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Acting Dean of the College Daniel M. Nelson '75
November 29, 2006
Good afternoon. My name is Dan Nelson, and I have worked at Dartmouth for more than 25 years. I'm a proud member of the Dartmouth class of 1975, and I am a proud member of the true Dartmouth community that is gathered here. I am extraordinarily proud to join so many students, colleagues and friends, and to have the opportunity to speak today. I want to begin by acknowledging with great appreciation and respect the extraordinary investment of caring and concern that so many of you have made on behalf of this community. I also want to acknowledge that too many of us have not done enough, and that the hard work of creating and maintaining true community has fallen disproportionately on too few.
I can't tell you how many rallies of this sort I have participated in, first as a student, as an alumnus, and as an employee. What they have all had in common has been our collective determination to stand up for the best values of the Dartmouth community-the values of integrity, of responsibility for one's speech and actions, of respect-not only of the rights of others, but also of their individual interests and needs-and the value of deep appreciation for the enrichment to our lives and educations that the diversity of this community provides.
I fully expect that in the future, sadly and inevitably, there will be more difficult occasions, as there have been this fall, for us to gather like this-to come together to express our unwillingness to accept or tolerate things that have been done or said to members of the community who have been made to feel unwelcome. Whenever that happens it will reflect to some degree a failure, because we have not done enough in our various roles and responsibilities to confront, to challenge, to hold accountable, to educate-or to learn, to listen, to support, or to empathize.
But that doesn't define us, unless we are complacent, unless we allow it to. What defines us is how we respond, and how we learn to respond better. I hope that more of us will have learned that while we my have the constitutional right to say or print almost anything we choose, that doesn't mean it is right to say or print just anything. I hope that more of us will have realized that concerns of those who have been ridiculed, demeaned, or treated with hostility or simple ignorance are worthy of respect and consideration, whether or not I understand those feelings or agree with those concerns. And I hope more of us will be willing to stand up sooner and to speak out more forcefully.
Finally, I want to assure you of the commitment that my colleagues and I have to inform and educate ourselves better, to be more open and transparent about how we respond to incidents, to do a better job of informing students about where they can share information about behaviors and incidents that concern them, to find more effective ways of educating new members of the community about our values and expectations, to hold people more consistently accountable in appropriate ways, while still continuing to respect and protect the rights we all share. I see that as a great responsibility, and it is a great privilege to join with you and others in meeting that challenge. Thank you.