Freedom and Oppression

Recently, my UGA used the forum of a floor meeting (and floor mass email) as a bully pulpit to vigorously espouse her support of the Freedom Budget. She expressed her opinions, which is certainly acceptable, but she also seemed to want to force them upon others, which is definitely not, especially for someone in a position of authority. This misuse of power, however, belies a more salient point.

Overall, the Freedom Budget misses the mark in the vision laid out by its proposals. Collectively, the Freedom Budget proposals are actually inimical to the liberal arts education that Dartmouth holds so dear.

We can all agree that racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia are unjust and should be eradicated. And I will not belabor the oft-cited criticisms about the way proponents of the Freedom Budget make their opinions heard. Similarly, I will not espouse redundant platitudes about the importance of dialogue. But it is important to note that the Freedom Budget includes a few points of common agreement, several points that are somewhat troubling, and yet more points that are of serious contention.

It is somewhat ironic that a proposal titled the Freedom Budget would impose a worldview on the entire College by administrative fiat. The purported critics of oppression behind the Freedom Budget, such as my UGA, are quick to use authority to further their political aims yet hypocritically decry these structures as patriarchal or oppressive.

Dartmouth indeed has a problem: its liberal arts tradition of academic openness is in decline. Many may be quick to denigrate tradition, and tradition may not be an argument in and of itself, but tradition informs the future and demonstrates what is of value. We have deviated too far from our College’s core mission. Dartmouth College, saddled with bureaucratic inertia and delusions of grandeur, is attempting and failing to become Dartmouth University.

At these crossroads, the College can choose to be either a mediocre university or a great College. It can offer the best liberal arts education in the country—and maybe in the world—or it can continue compromising its mission to stand in the shadow of other research institutions.

In light of the nature of current campus discourse, it is readily apparent that the openness and intellectual rigor characteristic of the liberal arts are sorely lacking. Conversations often devolve into exchanges of polemics. The Freedom Budget, for its merits and flaws, would silence reasonable disagreement and foist a particular partisan perspective on the entire community, damaging a liberal arts tradition already under attack.

It is often said that the truth will set you free. We need academic freedom, not more shackles of political correctness in the form of courses on social justice and censorship of opinions. We need more intellectual canon, not more ethnic studies. A liberal arts education is the pursuit of knowledge for knowledge’s sake. It provides the tools for critical thought and open inquiry. Thus, at this most critical juncture, the College needs to return to its traditions more than ever.

Let’s promote freedom, not oppression.


-Brian Chen