Dartmouth College protesters stage sit-in at president's office

The long-awaited “physical action” threatened by progressive students at Dartmouth College has finally come to pass.

A group of about 40 progressive students staged a sit-in at President Phil Hanlon’s office yesterday in an effort to force the administration to respond to the “Freedom Budget,” a list of 70 demands that they say would alleviate oppression of marginalized groups on campus. Such demands included gender-neutral and gender-specific bathrooms in every campus building, mandatory sensitivity training for all faculty, and providing pro bono legal assistance and financial assistance for illegal aliens enrolled at the college.

As reported by Campus Reform, Hanlon and the administration responded to the budget in a statement on March 6, well before protesters’ March 24 deadline. However, protesters deemed the response inadequate and have now followed through on their promise of “physical action.”

The students entered at 4:00 p.m. Some unfurled banners while others immediately began questioning Hanlon about the response to the Freedom Budget. Others set up camp across the room, including on top of Hanlon’s desk.

The protesters then sent an email to the campus which contained a link to a Livestream channel, which showed a live feed from the office, a Twitter account under the handle @gossipgangstah, and a vow that the sit-in will continue “[u]ntil [Hanlon] provides a point-by-point response to the items in the Budget.”

Hanlon left his office at 5:00, when his office hours were scheduled to end. Before leaving, he committed to carrying out “a campus climate survey,” but avoided making commitments that could hamstring administrators.

Immediately afterwards, Scott Mitchell, a student at the dual-degree engineering program between Bowdoin and Dartmouth, challenged the protesters.

“[Change] needs to come from the inside… you [protesters are] sitting here and you’re ridiculing President Hanlon to his face. This is not how you make the change happen,” Mitchell said.

A protester questioned Mitchell’s motives, declaring it “problematic” that he, as a white man, “came to the rescue of an older man, [who] was the head of a historically, prestigiously… exclusively white institution.”

Another protester suggested that because Hanlon was not democratically elected and was instead “brought into this office through structures that oppress the rest of the people in this room... it’s a little bit necessary to cut him off sometimes.”

Following Hanlon’s departure, Dean Charlotte Johnson was at the focal point of much of the discussion as the evening wore on. She expressed optimism about the positive steps made during the sit-in but voiced concern about the “significant opportunity costs” of a prolonged demonstration and its negative impacts on student academic life.

Most protesters filed out of the office around 6:30, though about eight opted to stay behind. Members of the press left out an hour later after they were also told to leave the room under threat of disciplinary action; the press and bulk of the protesters moved to the foyer. The number of protesters dropped as the night wore on and several left.

For the next few hours, nobody was allowed into the building as campus security secured the perimeter. The only exception was a delivery man from a local pizzeria, who was escorted in and out by an officer.

Officers from campus security also supplied power strips so that protesters could charge their laptops and complete homework assignments.

Jillian Mayer, a member of the class of 2014 who participated in the protest, argued that the sit-in strategy was justified because previous, tamer efforts had not produced results.

Terms such as “dialogue,” are “racialized and white, gendered and masculine,” she told The Dartmouth, the official student newspaper. Asking for a conversation, she said, was a tantamount to dismissal.

“Queer people, people of color, trans people, poor students, undocumented students hear all the time that things take time and you have to be patient and you have to be civil,” Mayer said. “That’s not what has moved the needle of history.”

This article was originally published at The Dartmouth Review. Mr. Desatnick serves as the current Editor-in-Chief and Mr. Duva is a staff member. Mr. Desatnick is also a Campus Correspondent for Campus Reform.