Dissenters Not Welcome Here

In a civilized, open society, nothing is more sacred than freedom of expression. Despite what Dr. Rickford may think, constructive discourse involving all sides of an issue is and always will be the best way to make the world a better place. When I joined the Dartmouth Review, I did so without any mind to forward a political agenda. I did so because it is an open forum for discussion of issues were everyone is welcome to contribute. Last week, a staff member of the Review attended a meeting on fossil fuel divestment. Without affecting the meeting in a negative manner, this staff member was able to gather important opinions so as to make an article he was writing a better representation of all views concerned. At this meeting, this staffer heard about another meeting regarding an upcoming national holiday, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This meeting, apparently one of a series of meetings of an informal campus group, would take place on Tuesday the 14th at 7:00pm in the El Hajj Malik El Shabazz Center for Intellectual Inquiry. This building, named after the revolutionary and self-admitted former racist leader Malcolm X, is inherently geared toward forwarding mutual discussion of important issues. This staffer and I together determined to go to this meeting, where we planned to politely listen to the views of others, all in the name of positive political discourse.

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Upon entering the building, we were approached by a fellow student taking part in said meeting. She greeted them, asking what we were looking for. We informed her that we wished to attend the meeting, whereupon she enquired who we were. Confused, my fellow staffer said that he had attended the Divestment meeting, where he had heard about this one. She further demanded that we disclose our private political affiliations. We truthfully replied that we are registered as independents. She asked us to wait, while she went inside to discuss our entry with the rest of the group, which included a professor. Upon her return, she informed us that it was a closed group and that we were not permitted to enter. With that, we thanked her and left, wishing a good evening to Dr. Rickford, who had just entered.

Dartmouth states that, “Freedom of expression and dissent is protected by College regulations. Dartmouth College prizes and defends the right of free speech and the freedom of the individual….” While Dartmouth does not specify what the regulations for holding a “closed meeting” are, I would like to think that any college-sponsored group or informal association of professors and students lacking an official members list cannot exclude non-members from a meeting in a public place owned by the college. If said group does have a member’s list, the college would surely disapprove of this group restricting membership based on private beliefs, especially if those excluded do not wish to cause any disruption whatsoever.

Let us be watchful of such exclusionary groups here at our open academic institution. Let us strive to personally embody this openness. Let us ensure that this upcoming national holiday honoring a great man is not perverted to fit the needs of a group of extremists. I have only one thing to say to those who would discourage constructive discourse: if it is freedom you want, the process starts with you.

 

–Jean Thurel ’17