Moving Dartmouth Forward: Correcting Disinformation

Support for Moving Dartmouth Forward's signature and most publicized reform, a hard liquor ban, is weak at best.

Support for Moving Dartmouth Forward’s signature and most publicized reform, a hard liquor ban, is weak at best.

The College’s public relations operation is going for broke attempting to sell Moving Dartmouth Forward to the Dartmouth community and the public at large. A recent Dartmouth Now press release titled “Capacity Crowd Turns Out for Hanlon’s Address” states that “The reaction from the crowd was thoughtful and generally supportive.” The press release then goes on to cite support from two faculty members and an alumnus and the mixed reaction of one affiliated student. President Hanlon and the administration may have every incentive to spin the Moving Dartmouth Forward initiative in a positive light, but the claims being made are patently false and deceptive.

In reality, the community’s response to the entire spectacle of Hanlon’s address can be described as tepid at best and dismissive at worst. Students filed into Moore Theater and Alumni Hall with perceptible sense of trepidation. The Dartmouth Now mentions that “the crowd applauded when Hanlon thanked Moving Dartmouth Forward committee members.” However, in Alumni Hall, which was filled mostly by students, only one or two people applauding could be heard–in a room of hundreds. Indeed, Hanlon received little to no applause in Alumni Hall except for a weak scattering when he concluded his speech. Reports indicate that students in Moore Theater, which was filled with more staff and faculty, had a similar response. Thus, nearly all the applause came from staff and faculty; very few students had any positive reaction to Hanlon’s plan.

The Office of Public Affairs’ upbeat press release cannot hide these facts. The curious word choice of “thoughtful” belies the fact that many of the most thoughtful responses to Moving Dartmouth Forward are in opposition to controversial policies such as the hard alcohol ban. It is also telling that the administration found a total of one affiliated student who was not entirely dismissive of the hard alcohol policy to quote in the press release. Such a reaction is far from enthusiastic support of Hanlon’s vision of Dartmouth moving forward. In general, students have been blithely dismissive of the hard liquor ban, even ridiculing the proposal. A satirical Facebook event called the “Dartmouth Liquor Initiative” proposes that students begin “an intensive five week plan to consume all hard liquor on campus by spring term” in support of the hard liquor ban, which will take effect then.

The College may attempt to construe the 800 community members who turned out as a general affirmation of support for Hanlon’s initiatives. However, students, who simply sought information on account of the steering committee’s opacity, know better.