I like Dartmouth. Actually, I love it. My friends are incredible, my professors and classes are unbelievably fascinating and this gorgeous New Hampshire setting is inspiring. What I probably like most about Dartmouth is the College’s potential. We are constantly told that we students are the driving force in changing the College for the better or for the worse. That responsibility, while somewhat daunting, is also exhilarating. The constant, and lovely, barrage of blitzes about student events, speakers, performances and everything of that ilk is just astonishing people on this campus are so involved, intelligent, passionate and committed. We constantly take steps toward becoming a better school. I love that.
Sadly, our campus took about a hundred steps backwards last weekend. On Nov. 5, the study lounge of the gender neutral floor in Fahey-Mclane residence hall was vandalized. Unknown assailants wrote homophobic comments on the windows of the study room, including “yes means anal,” “penis? yes please,” “suck dick” and “faggot,” among others. We pat ourselves on the back for being a “gay friendly” school, yet these events still occur. Whoever did this shame on you.
On Thursday night, almost a week after the incident, Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson sent out an eloquent email outlining administrators’ disgust with the weekend’s events, writing, “Homophobia, racism, sexual assault and non-civility have no place on a campus where every day we strive for enlightenment through civil discourse coupled with respect for all members of our community.”
But if this is Dartmouth’s stance on these “hateful and derogatory remarks,” why did it take so long to publicize them? The event occurred Saturday night, but the school-wide email was sent out five days later, arriving in our mailboxes hours after an article appeared in The Dartmouth (“Vandals deface ground floor of Fahey-McLane,” Nov. 10).
Andrew Longhi ’14, a resident of the gender-neutral floor, said, “This incident shows that we have more work to do to achieve LGBT acceptance. When such attacks go unreported or, more alarmingly, are not responded to, our community is sending a message that this type of behavior is normal.”
This kind of horrific situation requires communication with haste. Students deserve to know what is happening on their campus, especially if it affects their emotional, and possibly physical, safety. Longhi said, “I hope those who believe this incident is unacceptable speak their mind, in order to create a more accepting environment for all people who need community support.” Dartmouth talks the talk about its strong sense of community, but I doubt that we are currently walking the walk.
I have found that my largest problem with Dartmouth and the way it is run is the lack of transparency. It feels like we exist in what has the potential to be a supportive and safe community, yet people fail to understand the necessity of open lines of communication, even if only to inform the student body that “yes, these horrific events happen here too.”
In order to make Dartmouth into the tight knit and tolerant community we all know it has the potential to be, we need to take strides to create an open and honest environment that actually promotes solidarity among our peers. I believe that if we join together and call for improved dialogue between students and administrators, a more open campus will result. Only then will this campus be a space where people are able to speak out and disagree respectfully without malice or judgment. While I would like to think that College administrators don’t condone outlandish behavior, in letting this hate crime slip through the cracks almost undisclosed, a bystander thumbs-up is sent to the perpetrators. This broken relationship between administrators and students will take a lot of work to repair.
If it is as important to you as it is to me to create an environment where these crimes will never be committed again, and, if they are, will be dealt with in an appropriate and honest manner, speak out. Speak out so that we all actually learn to live together, and join me in this call for transparency, dialogue and ultimate change within our home on the hill.