views of their author(s), which are not necessarily those of The Dartmouth.