Inside the Dimensions Debacle

Earlier tonight, as has already been reported, a group of Dartmouth students interrupted the Dimensions show, which was at Class of 1953 Commons. An attempt to differentiate our accepted students’ weekend from the bland affairs at other colleges, the show features a quirky set of song-and-dance routines. Most memorably, freshmen traditionally pretend to be “prospies” and then burst from the stunned crowd. Beloved by current students, the show was saved from an administrative attempt to end it by a vociferous student response.

Throughout the past two days, representatives from an as of yet unknown group had been stepping in on events all over campus, raising awareness over issues on campus like sexism, homophobia, and racism. Chalk writings were commonplace, saying much the same thing. Much like “Occupy Dartmouth” last year, students handed out flyers, reporting sexual assault statistics and incidents of discrimination on campus.

This year, though, this group took their effort a step further than Occupy Dartmouth had. As noted, members of the group burst into Class of 1953 Commons in the middle of the Dimensions show. Not only did the students enter the event uninvited, they did so under false pretenses. Most had the green wristbands on that designated prospies as prospies. Nevertheless, a group of upperclassmen attempted to physically stop the group coming in from the main foyer. The upperclassmen were soon overpowered, and the group entered the main hall.

The group moved in in the middle of a skit. Nevertheless, they immediately began chanting that they had a “public service announcement” for the assembled prospies. They proceeded to rattle off a list of grievances, including but not limited to sexual assault, racism,  and the appropriation of a Native American as the Dartmouth mascot. Throughout the time they were on stage – one source said three to four minutes, another thought it was closer to ten – they kept returning to one central theme: “Dartmouth has a problem.”

According to a source sitting amongst the “Seventeens,” in the crowd, there was a general aura of confusion. The intrusion took place not long after the “fake prospies” had shocked the crowd by revealing that they were freshmen, and, as such, the real prospies were not sure what to believe. There was an awful lot of mumbling in the crowd: for a while, nobody was sure as to whether or not the interruption was part of the show.

Another source, one of the “fake prospies,” noted a different mindset. Although the Dimensions team reacted quickly to try and force the group out, their constant, belligerent yelling forced the team to let them be. After that attempt failed, an aura of resignation and anger began to pervade. As the source noted, the group had practiced most days in the past month, often for hours on end. The group, in their eyes, had rudely interrupted something that the freshmen had worked so hard on over the last few weeks. Some reportedly cried behind the curtain.

As multiple sources, prospies and students alike, have stated, the demonstrators were forced off in a particularly inspiring manner. A prospy – not a student, not someone in the skit – started a “We Love Dartmouth” chant. Within seconds, the entire crowd caught on, chanting until the protesters skulked off the stage. After the group exited, Ashton Slatev, the head of the show, made a quick speech about how Dartmouth isn’t perfect, but that there are an awful lot of people that nevertheless love the school. And the show went on.

The show generally went on without a hitch from thereon in. Prospies and students alike characterized the protest as a “speed bump” in the general tenor of the show. If anything, some students were thoroughly bored by the demonstration, making them await the latter part of the show even more. Many saw the intrusion as absurd. For most, the protest seems to have had little impact.

Although some Seventeens may have brushed off the incident, this demonstration is, unfortunately, important. The College will likely suffer yet another negative blow to its reputation. First and foremost, the regional or national press is likely to pick up this episode sooner than later. And second, this is because, despite the general apathy displayed by the prospies, some students have undoubtedly been affected by the presentation. For people on the fence about Dartmouth – especially minorities and women – this very well could be the force that compels them to choose another school.

This leads into the great irony of this demonstration. The protesters, good intentions aside, ostensibly attempted to bring attention to issues on campus dearly important to them. But by highlighting the level of racism, sexual assault, and homophobia (accurate or not) at Dartmouth, the group will end up scaring away the very people that would have otherwise agreed with them. In short, this protest may very well make the Class of 2017 less diverse, of ethnicity, sexual orientation, and belief alike. It may reverse many of the gains the admissions office has painstakingly made in attempting to recruit a wide-ranging student body. This cannot be what the group set out to accomplish when it set foot in Class of 1953 Commons.

Not only did the group likely scare off certain Seventeens, it delegitimized the opinions of those who share its viewpoints. There are of course people who believe that the levels of racism, sexual assault, and homophobia at Dartmouth are unacceptably high; there are of course people that agree on the same solutions to those perceived problems. But because this group decided to interrupt the Dimensions show in such a boorish manner, it creates the unfair perception that all that espouse its views are similarly coarse. Whatever movement this group is a part of, they’ve set it back immeasurably. Out of every possible platform, the protesters decided to choose the near-sacred Dimensions show, pulling off the unenviable double feat of scaring Seventeens off from Dartmouth and deeply insulting the students that had worked so hard to put on this show. The extremely PR-conscious administration, presumably a friend to the protesters’ underlying ideals, cannot have been pleased with their display. There are likely few segments at Dartmouth that are not angry with the demonstrators right now.

Nobody won tonight. Performers saw their work marred. Prospies were given a false taste of Dartmouth that they may very well find unpalatable. The administration and admissions office saw their meticulous efforts go up in smoke. And the demonstrators’ future protests are likely to fall on deaf ears.

The one, great positive of the night is the inspiring manner in which the show continued. Again, a “We Love Dartmouth” chant silenced the protesters: and that chant came not from a student, but from a prospy. Despite the efforts of the demonstrators, it seems that the spirit of Dartmouth truly did get through to the Seventeens. 

–Nicholas S. Duva

 

Correction: An earlier version of this article read “when it set food.” The typo has been corrected to read “when it set foot.” Thank you to the hawk-eyed readers who pointed this out.