My first term at Dartmouth I took a great freshman seminar with Professor Peter Bien on Politics and the Novel. We read A Passage to India, Under Western Eyes, The Secret Agent, Guard of Honor, Freedom or Death, The Trial, and a few others. One of my classmates in the seminar was John Floberg. John went through Dartmouth on Navy ROTC, served his tour of duty, went to medical school, and became a neurologist practicing in the Twin Cities. Our freshman seminar, coincidentally, met in Dartmouth’s Baker Library (as it was then), the scene of last week’s disgrace. Yesterday John wrote President Hanlon:
Dear President Hanlon: I am appalled by the behavior of the “Black Lives Matter” protesters in Baker Library. If Baker is not a space “safe” from intimidation and threatened violence, what is? Inside their velvet glove pleading for justice is the mailed fist of the thugocracy. It is obvious from the video that their collective years of “liberal arts” education have left them little advanced over the Germanic hordes that sacked Rome.
We are always hearing about “teachable moments.” How about turning this untenable display into a teachable moment. In the casualty count of the recent Paris Massacre, I did not see a breakdown according to skin color. Perhaps the point is too subtle to make an impression on the protesting scholars. After all, they are too busy suffering through a $60,000+ per annum education on the Hanover Plain. The incoherence would be laughable, if it was not so depressing.
Will the College be able to administer justice and discipline the protesters for their indefensible actions? The need to ask the question makes me sad and pessimistic.
John Floberg ’73
This is the response that President Hanlon has sent to Dartmouth alumni:
Dear [First Name],
I understand you’re concerned about the Black Lives Matter protest on campus last week.
In response to the vandalization of a Black Lives Matter art installation in Collis Center, Dartmouth students organized a large, peaceful meeting on November 12th in support of the national Black Lives Matter movement. After the demonstration, a smaller group moved to the Baker-Berry library, where they launched a political protest.
We are following up on all complaints related to the protest. However, it’s important to note that as of today, we have received no complaints of physical violence and we have not seen any video that shows physical violence.
Dartmouth is committed to the principles of free speech, public protest, and inclusivity and we understand that these ideals may sometimes conflict with one another; however, the safety, well-being, and support of all of our students remain our highest priorities.
I, and members of the administration, have been meeting with concerned students and we are re-doubling efforts to strengthen our community, to increase communication and to ensure that no student ever feels intimidated or unsafe.
Thank you for writing, I appreciate your engagement on these issues.
Phil Hanlon ’77
The tone is almost jaunty. President Hanlon apparently didn’t see anything in the video that ruffled his feathers. He suggests that the behavior on display comported with campus norms. He seems to think that our sources of information are limited to college officials. He thinks we are oblivious to the reporting of the Dartmouth Review in “Eyes wide open at the protest” (and more here). He treats us as though we are poorly informed and none too bright. All in all, a performance that fails the occasion and deepens Dartmouth’s disgrace.
NOTE: Monica Showalter also exposes the course of proceedings at Dartmouth in the IBD column “A creepy, coercive turn for campus protests.” And thanks to Glenn Reynolds for his characteristically concise and perceptive comments here.
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