Controversy Surrounds Riner Convocation Speech

A summary of the fallout, as reported in The Dartmouth.

A news article refers to the speech as “resembl[ing] a sermon” and quotes only freshmen who disliked it.

A comic by Paul Heintz ’06 (the runner up in last spring’s Student Assembly race) featuring Riner and Jesus portrays the former as a crusader who wants “to vanquish all those infidel looters and rioters” and Jesus at pot-smoking pottymouth who tells Riner to “Take a hit off this s— and chill the f— out.”

An op-ed by Brian Martin ’06, who finished third to Riner in the race for student body President, contends that “It is fine to believe whatever you want, but Convocation is neither the time nor the place to proselytize.”

In a news article about his priorities for Student Assembly, Riner defends his speech: “I realize that I have a very specific perspective on the issue of character. And by adding my perspective, I hope that it’ll give other people the opportunity to examine their own perspectives and to add those to the Dartmouth dialogue.”

A news article reports the resignation of Student Assembly Vice President for Student Life Kaelin Goulet ’07. “I consider his choice of topic for the Convocation speech reprehensible and an abuse of power. You embarrass the organization; you embarrass yourself,” she reportedly wrote to Riner.

A letter from John Stern ’05 points out the hypocrisy of publishing Heintz’s comic: ” I dare say it was equally offensive to Christians, if not more so, than Riner’s speech was to non-Christians.”

The paper’s editorial board condemns the speech: “The problem with Riner’s speech was his insinuation that turning to Jesus is the only way to find character…Riner had every right, as a member of a community that values the freedom of speech, to speak freely about what matters to him. The forum he chose, however, was inappropriate.”

An op-ed from Hillel president Libby Sherman ’06 denounces the speech and “invite[s] Noah Riner to the Multi-Faith Council to learn to work with the diversity that makes Dartmouth such a wonderful place to be, rather than divide and offend.” Sherman writes: “Invoking imagery of the cross, using the word “us,” but not me — these are inappropriate for a speech opening the new school year and welcoming all students…Presumably, the Student Body President is elected to represent the entire Dartmouth community. Alienating and offending a few students is, unto itself, something that a campus leader should avoid at all costs.” Sherman doesn’t explain how it’s possible to please all students, and her piece also contains this incredibly contradictory sentence: “Part of the value of the Dartmouth experience is learning about and embracing diversity and this disrespectful action is the complete antithesis of the values that Dartmouth espouses.”

An op-ed from David Glovsky ’08, a Jewish student, notes that he was not offended by Riner’s speech, despite his disagreement: “Many of us in the Dartmouth community proudly disagree with that and other aspects of Riner’s religious beliefs, but our disagreements do not give us the right to limit his speech.”