Dartmouth Dons the Hair Shirt

Dartmouth College joins the ranks of those eager to apologize for alleged past sins: Dartmouth embraces historical accountability in new project.

As educational institutions across the country wrestle with their ties to slavery, Dartmouth College is taking a closer look at the darkest corners of its history.

The college plans to launch a “historical accountability” project this summer, which aims to better understand how marginalized groups, including African-Americans and other underrepresented students, have been treated since college was founded in 1769 by Eleazar Wheelock.

Sure, let’s catalog the transgressions of past generations! Despite being located in the mountains of New Hampshire, Dartmouth (or someone associated with Dartmouth) no doubt had some connection to slavery, back in the day. And how about Native Americans? Dartmouth was founded to educate Indians, so what are all these wealthy white kids doing there?

I had thought we might escape from future breast-beating confessionals when the college dropped the name of its athletic teams, which had been the Indians for generations. Now they are just the Big Green. But no such luck.

In a special twist, Dartmouth’s historical revisionism project will be put in the hands of undergraduates. That will ensure a proper historical perspective, I am sure.

Of course, slavery isn’t the only possible source of delicious guilt:

Other potential projects could include Dartmouth’s first female students after Dartmouth became coed in 1972, transgender and gay students prior to the shift and the treatment of Asian students during World War II.

Hey, here’s an idea: how about looking into the treatment of Asian students–or, more to the point, Asian applicants–today? Like other selective colleges, Dartmouth no doubt discriminates against Asians in the application process, while discriminating in favor of other ethnic groups, like African-Americans and Hispanics. If we are going to talk about institutional racism, we don’t need to go back 200 years. We can examine the incoming Class of 2022.

But don’t worry, that won’t happen. Dartmouth won’t want to do anything radical, or anything that might actually bring about change.

A wise man once said something about logs and specks in people’s eyes, but I forget the exact quote.


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