Campus protest


Dear Dartmouth community, 

Last night, approximately 90 people, including many unaffiliated with Dartmouth as well as students and faculty here, were removed from the Green by police after declining several opportunities to stage their protest in a manner consistent with Dartmouth’s policies. Protestors pitched a “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” and physically prevented its removal despite multiple opportunities to avoid arrest.

This year, there have been more than 15 peaceful protests on our campus. Last night, people felt so strongly about their beliefs that they were willing to face disciplinary action and arrest. While there is bravery in that, part of choosing to engage in this way is not just acknowledging—but accepting—that actions have consequences. 

Our long-standing policies limit the time, place, and manner where protests can occur. They prohibit encampments or the occupation of buildings that interfere with the academic mission or increase safety risks to members of our community. When policies like these have been ignored on other campuses, hate and violence have thrived—events, like commencement, are canceled, instruction is forced to go remote, and, worst of all, abhorrent antisemitism and Islamophobia reign. 

Protest and demonstration are important forms of speech. Yet, we cannot let differences of opinion become an excuse for disrupting our amazing sense of place and the lived experience of our campus. And, most importantly, our opinions—no matter how strongly they are held—can never be used to justify taking over Dartmouth’s shared spaces and effectively rendering them places only for people who hold one specific ideology. This is exclusionary at best and, at its worst, as we have seen on other campuses in recent days, can turn quickly into hateful intimidation where Jewish students feel unsafe.   

The protesters demanded that the Dartmouth Board of Trustees hold a vote on divesting its endowment from companies connected to Israel despite the fact that the Board has a clearly articulated process for considering such decisions, which was explained to student protesters. I am a deep believer in free speech. Dartmouth’s freedom of expression and dissent policy also defends this right. However, Dartmouth’s endowment is not a political tool, and using it to take sides on such a contested issue is an extraordinarily dangerous precedent to set. It runs the risk of silencing academic debate, which is inconsistent with our mission.

We do not agree on everything, and this is not the goal. But we all have a responsibility to foster and contribute to a community where we can enjoy open, civil discussions on any topic, regardless of the complexity or difficulty of the subject matter. 

Let us work together as we continue to foster dialogue and understanding on this complex, emotionally charged conflict.


Sian Leah Beilock