Diversity & The Dartmouth Review

Wooden platforms had been set up on the Green, complete with amplifying equipment. Thousands of student protestors and onlookers were milling around, many wearing T-shirts emblazoned with a circle and a red line through the word HATE. These students had come together for the “Rally Against Hate,” an event staged by Dartmouth President James O. Freedman ‘57 in October 1990 to protest the independent, off-campus newspaper The Dartmouth Review. At this nationally publicized event, all sorts of wild things were said by President Freedman and a wide swath of students, faculty, and alumni. Most notable, perhaps, was the following statement by President Freedman: “For ten years, The Dartmouth Review has attacked blacks because they are blacks, women because they are women, homosexuals because they are homosexuals, and Jews because they are Jews.”

Students protest The Dartmouth Review in 1991.

Students protest The Dartmouth Review in 1991.

The Editor-in-Chief of the paper at the time, who stood next to the platform as President Freedman denounced The Review for its “moral cowardice” and “vicious hatred,” was Kevin Pritchett, an African-American. Two previous Editors-in-Chief of The Review had been Indian-Americans, one of them Dinesh D’Souza, a now-famous conservative political commentator and author. The first President of The Review had been Nathan Levinson, a Jewish American. Yet President Freedman continued to advance scurrilous charges of anti-Semitism, racism, and bigotry against the editors of the paper and its supporters. Similar criticisms have been leveled against The Review since its inception in the 1980s. George Munroe, former chairman of Dartmouth’s Board of Trustees, once went so far as to suggest in The Wall Street Journal that The Review should be suppressed because it interfered with the College’s efforts to recruit a “diverse” student body. Administrators and members of the Dartmouth community have often claimed that The Review opposes diversity on campus. Such accusations are not only false but represent the very height of irony. In the balkanized and Orwellian world of Dartmouth, The Review is one of the only places on campus where an individual can experience complete meritocracy and egalitarianism. At The Review, political beliefs, religion, and ethnicity are irrelevant. All that matters is an individual’s ability to report, write, edit, and reason.

Over the last few decades, diversity has become one of the leading buzzwords in higher education. Universities extol their percentages of minority and international students and seek to create “inclusive and diverse communities.” These institutions ostensibly believe that intellectual life at universities should reflect a diverse array of opinions from a multitude of viewpoints. Yet although schools have dedicated hundreds of hours and millions of dollars to the priority of improving racial, ethnic, and gender diversity, in the process, viewpoint diversity has fallen by the wayside. Repeated studies have found that only about ten percent of professors in the social sciences or the humanities are conservatives. As higher education becomes a place of ideological exclusivity, ideological diversity suffers. Students at universities are not encouraged to interact with those who do not share their views. The rise of “safe space” culture in colleges across the country has encouraged students to remain close-minded, not to challenge themselves with new ideas. Views outside the mainstream liberal set often earn conservatives a slew of “isms” and “phobias.” Leftism is treated as the norm on college campuses by faculty, students, and administrators alike. For example, after Donald Trump’s election in the fall, the Dartmouth administration sent campus emails treating the outcome as a tragedy, assuming that everyone saw it as such. America’s universities are ornaments of Western civilization, and their descent into liberal authoritarianism is alarming. If students no longer engage with people of different views, then Dartmouth can no longer be called a truly inclusive community.

Luckily, Dartmouth seems to be moving in a hopeful direction since the 2016 presidential election, but there is still much improvement needed toward a true free flow of ideas. In an opinion piece for The Dartmouth, Dorothy Qu argued for an increase in intellectual diversity among the Dartmouth faculty. Titled “The Need for Conservative Faculty,” Qu’s piece makes a strong case for hiring professors of varied backgrounds to challenge students. Qu laments the “shift toward liberal and progressive professors,” and recognizes the benefits of having true diversity of thought on campus. The Dartmouth Review is one of the few contributors to the conservative sphere that Qu defends. Unfortunately, in today’s campus culture of single-minded commitment to liberal orthodoxy, The Review is perhaps the only force on campus that is able to successfully challenge the progressively liberal assumptions of Dartmouth, redefining the terms of the campus debate. The Review has consistently opposed the ideological monoculture that our universities are perpetuating, one where conservative ideas aren’t merely rejected, but often are never even heard.

Still, The Review has a substantial stigma attached to its name within the Dartmouth community. Whether due to its alleged “scandals” or to the conservative tilt of the publication, students develop often harsh impressions of the people involved. To be fair, The Dartmouth Review has often been unabashedly conservative in its coverage, attacking campus administrators and local politicians from a right-wing perspective. But underneath the veneer of our ideological rhetoric lies a tremendous diversity of political thought. The political beliefs represented within The Review’s staff span the distribution of views on campus. There are people with right-of-center views and there are people with left-of-center views. There are people who supported Donald Trump in the Republican primary elections, and there are people who supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries. There are people who swear by Ron Paul’s unique brand of libertarianism, and there are people who support Scandinavian socialism. This mutual respect for differences has always been an important component of The Review. After all, the students that write for The Review are a tolerant and inquisitive bunch; they are passionate about ideas and they argue vigorously about issues like what it means to be a conservative, what it means to be an American, what it means to receive a liberal arts education, whether America’s foreign policy is moral or amoral, whether corporations possess social responsibility, and whether morals can ever truly be objective.

The Dartmouth Review is not perfect, but it strives to create an atmosphere that is truly open to opposing viewpoints. David Kepler ‘20, an openly gay editor for The Review, attests that he has “never had a problem” telling fellow staffers that he is gay. Kepler said that it has been more difficult “coming out” as a conservative to fellow Dartmouth students than telling people that he’s gay, even if those people are in The Review. Bringing his unique history and experiences as a gay conservative to The Review, Kepler can speak to the effects of the left’s identity politics. And it is within this dominant liberal orthodoxy that The Dartmouth Review has distinguished itself as a vox clamantis in deserto, championing an unpopular, but morally and logically correct, interpretation of diversity that values viewpoint diversity as much as it values other forms of diversity. After all, The Review is not meant to be a political tool of ultra-conservative alumni or a mouthpiece for a barrage of ultra-right garbage; it is meant to be a source of sensible, unbiased, and reliable coverage free of administrative control, dedicated to running reasonable columns that incorporate conservative viewpoints; this is a mission that students with a broad array of backgrounds and political beliefs can support. 

The Dartmouth Review is ever-shifting, but it will always retain its intrinsic values as long as it remains independent from the College. With two former Editors-in-Chief from the Indian subcontinent, three former female Editors-in-Chief, and a number of former African-American Editors-in-Chief, The Review has never been and never will be a place of exclusivity or bigotry. We at The Dartmouth Review value diversity in all its forms and strive to hear all voices, regardless of race, orientation, gender, or religion.                 

  • Bob

    This is really well said. Well done.