Voces Clamantium: Balmer, Ghazal and James

To the Editor:

Tengatenga’s Real Record

As a member of the search committee that unanimously and enthusiastically recommended the appointment of Right Rev. James Tengatenga as chaplain and dean of the Tucker Foundation, I must take issue with the characterization of last year’s Tengatenga debacle by Professor Michael Bronski. Bronski, identified in the article (“Tengatenga begins role at Mass. divinity school,” Jan. 24) as “a vocal critic of Tengatenga’s appointment last summer,” now says that Tengatenga “was just a bad fit for Dartmouth.”

Indeed, “bad fit” was part of the argument mounted against Tengatenga, but it was only a small part. The core of the resistance to his appointment  was that he was homophobic — a charge that turned out to be wildly inaccurate. The facts of the case are rather different: Tengatenga, known in Africa as the “Desmond Tutu of Malawi,” is regarded by LGBTQ activists in Africa as a hero, and those opposed to gay rights revile him as part of the “homosexual lobby.” The head of the Africa chapter of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission applauded Tengatenga’s “courage” for his advocacy of LGBTQ issues. Tengatenga has been an advocate for human rights his entire adult life. He has worked to eliminate HIV/AIDS, sex trafficking and violence against women. Tengatenga’s appointment at Dartmouth was endorsed by prominent religious leaders and human rights activists, including Archbishop Tutu, the retired Anglican primate of South Africa and Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

The final fact in this unfortunate episode is the most uncomfortable. A small coterie of ill-informed members of the Dartmouth community, many of whom were pushing their own agenda for the Tucker Foundation, engaged in a campaign of calumny and vilification the likes of which I have never witnessed in my 30-plus years in the academy. Sadly, staff members of the Tucker Foundation were complicit in this character assassination.

The criticisms hurled against Tengatenga have been thoroughly discredited (see my article, “Diversity Has Its Limits at Dartmouth,” in the Valley News, Sept. 29, 2013). For Bronski and others to seek shelter now in the “bad fit” redoubt strikes me as a tad disingenuous. It’s a bit like a hit-and-run driver complaining that the pedestrian he just struck should never have ventured into the crosswalk.

Randall Balmer

Chair, Department of Religion

* * *

J Street and Palestine

An article in a recent issue of The Mirror (“Striking a Balance,” Jan. 17) portrayed Dartmouth’s chapter of J Street U as monolithic and one-sided. Nothing could be further from the truth. I joined J Street U last term seeking a space for deep, challenging and balanced conversations on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict despite skepticism about whether or not a self-proclaimed pro-Israel group could create that space. What I saw was a sense of passion for understanding the concerns of Israelis and Palestinians, as well as a pragmatic drive of action to get to a resolution to the conflict. Indeed, J Street U not only calls itself pro-Israel but also pro-Palestinian.

As a Lebanese-American, I grew up thinking about the conflict on Lebanon’s southern border. I saw a deep sense of mistrust between the Israelis and Palestinians that stemmed from a lack of understanding of each other’s narrative. I heard people embrace one narrative or the other — never both. I once posited the question to a friend if it was “possible” to be both pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian. I now realize that to truly be pro-Israel, one must also be pro-Palestine. Since the fates of both peoples are tied, the only way for both of them to escape their tragic past and secure a peaceful and sustainable future is through a two-state solution.

Contrary to what some may think, J Street U works to create a deep understanding of both narratives in a way that makes concrete political change. If you care about human rights, security or self-determination, you have a stake in this issue. Whether you’re in Hanover, Haifa or Hebron, this is the work that must be done to uphold the different values that drive us to support peace.

Paul Ghazal ’17

Member, J Street U

* * *

Hop Hospitality

Jon Miller’s editorial (“Outside the Classroom,” Jan. 22) hit the proverbial nail on the head in extolling the marvels of the Hopkins Center’s workshops. Yes, students can walk in with zero experience and, with the guidance of brilliant teaching artists, learn to make beautiful and valuable items of wood, metal and clay — and in the process, enrich their own academic experience in many dimensions.

However, while we at the Hop heartily welcome more students using the workshops, we are glad to say 40 percent of students already do over the course of their Dartmouth experience — so the workshops are not quite as forgotten a resource as the editorial suggests. We’re always developing new ways to promote the shops, and Miller’s editorial gives us new impetus for such efforts.

But why take my word for it?  Stop by the workshops during their hours of operation and see for yourself. The Donald Claflin Jewelry Studio, the Woodworking Workshop and the Davidson Ceramics Studio are open most days of the week. They also offer workshops, and more information about these programs is available on the Hop’s website.

Jeffrey James

Howard Gilman Director, Hopkins Center for the Arts

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