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Students Sit In At Dartmouth Over Diversity Issues

Courtesy VPR

About 35 students staged a sit-in in Dartmouth President Philip Hanlon’s office Tuesday. They have been pressuring the College to increase enrollment of black, Latino and Native American students to at least 10 percent each, and to hire more faculty from minority groups. The 70 monetary demands outlined in their “Freedom Budget”  also include sweeping changes in the curriculum, financial aid, and residential life programs.

[Note, this story was reported on VPR's news blog, The Frequency.]

On March 6, top administrators responded to the “Freedom Budget” in the school’s daily online news site, Dartmouth Now, but the demonstrators say that response is “inadequate.” Several spent the night in the President’s office after he left for the day Tuesday, in violation of the College policy.

College spokesman Justin Anderson released this written statement about the protest on Wednesday morning:

Yesterday afternoon a student group in support of demands in the student-written "Freedom Budget" document came to Parkhurst Hall, Dartmouth's main administration building, during President Phil Hanlon's regularly scheduled office hours. The students met with both President Hanlon and Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson to discuss demands in the document. In response, Hanlon expressed his strong support for diversity, access, and inclusion, as well as his intolerance of bias in all its forms. He engaged in an exchange of views with the students and shared with them his plan to conduct a campus climate survey. Dean Johnson talked about the mechanics of conducting such a survey, which in February was recommended by the Committee on Student Safety and Accountability, made up of faculty, students, and staff. She also proposed a way forward that would include a series of meetings between students and College administrators. There is currently a group of students who continue to occupy the President's office. Those students understand, based on discussions with campus Safety & Security that they are in violation of College policy.

The students have circulated their own press release:

We, a group of around 30 Dartmouth students outraged by our administration’s inadequate and oppressive response to The Freedom Budget, are staging a sit-in of President Hanlon’s office until he provides a point-by-point response to the items in the Budget, including first steps of how to enact the Budget. We delivered The Freedom Budget to campus and the administration on February 24, demanding “that President Hanlon, affiliated offices, and those addressed in this letter reply to us via The Dartmouth newspaper by March 24, 2014.” President Hanlon’s and Interim Provost Martin Wybourne’s op-ed response in Dartmouth Now on March 6 was inadequate in scope, did not address the vast majority of points in The Freedom Budget, and was released the day before finals, upon which The Dartmouth stopped printing, such that student response was virtually impossible. Our sit-in is our response; our physical, vigorous, and positive action. The burden should not lie with systematically oppressed students (affected by racism, classism, imperialism, nativism, sexism, heterosexism, cis-sexism, and ableism) to ensure our own well-being, safety, and continued existence at Dartmouth College: yet our lived experiences at Dartmouth have been so violent that we were driven to write a plan for such assurance -- The Freedom Budget. The least the College must do is seriously address the points that our communities found most essential to our health and indeed our survival. Our bodies are already on the line, in danger, and under attack at Dartmouth. We are now using them to occupy the President’s office until he accords us the basic respect of serious, point-by-point, actionable response. No justice, no peace.

While some students joined the protesters after seeing some video clips of the encounter, others have expressed disapproval of their tactics.

Charlotte Albright lives in Lyndonville and currently works in the Office of Communication at Dartmouth College. She was a VPR reporter from 2012 - 2015, covering the Upper Valley and the Northeast Kingdom. Prior to that she freelanced for VPR for several years.
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