Some Dartmouth College students have received rape and death threats following their public protest against the school’s attitude toward sexual assault, racism, and homophobia. Dartmouth on Wednesday canceled its scheduled classes to address the growing crisis.
The college announced in a letter to students that it will hold “alternative programming… that promotes respect for individuals, civil and engaged discourse, and the value of diverse opinions.” From the programming, it’s not immediately clear that the school plans to discuss Dartmouth’s notoriously pervasive culture of sexual assault, victim-blaming, and policies that continue to fail students (exactly what the protesters, during their initial outburst at a prospective students’ event, had called for). But administrators promise that the programming will address the threats.
Many of the threats, and generally hateful sentiments, were posted on the anonymous message board site Bored At Baker, which has since been taken offline. The messages, meant to disprove the idea that racism, sexism, homophobia, and ignorance of sexual assault are real problems at Dartmouth, actually do the exact opposite. Screenshots of the anonymous comments are available from Real Talk Dartmouth:
Some Dartmouth students are upset largely at the fact that the protest interrupted a students’ event on campus. However, the protesters likely felt they needed to interrupt an important campus event to get any attention at all. Previous pleas for the school to pay more attention to helping victims of sexual assault have certainly fallen on deaf ears.
And the protesters have been largely successful in their mission to point out the school’s problems. The message boards, and the generally hateful comments posted on the student newspaper’s website, have highlighted sentiments that previously bubbled below the surface. One prospective student at the school found this particularly illustrative, as he or she highlighted in the newspaper’s comments section:
I was a prospective student who witnessed the protest. Though a little stunned at first, I found the demonstration to be interesting but in no way influential at the time to my impression of Dartmouth. If anything, it added a realistic layer to a seemingly perfect campus. However, reading these comments has had a far greater impact on my impression of Dartmouth. The reaction to the protests has given me reason to reconsider my enrollment. The comments here depict the very perspectives that the protesters sought to reveal (but that most of us prospective students assumed was being exaggerated). You folks are mean and intolerant. I’m really glad I saw these comments before deciding where to spend my next four years. It won’t be Dartmouth.
Dartmouth’s racial tensions are nothing new; as Bloomberg News points out, a Dartmouth student-run paper in the 1980s ran a series of racist editorials. One was a “parody of black dialect,” and another advocated against having an African American Studies program. Sexual assault is a similarly pervasive and longstanding problem. But administrators have dragged their feet on the issue, to the point where even the Greek life on campus is trying to self-regulate what it feels is a culture of violence toward women.