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.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/cftfunk/ JB Funk

    I need some advice, Feministing.

    My younger brother is currently a sophomore at Dartmouth (he’s off this trimester for a business internship), and was positively livid about these protests. He said that he thought they were needlessly aggressive, confrontational and mean-spirited, and that they made it seem like these were specific Dartmouth problems instead of larger cultural ones that happened at every school. He also said he knew some of the people who did some of the homophobic graffiti and that it was intended as a joke; a prank aimed at a friend of theirs. He doesn’t see the need for this, and thinks it’s just out to make the school look bad.

    Obviously, this is very dismaying. I’ve been trying to keep him back in line ever since he started pledging to his fraternity, and I thought I’d at least gotten some sense into him – he was going to start taking sexual assault awareness classes as a representative of his frat – but I know he still doesn’t understand why feminists are “always so angry” and “have no sense of humor.”

    How do I talk some sense into him? I’m still learning about all of this myself, so I have no idea how to answer these complaints. Does anyone have any advice?

    -JB

    • http://feministing.com/members/jemma/ Jemma Howitzer

      Point by point for you:

      He said that he thought they were needlessly aggressive, confrontational and mean-spirited : Well, we were asking nicely for an end to rape culture for decades, and nothing happened. We were confrontational, and we get thrown in the newspaper and students everywhere are talking about rape culture. All things considered, if I have to be a tiny bit mean and hurt some man-feelings to get people talking about and stopping rape culture, its worth it. Plus, its important to remember that throughout history quite a few people protesting oppression are “needlessly aggressive, confrontational, and mean”

      “hey made it seem like these were specific Dartmouth problems instead of larger cultural ones that happened at every school.” They are both. See the thing is, they DO exist at Dartmouth, and Dartmouth has a responsibility to handle those problems. Going “But colombia has rapes too!” doesn’t make your school safe, it’s just a tacit agreement that since all schools are dangerous, all schools should remain dangerous? Which is silly. Plus, let’s assume that all schools are dangerous right now. The discussion has to start SOMEWHERE, and I’m glad Dartmouth is that somewhere that decided to take the first step. Maybe Yale and Colombia and Harvard students can follow Dartmouth’s example they set.

      >He also said he knew some of the people who did some of the homophobic graffiti and that it was intended as a joke; a prank aimed at a friend of theirs.

      As a visibly trans woman who’s been trans-bashed while people screamed “faggot”, there is NO context where homophobic graffiti can possibly be funny or a joke. Public graffiti isn’t a private message its visible to the public. Even if it was private, using homophobic slurs is seriously not cool, and if I was your brother I would dump that homophobic bigot, fast. Also, a joke is defined as “a statement that inspires laughter”. Homophobic graffiti inspires anger and shitty feelings. So I don’t think your friend was being a “comedian”. I think he was being an “asshole”.

      • http://feministing.com/members/cftfunk/ JB Funk

        Thank you for the advice. I know my brother is a well-meaning empathetic kid at heart and it just really bothers me seeing how much poisonous and toxic shit he’s internalized. I hope these talking points will help me get through to him before he goes back to school this summer.