The Dartmouth College Republicans undertook a three week process to gain proper approval for the use of a bulletin board in Collis, Dartmouth’s student center. The administration granted approval for a Blue Lives Matter display in honor of National Police Week for a period of two weeks between May 2 and May 15.
Thursday, May 12
Around 10:00 PM: The Dartmouth College Republicans put up the following bulletin board display:
Friday, May 13
Around 9:00 AM: News of the display gained traction on social media. One post stated in reference to the bulletin board, “In case recent news about inclusivity and diversity had you fooled, Dartmouth is still racist. Located in the student center atrium.”
Around 11:00 AM: A group of students, claiming that they were acting independently of one another as to absolve themselves of collective responsibility, removed the College Republicans’ Blue Lives Matter display, replacing it with four flyers that state, “You cannot co-opt the movement against state violence to memorialize its perpetrators. #blacklivesmatter.”
In the intervening hours, dozens more flyers appeared, completely covering not only the College Republicans’ bulletin board, but nearby bulletin boards as well. The flyers also appeared at various locations around the campus, including the main entrance to Baker-Berry Library as well as the main entrance to Collis.
The group of students who vandalized the College Republicans’ bulletin board continuously monitored the scene, ostensibly to guard the bulletin board and to prevent the College Republicans from retaking the space. The size and composition of the group changed throughout the day, but the group remained there past 6 PM.
Around 1:30 PM: After commandeering the bulletin board, the same group of students printed and distributed pictures of the College Republicans with now-Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump. The Black Lives Matter protesters posted these pictures, with added commentary, around the campus. The picture was taken at last year’s First in the Nation Republican Leadership Summit. Some students in the picture are not affiliated with the College Republicans and had only hoped to meet then-presidential hopefuls. Similar pictures were taken with the other candidates present and none of them constituted an endorsement of any of the candidates. Several students notified their deans about the invasion of privacy in posting the pictures.
It became clear that the College was aware of the disruption and disallowed takeover of the reserved bulletin board. Anna Hall, the Director of the Collis Center, emailed and met with the College Republicans to discuss how to proceed. Initially, they discussed the feasibility of taking down the Black Lives Matter flyers at around 3:00 PM. However, no type of administrative response or action was forthcoming. When a Black Lives Matter display was defaced in the Fall, the administration responded with swift condemnation, exposing a clear double standard in how the administration treats different viewpoints.
2:18 PM: The Dartmouth College Republicans issued the following statement on its Facebook page:
College Republicans Statement on Collis Display Vandalism
On Friday, May 13 at approximately 11:00 a.m., a group of students removed our Blue Lives Matter display in Collis in honor of National Police Week. As an organization, we took the time and effort to obtain proper approval for the display while putting significant thought into its content. We are dismayed that a group of students would attempt to censor our message while coopting the space for their own purposes.
We had hoped to bring attention to law enforcement officers and their efforts and hard work in keeping our communities safe. In particular, we had hoped to honor all the law enforcement officers who have given their lives in service to their communities.
Just this morning, in Manchester, New Hampshire, two police officers were shot. Thankfully, both are expected to recover. However, this most recent incident only underscores the challenges facing law enforcement officers everywhere; just this year, 35 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty across the United States.
We hope that the Dartmouth community and the United States at large join us in appreciation of the challenging work that law enforcement officers perform.
Around 3:00 PM: The College Republicans met again with Ms. Hall. Seeking to avoid a confrontation, they proposed that Safety and Security be the ones to enforce the College’s policies governing the use of bulletin boards and remove the flyers. Ms. Hall informed the College Republicans that it would be within their right to take down the Black Lives Matter flyers themselves, although it might not be advisable. Ms. Hall contacted her supervisor, Associate Dean for Student Life Eric Ramsey, as well as Safety and Security for recommendations as to how to proceed.
Around 4:00-5:00 PM: Once again, Ms. Hall met with the College Republicans to discuss a resolution to the situation. Ms. Hall and an unidentified staff member spoke to the Black Lives Matter protesters, strongly informing them that they were in clear violation of College policy as the College Republicans had the bulletin board reserved and were in the right. The students responded that they were aware of the violation but were unwilling to remove their flyers. After conferring with Safety and Security and Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Hall informed the College Republicans that the College wanted to avoid confrontation and recommended that the flyers not be removed that day. Instead, maintenance staff would remove the flyers overnight, after which the College Republicans would have use of the board.
The College Republicans responded that they, on principle, would like to regain use of the board as soon as possible. They discussed taking down the flyers themselves. The group of student protesters sent various proxies to speak to the College Republicans. They said that the College Republicans were free to take down the Black Lives Matter flyers, but a group of protesters continued to occupy the space in front of the bulletin board.
Furthermore, the College Republicans discovered that the Black Lives Matter protesters, upon seeing the Blue Lives Matter display the night before, applied for and were granted permission to use the bulletin board nearby. While the College Republicans were required to undergo a long bureaucratic process, the Black Lives Matter group was given expedited approval, once again exposing a clear double standard.
Meanwhile, Safety and Security informed the College Republicans that Harry Kinne, the Director of Safety and Security, and Mr. Ramsey had come to an “agreement” that the College Republicans would not be allowed take down the Black Lives Matter flyers until Collis closed at 2 AM. The officers also threatened sanctions if the College Republicans acted. Students began to disperse without any action having been taken.
6:51 PM: A Dartmouth student claimed credit for the vandalism of the Blue Lives Matter display in a rather longwinded Facebook post:
8:03 PM: The Black Lives Matter protesters began distributing the following email (sic):
Please send to ALL PEOPLE–organizations, and list-serve!!!
Today, Friday May 13th the Dartmouth College Republicans reserved a central bulletin board in Collis Atrium. On this board the Dartmouth College Republicans posted the slogan “Blue Lives Matter” FOUR times. By co-opting a movement intended to protect the livelihood of Black people, Blue Lives Matter” & #AllLivesMatter facilitates the erasure of black lives. This slogan denies that black bodies are subjected to disproportionate state violence. This has nothing to do with individual police officers.
Over the past several terms, in Collis the black lives matter installation was defaced, and the signs outside of the gender inclusive bathroom were ripped off of the walls. On our campus a native woman and man were egged after a silent protest, countless women of color have been assaulted, people of color have been called racial slurs, physically threatened, and aggressively approached in public, private, and over social media.
The #blacklivesmatter protest in the fall affirmed black existence, humanity, and resilience in light of the oppressive reality here at Dartmouth. This is our reality; we are the voices of ALL people of color in classes. It is inescapable as social media, especially yik-yak, is saturated with racial slurs. This morning the bulletin boards in “The Center for Student Involvement” informed the campus this space is NOT for us . Collis is intended to be a home base for all student activities, however is a site of violence.
This campus is toxic.
Our goal is to illuminate the severity of the violence people of color face on this campus. In not challenging this oppression against our bodies, instead reproducing this narrative is actively partaking in this violence. Silencing our narratives. If we didn’t take down the display we would be reproducing a violent narrative that works to silence us in masses.
People are tired. People of color are tired of being made inferior to their peers. We are tired of conservative rhetoric reproducing the same racial stereotypes that have positioned our bodies in a violent, inhumane fashion since slavery.
We have reclaimed the board. We are reclaiming our space, in Collis, in Class, and on this Campus. We have proclaimed “Black Lives Matter”—we do in fact matter, and we are here.
Fuck your comfort, there is no such thing as neutral existence. Sitting in the library with your headphones in, intensifies this violence against people of color, muting the voices of the movement, the cries of your peers, and the history of inequality. Posting Blue Lives Matter reproduces the idea that All lives matter, again intensifying the violence against people of color. Invalidating individual realities.
We occupy this space, in front of the bulletin board, to guarantee our presence at this institution. Reposting Blue Lives Matter reproduces this violent narrative against people of color, by silencing us. We will not be silenced.
We have cried, but we will persevere regardless of the complacent conservative faction on campus, we will be okay. We need to be okay, so we can graduate from this institution with a Dartmouth degree. Face it that’s why we came here, and at the end of the day we still are here—at Dartmouth, in the Ivy League, in college, in this nation. We aren’t going anywhere.
It is your turn, stand in solidarity with us. Do not allow the cries of your peers, your friends be silenced.
Peace, Love, Solidarity,
Existence is Resistance
8:30 PM: The Dartmouth College Republicans issued a second public statement, this time in an email to President Hanlon and the Board of Trustees:
Response to College Suppression of Our Freedom of Expression in Collis Today
Today our freedom of speech was violated by our fellow students while the administration stood idly by. We spent three weeks getting our poster remembering fallen men and women of law enforcement approved through the proper administrative channels. Almost as soon as it was posted in the Collis Center for Student Involvement, it was torn down and replaced with Black Lives Matter posters. Parkhurst was unwilling to remove the posters as it was afraid of taking a political stance. There is, however, nothing political about standing up for freedom of speech, our First Amendment right.
While we wholeheartedly stand behind our message, whether the College agrees with us or not should not have an effect on its response. Unfortunately, it clearly has. When Black Lives Matter’s t-shirt display was previously vandalized, the school quickly and appropriately responded with an email condemning the violation of freedom of speech. President Hanlon spoke of creating a “safe space” for students to express their opinions. He wrote that Dartmouth “strive[s] to balance freedom of speech with strong community values of civil discourse.” President Hanlon continued, “at their core, institutions of higher education are places where open inquiry and the free debate about difficult and sometimes uncomfortable ideas must thrive.”
Yet, when it came time to enforcing these protections for students on the other side of the political spectrum, there was only deafening silence. In fact, after much discussion, we were told by Safety & Security and Collis leadership that restoring our display would put us in violation of College policy and that we would be subject to punishment by Dartmouth Judicial Affairs. While our posters were kept off the bulletin boards (at least until 2 AM when Collis closes), theirs were allowed to remain unchecked with no repercussions. In fact, they were given expedited permission to have their posters placed in Collis. This group was granted approval within hours, while we had to schedule almost a month in advance.
Even when the posters vandalizing our memorial to fallen heroes started to become personal attacks on and photographs of members of our Republican community, Dartmouth failed to act. The administration claims it will not tolerate making other students feel unsafe. However, many members of our community do not feel safe walking through the student center where photos are present. Would Parkhurst’s response to these attacks have been the same if it was the College Republicans that had put up posters deriding and targeting members of the Black Lives Matter movement? We think not.
All we ask is that the protections and freedoms of self-expression afforded to other student organizations be extended to us. We do not see the Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter movements as mutually exclusive. It is possible to recognize the service and contributions of law enforcement officers while simultaneously pushing for reform to correct the grave mistakes of the small minority of officers. On National Law Enforcement Appreciation Week, we just hoped to highlight the monumental sacrifices made by these officers to protect us every day.
Regardless of your personal opinions of our views, you should be willing to stand by our right to express our opinions. If others would like to counter protest our memorial, we stand by their right to do so in a civil manner. If they wish to go through the proper administrative channels, we welcome them to exercise their fundamental right to self-expression. However, we will not stand idly by as our detractors suppress this same basic freedom for us. All we ask is that the administration defend our rights as well.
UPDATE: Sunday, May 15
11:34 AM: President Phil Hanlon sent an email to the College strongly condemning the removal of the Blue Lives Matter display on free speech grounds:
To undergraduate students:
Freedom of expression is a fundamental value of the Dartmouth community. By its very nature, the exercise of free speech will include views with which some of us disagree or which we find hurtful.
The unauthorized removal on Friday of a student display for National Police Week in the Collis Center was an unacceptable violation of freedom of expression on our campus. Vandalism represents a silencing of free exchange, rather than open engagement. This was true of the vandalism of the Black Lives Matter display last November, and equally true of Friday‘s action. Any students identified as being involved in such actions will be subject to our disciplinary process.
Freedom to dissent lies at the heart of freedom of expression, and Dartmouth will always protect it. We encourage those who dissent to assert a counter perspective openly through one of many communications avenues available.
Robust and respectful debate will always have a home at Dartmouth College. Open inquiry and free debate are sometimes uncomfortable. As challenging as it may be, the passionate but respectful exchange of ideas is the foundation of an academic community–both at Dartmouth and on campuses across the United States.
Phil Hanlon ’77, President
Carolyn Dever, Provost
Rebecca Biron, Dean of the College
Inge-Lise Ameer, Vice Provost for Student Affairs
Meanwhile, both individual protesters as well as members of the College Republicans have been singled out on social media. There have been a series of despicable tweets targeted at a Black Lives Matter protester who tore down the original display. Similarly, the President of the College Republicans has been defamed on Yik Yak. Needless to say, The Review hopes thats civility ensues.
Brian Chen and Samuel W. Lawhon contributed to this report.