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Dartmouth Cancels Classes After Complaints Of Discrimination Draw Nasty Online Comments

Dartmouth College protests 042413 _02 Herb Swanson.jpg
Photo by Herb Swanson

Dartmouth College canceled classes Wednesday to hold a teach-in about the reaction to a demonstration last week.

Students staged the demonstration last week to highlight alleged discrimination at Dartmouth. And that drew angry comments online, as well as threats of violence.

Last Friday about fifteen students unhappy about the way they are treated at Dartmouth interrupted a presentation to prospective students. They carried signs and shouted “Dartmouth has a problem.” That problem, says senior  Karolina Krelinova, from the Czech Republic, is intolerance.

“We all have very different experiences with discrimination, bullying, feeling unwelcome at Dartmouth for various reasons of actual gender issues, racial issues, able-ism, class-ism—all that has been has been affecting all of us in very different ways, sometimes combined,” Krelinova said.

Last week’s protest drew angry comments posted on a website open only to the Dartmouth community, but not officially sanctioned by the school.

Some defend the protesters and others oppose them, some even threatening violence. That’s unsettling to Samantha Reckford, a senior in the dissident group.

“And so that kind of unsafety, just knowing what kind of hatred, what kind of violence, what kind of resentment against students of color, students of different gender identities, different sexual identities, you know all of that is brewing, and now we see it, we just can’t identify who is perpetrating it,” Reckford said.

Protester Karenina Rojas says she was physically assaulted by a college employee, whom she has reported but will not publicly name pending the investigation.

During a lunch break, Ben Hawley, a freshman, said he thought that the protesters raised an important issue.

“And that they’re representing a voice on campus that isn’t heard enough.  But I would argue-- and I would think I can say that the majority  of students on campus would argue-- that the way they did it was very disrespectful and if anything harmful to their cause.”

Against this backdrop of unrest, the Dean of the College, Charlotte Johnson, addressed a crowd of several hundred assembled on the green.

“Much of what we learn, we learn by example,” Johnson told the crowd. “Some of those examples are poor examples of how to respect each other and embrace our differences. Unfortunately, there are too many sorts of those examples from both inside and outside of Dartmouth.”

But Johnson also vowed that the college would  “create space for understanding.” College officials are not condoning Friday’s protest, but they say the intimidation that followed it is “never justified” After the campus rally, the school invited members of the Dartmouth community to discussion groups that were closed to the public and the press.