MAJOR Story: The College Is Funding Political Causes

Andrew Biteen ’04 has an excellent article in today’s Daily Dartmouth in which he condemns College funds being used for political activities. He cites Student Assembly cosponsorship of John Kerry’s speech last week and the use of COSO funds, Department of Spanish and Portuguese funds, Sociology Department funds, and possibly Dean’s Office funds for this activity. His source (which I wish I had caught myself) is a January 16, 2003 article in The Daily Dartmouth.

Student organizations should be allowed to spend the money they receive as student organizations on political activities as long as it is generally pursuant the organization’s mission. To ban organizations from using funds to these ends is to ban them from engaging their missions in any real sense. So Student Assembly funds going to a speech by John Kerry isn’t troubling.

(In fact, I pretty much think that the Student Assembly should be allowed to spend its money however it decides, short of contributions to a candidate’s campaign. After all, the mission of the SA is generally what it’s members decide it to be. We’ve had SAs in the past that have decided to become very political indeed. This is separate, note well, from the question of what the Student Assembly should spend its money on. The SA funding a rally against abortion, for example, should be allowed, but should not happen.)

Indeed, if such restrictions were held, Aquinas House would be prohibited from using College funds to buy candles for Mass. The College Republicans and the Young Democrats would basically have to cease on campus. Naturally, such stringent boundaries on what you can advocate and how you can advocate it would constitute an intolerable restriction on expression, and would seriously damage the health of “the free marketplace of ideas” at Dartmouth. (Granted, it’s hurting already.)

However, academic department funds — and Dean’s Office funds — should not be used to further any specific political cause. This is nothing short of an outrage. Neither the Dean’s Office nor any academic department can justify in any way funding a trip to DC to protest the war. Imagine if the shoe were on the other foot: the Dean’s Office funded a protest outside the Planned Parenthood in Lebanon; the French Department took out an ad in The Valley News defending Second Amendment rights; the Mathematics Department bought 500 copies of Daniel J. Flynn’s Why the Left Hates America. The walls would fall, and everyone would instantly see how outrageous that would be.

This is a story, a big one, and needs to be commented on. If it’s true, Dean Larimore, Spanish Dept. Chair Marsha Swislocki, and Sociology Dept. Chair John L. Campbell must answer.