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Response to Letter from Faculty Concerning Mark Bray

August 31, 2017

Dear Colleagues,

Thank you for the thoughtful letter that you sent last Thursday and for your concern for Mark Bray as a member of the Dartmouth Community.

The College takes very seriously any threat of physical violence. We urge members of the Dartmouth community, in the wake of any threat, to contact Dartmouth Safety and Security and the Hanover Police Department for their help. It is my understanding that Mark did seek the assistance of Safety and Security and the Hanover Police Department in response to explicit threats that he began to receive in the context of his media visibility. I condemn any act of intimidation affecting our campus community, and know that we must remain vigilant in safeguarding every member of our community.

Threats and physical intimidation are particularly regrettable because they seek to limit two institutional values that we hold dear: our commitment to the free and open exchange of ideas; and the principle of academic freedom. The latter includes the right to determine the topics, content, and directions of research and teaching, and also the right to disseminate freely the results of that research. Indeed, Dartmouth has assisted Mark Bray with the open circulation of his findings by providing him full access to College studios, as well as the necessary staff and technical support, in order to conduct media interviews about his work over the past two weeks.

With regard to the College’s statement, context is very important, as you note in your letter. Immediately following Mark’s appearance on "Meet the Press," the College experienced a tremendous surge of phone, email, and social media inquiry, from students and families, alumni and friends of the College, and from people without a clear connection to Dartmouth. These questions and comments came from viewers of the show who not only interpreted Mark Bray to be supporting violent protest, but also believed him to be speaking for the College. The College’s statement, issued in response to this large and growing set of questions, made three essential points:

- Affirming Dartmouth’s commitment to academic freedom, including Mark Bray’s right to pursue and disseminate his research.
- Articulating the College’s position opposing violence and intimidation and supporting free expression.
- Clarifying that Professor Bray does not speak for Dartmouth.

I hope that context is helpful.

These are critically important, but not easy, issues. Again, I appreciate your attention to them and value your input and perspectives.

Respectfully,
Phil Hanlon and Elizabeth Smith

Last Updated: 9/5/17