Students, teachers and administrators say it over and over again. They write it, they shout it:
Dartmouth College is not the Dartmouth Review.
For 10 years, Dartmouth College has been portrayed as a battlefield of racism, sexism and political intrigue, all reflected in the activities of the obstreperous, right-wing Review.
The Review has dominated national news coverage of Dartmouth, but faculty members and a broad sampling of students said in interviews that they believe the school has been shown in a false light.
“My experience has been that there is no one here that is overtly prejudiced, that is overtly racist, that is overtly sexist,” said junior Mindy Waterhouse, a founder of a campus women’s group and an intern at a college-run clearinghouse on women’s issues.
The Review--a student-run publication not affiliated with the Ivy League college--is nothing if not overt.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1986, Review staff members used sledgehammers to tear down shanties that apartheid protesters had erected on the campus green. In August, music Prof. William Cole, who is black, resigned, citing the strain of years of being attacked in the Review.
The publicity has taken its toll on the school. Alfred Quirk, admissions and financial aid dean, said that black enrollment slipped a bit this year, to 5% from 6% of the incoming class of 1,067. He blames the Review contretemps.
In September, a quote from Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” was inserted in the masthead of the edition of the Review that was circulated on the Jewish holy day Yom Kippur. The Review claims that it was sabotage, and has Hanover police investigating the incident.
Whatever the source of the insert, it was a campus call to arms. Administrators and students denounced the Review, and 2,500 people turned out for a protest rally.
“I was heartened beyond words at the warm, loving response of Dartmouth students,” said senior Allen Drexel, chairman of the Dartmouth Area Gay and Lesbian Organization.
“I think that Dartmouth students who have gone silent for a long time with regard to the Review’s attacks on vulnerable social groups were able to collectively absolve themselves of past neglect.”
Apathy or fear of disrupting the status quo--not pervasive bigotry--is to blame for the atmosphere in which the Review has flourished, Drexel said.
“I would say Dartmouth students, rather than being conservative in any partisan sense . . . are conservative in the sense of reluctance to rock the boat,” Drexel said. “In a system that seems to work for them, why even think about changing things?”
The Review also flourishes because prominent conservatives such as columnist Pat Buchanan and former Treasury Secretary William Simon support it. Simon has written that college administrators are persecuting the paper and its staff.
Conservative Dartmouth alumni also contribute funds to the Review. Some see it as a hedge against liberal influences that forced the rewording of the alma mater, “Men of Dartmouth,” and abandonment of the school mascot, an American Indian.
“Our perception of tradition today is different from what tradition was in the past,” said student Brian Pierce. “Now we have women on campus, now we have native Americans who are against having the symbol because it’s offensive to them.
“Tradition should be kept if it enhances the Dartmouth experience now, but if it detracts from it, there’s no point in clinging to tradition.”
Dartmouth’s defenders do not deny that there is prejudice on campus.
“I would say that Dartmouth is a frightening place to be gay to the same extent that the country is a frightening place,” Drexel said. “The institution isn’t perfect. I think everybody will freely admit that.”
Trecia Canty, a senior and president of the Afro-American Society, said she has at times felt “distinctly uncomfortable” as a black student.
She said the Review’s attacks on Cole during her freshman year made the whole black community feel under fire.
“At the time I perceived it (as moving from) his credibility and qualifications as a professor being questioned to all the qualifications of all African-Americans, faculty and students alike, being questioned,” she said.
Canty said, however, that she regards the occasional “insensitive comment” made in her presence as “more the result of ignorance . . . than actual intent to be hurtful.”
Other blacks, such as William Cook, an English professor, credit Dartmouth with fighting intolerance, especially under college President James O. Freedman.
Cook attributed Dartmouth’s problems at least partly to its location in a small town on the borders of two predominantly white states, Vermont and New Hampshire.
“What happens on this campus with respect to race is more important because there is no larger black community,” he said. “That’s why we’re getting all the attention. The same things happen on other campuses.”
The ultimate question for women, minority and gay students and faculty members is whether they would recommend Dartmouth to others like themselves.
“I definitely would,” Cook said. “We need that critical mass of people to constitute a community.”
Drexel said that while he is glad he came to Dartmouth, it was difficult.