Administration Downplays Dartmouth Shooting

During and immediately after the shooting, one principal claim that the administration has made, and that has been propagated by many media sources and even the police is that this shooting was fundamentally unrelated to Dartmouth. This claim is based on the three assumptions that the victim was not affiliated with Dartmouth, that the shooting was random, not targeted, and that the shooting did not take place on campus. Each of these assumptions is a gross misrepresentation of the events that transpired that night.

Dartmouth has claimed that the victim of the shooting was unaffiliated with the College. In his email to campus on the morning of November 3, President Philip J. Hanlon referred to the incident as:

“…a 19-year-old man was shot on the sidewalk outside the Christian Science Reading Room on School Street, about a block away from campus. The victim, who is not affiliated with Dartmouth…”

The VOX Daily email sent out on November 5 via the Office of Communications to the Dartmouth community emphasizes the lack of connection the victim had with Dartmouth. It reads, “The victim is not affiliated with Dartmouth.”

Coverage from most national and local news outlets emphasize the College’s statement distancing itself from the incident through both geography and affiliation. During the incident, while the campus was on lockdown, the College’s social media accounts were busy emphasizing that the student was not affiliated with the College in any way, shape, or form. This was reflected in the emails the College sent to students’ parents and guardians as well.

Police described the incident as a “random, isolated attack.” Moreover, when questioned about what the victim was doing in Hanover, and specifically whether he was visiting Dartmouth, Police Chief Charles Dennis responded by saying, “ I’m not going release any information on that at this time.” Thus, any misconceptions about the connection between the shooting victim and the College have not been corrected by police to the best of our knowledge at this time.

The Dartmouth Review has spoken to multiple sources, including students with first-hand knowledge of the shooting and has corroborated the actual facts extensively. A Dartmouth student invited three friends from outside of Dartmouth to stay with him over the weekend in his College dormitory. Around 9:30 PM on the night of November 2, a group of five Dartmouth students and their three guests staying with them that night were going south on College Street, heading into town.

They were in two groups of four each, engrossed in conversation; the group at the rear was shot at. They reported hearing the sound of a gunshot, and the victim shouted an expletive and complained of pain. The group opened the jacket of the victim to find that blood was oozing out, and that he had been shot in the lower back. The students called 911 and immediately escorted him to a College-owned sorority house on the opposite side of the street, Sigma Delta, where they waited for emergency services to come and save their injured guest.

Upon arrival, the ambulance escorted the victim to the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Some of the students were questioned extensively by Hanover Police for many hours. The students informed the College’s administration about the incident and the status of the injured person, but till Sunday, the administration has not reached out to the injured student.

What compounds the administration’s apathy towards the student body’s safety is the way that the DartAlert system was used. While the dispatch at 911 received a call around 9:45 PM according to Hanover PD Chief Charles Dennis, the first notification that students officially received from the College was at 10:23 PM, more than half an hour after the shooting was reported. With a shooter at large, such a delay could easily have put more Dartmouth affiliated lives at risk. A College employee, who was on duty at the time of the incident and usually is on Amber alert status, claimed he did not receive notification of the incident from the College until the morning after.

The College has repeatedly said that the shooting did not take place on campus. President Hanlon in his email to the Dartmouth community referred to the location as “about a block away from campus.” A release by the Office of Communications refers to the “shooting near campus.” These claims are defensibly true, but also highly misleading to anyone not familiar with the area. After all, the definition of what is “on campus” is not clearly defined.

The map below highlights the buildings used by the College and those affiliated with it.
(Note: Up to 5 students live on the premises of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in their College affiliated residential program. The church has a Dartmouth Blitz account, demonstrating a significant relationship with and recognition from the College).

As is visible from this image, the shooting took place around a hundred yards from the largest dining hall on campus, Class of 1953 Commons. It also took place so close to the College-owned and student occupied Sigma Delta that the students and their guests took shelter in that Dartmouth sorority’s portico while waiting for the ambulance. College-owned and faculty occupied housing is further along School Street, which the Hanlon Administration would describe as further away from campus. Looking again at the map, most of the buildings in the immediate vicinity of the location of the shooting are either Dartmouth-owned or at least heavily associated with the College and its students. Several are office buildings occupied by Dartmouth officials, Theta Delta Chi (TDX) is an on-campus Dartmouth fraternity, and the Episcopal Church houses students of the College.

For Hanlon and the rest of the Administration to regularly insist that the shooting was a “block away from campus” would be to feign ignorance with the geography of the small town they work in and inhabit. Hanlon, additionally, has roamed these very same streets as an undergraduate student from 1973–77, and later, from 2013 onwards, as President of the College. To use the language that the Administration has used is to deemphasize the closeness of the incident to the student body.

Sources with knowledge of the shooting incident further impressed upon the mind the intertwined nature of the shooting and Dartmouth. When the Review spoke to those who were present at the incident, they emphasized that the shot did not seem to be targeted towards one person, but rather, at a group of what would seem like Dartmouth students to those who did not know the individuals in the group personally. Some of those present recount that they saw a car similar to the one that Gage Young was eventually discovered in by police. These sources noted that the vehicle was a significant distance away from the location of the shooting, so much so that it seems highly unlikely that the shooter could have aimed a handgun with sufficient accuracy to hit one desired student out of the four after recognizing him in the dark with his back turned towards the shooter.

Therefore, the administration’s claim that the attack was not directed at the Dartmouth community does not hold up — some of those present strongly believe that Gage Young intended to attack members of the Dartmouth community. Add to this Young’s familiarity with Hanover — he worked in close proximity to the site of the shooting for a substantial period of time and grew up right outside the town, on Oak Ridge Road, which is just a few hundred yards from the boundary of the town of Hanover — and we know almost definitely that the attack was carried out with intent to harm. Does this administration not care about criminal gun violence?

  • S. Koval

    You make valid criticisms here, but I think you miss the point. The College is certainly trying to distance itself from the shooting, but not because the administration does not care about gun violence. The College does not want any (more) bad press, and wants to distance itself from the idea of this being a school shooting. The College cares about its students, but it also cares about admissions. One of Dartmouth’s appeals is its quaint, safe location in the mountains – an appeal that was shattered for some students on Friday. Would you be eager to apply to a school that just had a shooting? You frame this article as if the administration has malicious intent. In reality, they have many issues to handle, and are trying to do what they believe is best for the school. Do I agree with how they framed the shooting? No. But by implying that the College is incompetent or malevolent is a blatant oversimplification.

  • BlueSunday

    Thanks for this. A couple of points though:

    How could the students have been traveling south on College St. (the eastern side of the Green) and then all of a sudden be traveling east on West Wheelock St.? Did you mean to say that the students were traveling south on School St.?

    I doubt that St. Thomas’s Church itself has students living in it. Instead, they would be living in Edgerton House, which is further south on School St.