“I really don’t want to talk, I just want to listen”
The words of F. Jon Kull, Dean of Dartmouth Graduate Studies at a debriefing session on the issues of sexual assault and prejudice at the College.
On Monday 6th May, the Graduate Student Council and the Grad Studies Office held a program wide-debriefing session to discuss the recent unrest at Dartmouth. Classes were cancelled on Wednesday 24th April due to an escalated conflict between fellow students and with the administration.
A group of student protestors had disrupted the Dimensions events to highlight their dissatisfaction with College responses to discrimination, specifically sexual assault, on campus.
The venue of the protest, the Dimensions event, was particularly controversial. Many students see the Dimensions Show as an iconic part of the Dartmouth experience. It brings prospective students to the College where they sit through a performance by current students.
The response of what appears to be a minority of students to the protests amounted to aggressive cyber bullying. Some Dartmouth students had taken to posting on the “Bored at Baker” website. This site allows for posting anonymous comments, usually in a humorous context. However on this occasion, the comments were aggressive and derogatory. Some comments even threatened violence.
Given the very serious nature of this bullying, which included threats of personal harm, the College cancelled classes to allow for space for students to discuss what had happened. There were teach-ins amongst other events to provide this space. Many graduate students took the opportunity to get involved in these events.
Members of the GSC executive board got together with Dean Kull to organize a debriefing session for graduate students. The meeting was open candid and informal. All students were encouraged to speak. Each student filled in an anonymous comment card giving their thoughts on the issues at hand. Kull then collected and redistributed these cards to facilitate discussion.
One of the meeting’s first points of discussion was where graduate students stand in relation to the worrying events. Graduate students have a unique place on campus. They do not share the same culture as undergraduates, yet are inseparable in so many ways. They act as mentors and teachers, making the Dartmouth experience as rounded as possible.
Graduate students’ experiences of mentorship meant that the issues, protests, conflicts and subsequent events affected graduate students as they did undergraduates. However there was an acceptance that graduate students had some responsibility in increasing communication between the two communities.
Many of the comments and suggestions raised at the session were enthusiastic about further participation with the undergraduate community and undergraduate organizations. There was the feeling that the graduate community has a responsibility to help nurture a Dartmouth environment that is welcoming for all.
Speaking on the event and the issues, GSC President Lisa Jackson said, “One of the biggest themes that arose in the discussion was the need for better communication between graduate students and undergraduates.”
Jackson continued “I echo the sentiments of many in the room who said these events have exposed a communication gap in that regard, and thus, an opportunity to reach out to undergrads moving forward in order to help foster more unity on campus.”
Above all, the event showed there was unanimity that it is important to discuss these problems, and to be bold standing up when a student feels that their position at Dartmouth is threatened.
We encourage all graduate students to reach out to Dean Kull, the Grad Office and the GSC if they wish to further talk about these, or any other issues.
by Dan Durcan