Dartmouth continues 'social justice activism' lectures

Dartmouth College’s philosophy department will continue their series of public lectures on 'Race, Gender and Justice.'

The series is part of a larger commitment that includes '[d]iversifying' curriculum, fostering 'student social justice activism,' and hiring faculty who specialize in race.

Dartmouth College’s philosophy department will continue its series of public lectures on "Race, Gender and Justice."

The first public lecture of the 2022-2023 academic year is on March 31 with Georgetown University Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Dr. Shelbi Nahwilet Meissner.

Her research focuses on “Indigenous languages, knowledge systems, and power,” and one of her articles argues that country music displays “settler ignorance.” 

As stated on the department's web page and a 2020 statement, the university established a “5-year series” of public workshops and lectures. The series is part of a larger commitment that includes “[d]iversifying” curriculum, fostering “student social justice activism,” and hiring faculty who specialize in race. 

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The statement, posted by former Philosophy Chair Amie Thomasson, showcases the department's reasoning for implementing the “Race, Gender and Justice” series, along with numerous changes to the department's curriculum. 

We believe that philosophy offers powerful tools for addressing issues of justice, morality, equality, identity, truth, power, law, democracy, race and intersectionality, among others. But philosophy also reflects the legacy of privilege, oppression, and systemic racism. It is one of the whitest disciplines within the humanities,” the statement says. 

The statement continues, “The professional philosophical voices students hear at Dartmouth also are predominantly white voices, both in the classroom and on the page. We can do better to diversify our philosophical community and curriculum and to contribute to the struggle against racism.”

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Campus Reform asked Dartmouth College student Leah Branstetter whether she thinks that issues of race and gender are too controversial to talk about on campus. 

“I think these topics make the white men on campus uncomfortable, but to be honest, I don’t care if they are uncomfortable since many of them make minority students uncomfortable with the way they treat them,” Branstetter said. 

“I think that it’s most often white men who are discriminatory because they are the ones that discrimination benefits. And while not all white men are going around making minority students uncomfortable in what they say, people discriminate against groups that they are not a part of for the most part, so, yes, white women are also saying racist things and treating minority students badly, but I specified men because we are talking about both sexism and racism,” she said. 

Campus Reform asked Branstetter how Dartmouth usually responds to incidents of racism or sexism, such as the vandalization of a campus menorah in 2020. When asked whether Dartmouth’s statement was the administration’s way of resolving the issue, Branstetter replied, “I think that was pretty much it.” 

Campus Reform contacted Dr. Meissner, Dartmouth College, and Dartmouth’s philosophy department for comment and will update accordingly.