Re-Education Camp Dartmouth

A re-education camp.

A re-education camp.

Dartmouth’s chapter of the NAACP’s recently launched an initiative entitled #DoBetterDartmouth. The Review wholeheartedly believes that Dartmouth, its administration and its students, could do better in a multitude of ways. The administration could reform our housing and dining systems, overhaul it’s bloated and dysfunctional bureaucracy, and even begin treating students as if they were independent, responsible adults. Students could learn the virtues of civility, temperance, and respect.

The NAACP has other changes in mind. They state that the goal of their campaign is to bring about “mandated inclusivity and diversity education,” citing a series of alleged student transgressions (most of them related to the anonymous social media platform YikYak) and the College’s stated commitment to diversity. They believe that it is the responsibility of the Dartmouth administration to bridge this perceived gap between mission and reality, “it should be the school’s responsibility to educate all students on issues of inclusivity and diversity.”

There are elements of this movement with which I sympathize, but there are three important irreconcilable differences that overshadow these commonalities. I believe that it is morally wrong to use a pound sign and a series of words without spaces in between them as the name of anything or as a word in formal writing. I cannot abide by such a disturbing misuse of the English language, and I urge others to refrain from similar grammatical atrocities. I do not believe that it is the College’s role to protect students from anything but the most imminent of physical threats. I find that the constructed climate of racial tension on this campus falls far short of this standard. It is also unavoidable that any College program will turn into ideological indoctrination.

The first of these three issues is self-explanatory, so I will proceed to the second. Dartmouth is no stranger to imminent physical threats. British and Native raids were a real (though unlikely) threat to the College in its early years. As a result, the administration organized a militia of sorts to defend the budding institution from attack. In those early years, the College was necessarily responsible for ensuring its students had ample rations and lodging and were aware of the many perils inherent in frontier life.

The College still has a responsibility to protect its students from hunger, homelessness, and some of the basic dangers of modern college life. Safety and Security, Dick’s House, and other institutions more than see to this latter duty. Anything that surpasses these basic protections should be handled by the relevant authorities, such as murder, assault, and other crimes. The prevention of such acts is a societal issue, and in this case, it falls to the student body to inculcate a culture of respect and moderation. It is not simply that the administration should not be responsible for creating a respectful student culture, it is that they are categorically unable to do so.

The NAACP insists that, “This campaign is not an attempt to impose values on others, but rather to give students the opportunity to create their own informed opinions.” While they likely mean what they say, this may not be the case if their demand is implemented. Judging by the way current classes teach theories about structural oppression and other, similar topics as fact, students would likely face social, administrative, or academic penalties if they refused to accept ideas they disagreed with.

I have one good reason not to like Dartmouth President Ernest Martin Hopkins, but I believe that he was a good man despite his ignorant stance on the Jews. Unlike the current administration, he was not ignorant when it came to Dartmouth, its culture, and the management of a college. It is for this reason that I overuse a quotation from a letter he wrote condemning Prohibition, “Personally, I believe that whether from the social, the educational or the religious point of view, the greatest weakness in American society at the present day is the disposition of individuals to avoid responsibility and to delegate this to outside agencies.” If Dartmouth does have a societal problem with racism, then it is the duty of students to correct it, because the administration both cannot and should not be responsible for fixing student culture.

As a conservative, I believe in traditional values. One of those values is respect, and if students are not showing consistent respect towards each other on the basis of race, ethnicity, or religion, then that is a problem. I tend to avoid accusing people of overreacting to perceived offenses, because I understand that some things not intended to be offensive can be deeply hurtful. Unfortunately, pain is part of life, and it does not discriminate. Everyone feels pain at some point for some reason, and comparing the struggles of one person to another is a pointless and demeaning exercise. Instead of reciprocating unintended offense, I suggest that students respond with renewed and sympathetic efforts to educate their peers.

We will not “do better” by spiting vitriol at our fellow students or by asking the administration to teach us manners. I applaud the NAACP for the civility and good will that has driven their campaign: while I find myself diametrically opposed to their goal of mandated diversity education, I share their hope for a better Dartmouth. The only way to resolve tensions on this campus is for students to show compassion and respect towards each other.