By Michael Bronski, Wgst Professor; Thomas Luxon, English Professor; Annelise Orleck, History Professor; Ivy Schweitzer, English Professor
Published on Tuesday, May 22, 2012
We applaud the email that College President Jim Yong Kim sent on May 11 to the Dartmouth Community notifying us of two “bias incidents” and reiterating the College’s condemnation of such acts (“Kim notifies campus of harassment incidents,” May 14). We would, however, like to call attention to a May 14 blog post on Dartmouth Gender Sexuality XYZ.
The post raises several important issues in response to Kim’s letter with which we strongly agree. To exclude the locations of these bias incidents is, at best, misleading and at worst, a misguided attempt to protect the perpetrators. But not directly locating these incidents in the physical world of the College — they occurred at the Class of 1953 Commons and in a fraternity — prevents us from potentially discerning a pattern and contributes to the perception that these occurrences are random “isolated incidents” carried out by “bad apples.” There are, as the blog post argues, no isolated incidents on a campus that condemns homophobia, racism and misogyny, yet tolerates and supports structures and institutions that condone and perpetuate these prejudices and the resulting offensive behaviors. We know that these are not “isolated incidents” from official as well as anecdotal evidence, which indicates that they happen frequently, most often where students socialize, which is primarily, although not always, in Greek houses. The administration’s reiterated claims that these hateful attitudes and actions will not be tolerated are simply not enough. In a meeting last week with Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson, several of us made concrete suggestions about how the administration could go beyond the rhetoric of “intolerance” and “condemnation” to actions that would begin to change the culture and hold offending organizations accountable. These included a frank and open discussion about how racism, homophobia and misogyny are built into the College’s cultural structures and the need for a reform of the College’s housing system that would give students a secure and stable living situation for their time at Dartmouth. This could include creating residence hall spaces that consistently host student activities; creating more houses, such as Foley House, that are not Greek letter houses; creating more residential clusters similar to East Wheelock, which has been a model of productive student living. Finally, and as an immediate attempt to prevent further “bias incidents,” as well as physical harassment and assault, we strongly suggest that the College institute policies similar to those at Princeton University’s eating clubs (and residences at many other peer institutions) and mandate that there be security guards or bouncers at all registered and weekend parties at residential and Greek houses. We are happy to work with the administration on these suggestions and urge Kim to consider and institute them.