Students protest: “Dartmouth has a problem”

A group of current Dartmouth students spent the school’s multi-day event for admitted high schoolers making sure the “prospies” know the New Hampshire campus is not without urgent and inexcusable problems. Using a series of media–from chalking to chanted protest–the activists exposed the university’s shameful practices while the rest of the school worked to sell prospective students on a vision of airbrushed collegiate life. Rather than focusing on one particular issue, the dissenting students’ message honed in on Dartmouth’s oppressive silencing of students living at the intersections of multiple marginalized identities and experiences; the protestors’ stories differ, as seen in the video above, but the school’s pattern of “discrimination through inaction” is demonstrated clearly.

As Taylor Payer, Dartmouth ’15, told me, the participants have diverse perspectives and individual motivations, but their collective goal “was to better inform admitted students about the issues that go on in here. So we decided to get together and do some resistant actions to better inform admitted students and get the ear of the administration.”

Despite accusations of disloyalty from their peers, the protestors don’t want to scare potential classmates away from coming to Hanover, but rather invite them to matriculate at Dartmouth as allies. “We want to encourage them to come to Dartmouth prepared to join us in the fight and make change,” said Payer. “And we also wanted to mess things up for the administration to convince them that they need to do something about the problems here or we’re going to be loud and speak truth.” 

The activists wrote on their website:

On Wednesday evening and Thursday, Dartmouth students reached out to current and prospective students to engage in a dialogue about persistent, systematic, and structural issues of racism, sexism, rape culture, homophobia, classism, and ableism at Dartmouth through chalk, print, and video advertising. The advertising highlighted Dartmouth’s support of discrimination through inaction and communicated various facts about so-called “isolated bias incidents” at Dartmouth. Early Thursday morning, students who covered prominent campus areas with chalk messages were circled by S&S vehicles, confronted by other students, and their words were professionally scrubbed away by 8:00 AM. Posters displayed around campus were torn down and thrown away by students, administrators, and employees of the college.

…Campus is plastered with posters saying “We ♥ 17s [prospective freshmen]!” and “Welcome Home!” How many of these 17s will be sexually assaulted, hazed, verbally abused, targeted or marginalized because of their identity, or shamed because of their class if Dartmouth does not address bias, prejudice, sex segregation, and rape culture? Most? All? Silence maintains the status quo, and serves only those in power. Honesty and dialogue (#REALTALK) are necessary for change.

The collective’s most controversial move, sparking some productive debate and many violent threats, was a protest interrupting a student performance. Students chanted in call and response, returning to the refrain that “Dartmouth has a problem.”

Transcript of the chant after the jump (via Real Talk Dartmouth; protestors seem to have deviated from this script, we’ll post the updated version as soon as we have it) .

Lead: My name is Dartmouth
Chorus: Hi Dartmouth
Lead: And I have a problem
Chorus: Dartmouth has a problem
Lead: Let us show you another dimension of Dartmouth
Chorus: repeat

Lead: 3 years 15 reported sexual assaults
Chorus: repeat
Lead: But 95% go unreported
Chorus: repeat
Lead: Only 3 rapists expelled in 10 years
Chorus: repeat
Lead: Dartmouth has a problem
Chorus: repeat

Lead: Nov 2011
Chorus: repeat
Lead: homophobic, sexist graffiti
Chorus: repeat
Lead: dartmouth has a problem
Chorus: repeat

Lead: May 2012
Chorus: repeat
Lead: racist verbal attack
Chorus: repeat
Lead: Dartmouth has a problem
Chorus: repeat

Lead: November 2011
Chorus: repeat
Lead: Homophobic and sexist graffiti
Chorus: repeat
Lead: dartmouth has a problem
Chorus: DARTMOUTH HAS A PROBLEM!
Lead: My name is Dartmouth
Chorus: Hi Dartmouth
Lead: And I have a problem
Chorus: Dartmouth has a problem
Lead: Let us show you another dimension of Dartmouth
Chorus: repeat

Lead: 3 years 15 reported sexual assaults
Chorus: repeat
Lead: But 95% go unreported
Chorus: repeat
Lead: Only 3 rapists expelled in 10 years
Chorus: repeat
Lead: Dartmouth has a problem
Chorus: repeat

Lead: Nov 2011
Chorus: repeat
Lead: homophobic, sexist graffiti
Chorus: repeat
Lead: dartmouth has a problem
Chorus: repeat

Lead: May 2012
Chorus: repeat
Lead: racist verbal attack
Chorus: repeat
Lead: Dartmouth has a problem
Chorus: repeat

Lead: November 2011
Chorus: repeat
Lead: Homophobic and sexist graffiti
Chorus: repeat
Lead: dartmouth has a problem
Chorus: DARTMOUTH HAS A PROBLEM!

New Haven, CT

Alexandra Brodsky is an editor at Feministing.com, student at Yale Law School, and founding co-director of Know Your IX, a national legal education campaign against campus gender-based violence. Alexandra has written for publications including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and the Nation, and she has spoken about violence against women and reproductive justice on MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, and NPR. Through Know Your IX, she has organized with students across the country to build campuses free from discrimination and violence, developed federal policy on Title IX enforcement, and has testified at the Senate. At Yale Law, Alexandra focuses on antidiscrimination law and is a member of the Veterans Legal Services Clinic. Alexandra is committed to developing and strengthening responses to gender-based violence outside the criminal justice system through writing, organizing, and the law. Keep an eye out for The Feminist Utopia Project, co-edited by Alexandra and forthcoming from the Feminist Press (2015).

Alexandra Brodsky is an editor at Feministing.com, student at Yale Law School, and founding co-director of Know Your IX.

Read more about Alexandra

Join the Conversation