In the apocalyptic satire Dr. Strangelove, President Merkin Muffley meets with his military advisors as they seek to recall a bomber on its way to dropping the big one on the Soviet Union. President Muffley invites the Soviet ambassador into the War Room to join the discussion. When fight breaks out between the Russian ambassador and General Buck Turgidson at the Pentagon, President Muffley exclaims: “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!”
At Dartmouth College, however, you can’t satirize reality. Dartmouth now gives us: “Ladies and gentlemen, you can’t study in here! This is the library!”
Jos Asch notes that Assistant Director of Alumni Relations Meg Ramsden has been writing to alumni to inform them that the Black Lives Matter
protesters rioters who invaded the library and screamed racist epithets at studying students will not be sanctioned by the College. They didn’t violate any rules.
Now I can’t help but take Ramsden’s message to alumni personally. She thinks we’re really, really stupid. She would have us believe that the college is vindicating the principle of free speech.
The Dartmouth Review gave us a memorable account of what went down at the library this past fall in “Eyes wide open at the protest.” This, according to the college, is free speech at play:
Black-clad protesters gathered in front of Dartmouth Hall, forming a crowd roughly one hundred fifty strong. Ostensibly there to denounce the removal of shirts from a display in Collis, the Black Lives Matter collective began to sing songs and chant their eponymous catchphrase. Not content to merely demonstrate there for the night, the band descended from their high-water mark to march into Baker-Berry Library.
“F*** you, you filthy white f***s!” “F*** you and your comfort!” “F*** you, you racist s***!”
These shouted epithets were the first indication that many students had of the coming storm. The sign-wielding, obscenity-shouting protesters proceeded through the usually quiet backwaters of the library. They surged first through first-floor Berry, then up the stairs to the normally undisturbed floors of the building, before coming back down to the ground floor of Novack.
Throngs of protesters converged around fellow students who had not joined in their long march. They confronted students who bore “symbols of oppression”: “gangster hats” and Beats-brand headphones. The flood of demonstrators self-consciously overstepped every boundary, opening the doors of study spaces with students reviewing for exams. Those who tried to close their doors were harassed further. One student abandoned the study room and ran out of the library. The protesters followed her out of the library, shouting obscenities the whole way.
Students who refused to listen to or join their outbursts were shouted down. “Stand the f*** up!” “You filthy racist white piece of s***!” Men and women alike were pushed and shoved by the group. “If we can’t have it, shut it down!” they cried. Another woman was pinned to a wall by protesters who unleashed their insults, shouting “filthy white b****!” in her face.
Confident of their special status at the college, the BLM crowd gave us political thuggery in action. Their behavior certainly constituted disorderly conduct.
Ramsden emphasizes that no physical contact occurred — no punches were thrown — but the thuggery put students in reasonable fear of their personal safety. The conduct of the BLM crowd was, moreover, an outrage against common decency and civilized norms. The college would have us believe that if roles were reversed, high principle would have dictated a similarly indulgent outcome.
As Charles Kesler observes in a New York post column adapted from his current Claremont Review of Books essay on Donald Trump:
The left has gotten used to the way it runs the universities — by a powerful, ideological majority so dominant that there is little, if any, opposition.
They enjoy this imbalance; they regard it as natural, advantageous for students and, increasingly, as a model for how the rest of the world should be run.
On campus, the shock troops and deanlets wield the extraordinary power to order atonement and punishment, police the boundaries of speech and distribute benefits and rights by race, sex, gender, politics and ethnicity. This is political correctness, and it’s now the first of the left’s political institutions. It marks a new, ugly stage in liberalism.
Dartmouth has just given us another vivid case study illustrating Charles’s observation.