Dartmouth College canceled all arts and science classes today after some students were targeted by online threats after a protest against homophobia, sexual assault and racism disrupted an on-campus event.
Classes were being replaced with lectures and teach-ins designed to unite students, faculty and staff to discuss Dartmouth’s commitment to “fostering debate that promotes respect for individuals, civil and engaged discourse and the value of diverse opinions,” the Hanover, New Hampshire-based college said in a statement on its website.
More than a dozen protesters burst in on prospective students awaiting an annual welcome show on April 19, shouting, “Dartmouth has a problem!” according to the campus daily, the Dartmouth. Those students were then targeted with threats, mainly online, prompting some to stay off campus last weekend out of concern for their safety, the newspaper reported.
“Threats and intimidation -- even if made anonymously or online -- violate our standards and expectations for the Dartmouth community,” Charlotte Johnson, dean of the college, said in a campus e-mail, according to the student newspaper. “That kind of behavior is never justified.”
Among the events today was a community gathering featuring a speech by interim President Carol Folt on the lawn in front of Dartmouth Hall, which attracted a sizable crowd of students, said Alexander Lopez, a 19-year-old sophomore.
“The student body is really working with the administration to express their concerns,” said Lopez, who is from Lawrenceville, Georgia, and is studying government and economics. “It’s putting the ownership back on the students to be mindful.”
Dartmouth has a history of turmoil over race, gender and campus culture. Students and faculty have protested the prominence of Dartmouth’s fraternities and sororities, which they say foster binge drinking, violent hazing and sexual assault. College security now patrols fraternity parties and the campus adopted a new sexual-assault policy this year.
In the 1980s, the Dartmouth Review, a student publication separate from the newspaper, ran editorials opposing African-American studies and published a column written in a parody of black dialect. In 1986, a group of students affiliated with the Dartmouth Review used sledgehammers to demolish a shanty town that was erected on the campus to protest apartheid in South Africa.
Dartmouth named Philip J. Hanlon, provost of the University of Michigan, as president in November, replacing Jim Yong Kim who left the Ivy League school in July to lead the World Bank. Hanlon takes office July 1. Folt has been serving as interim president. In July, she will become chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Alumni of Dartmouth, founded in 1769, include Timothy F. Geithner, former Treasury Secretary, and his immediate predecessor, Henry Paulson. Jeffrey Immelt, chief executive officer of General Electric Co., is an alumnus and trustee.
This is the first time in six years that Dartmouth is canceling classes. They were last called off in February 2007 because of blizzard conditions, the campus daily said.