Dartmouth Students and Faculty Sign Letter to Combat 'Structural Racism' on Campus

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Posted: Jul 21, 2020 12:15 PM
Dartmouth Students and Faculty Sign Letter to Combat 'Structural Racism' on Campus

Source: (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Hundreds of students and faculty at Dartmouth College have signed a letter calling for radical change at the school in order to combat "structural racism."

The letter, directed toward senior leadership including Dartmouth chairwoman Laurel Richie and President Philip J. Hanlon, claims that "unrepentant White supremacy" rooted in the college's history has shaped the "mission, tradition, and culture" at the school. 

On June 17, the group met with senior leadership in order to discuss their concerns about the racial climate on campus. Following this meeting, the school put out a statement on July 1, acknowledging the group's concerns and the racial reckoning happening nationwide. Leadership vowed to implement changes such as hiring more people of color and implicit bias training, stating that these commitments were "just the start."

Apparently, this promise of change was not enough for the students and faculty, who said the statement fell "short of a concrete plan of action" for fighting racism. 

The group believes they have the one and only roadmap for Dartmouth officials to follow going forward. 

"Our aim is to create an anti-racist Dartmouth committed to racial justice all the time, not only when horrific events of violence against Black people and other communities of color occur but also when the illusion that 'everything is okay' becomes normalized," the letter read. "This historical moment is about how to reorient the structural life of the College at the core of our values."

The group divided their letter into three categories: more black leadership, hiring more black staff, and the promotion of African studies and black culture on campus.

Dartmouth has only had "White men and women" in leadership roles, with very few people of color given the same opportunities to take part in serious committees like their white colleagues, according to the group. 

"This egregious lack of leadership at all senior levels – from department chairs to the president’s office – is the result of a long line of failures that start with the hiring process. Each failed search, each failed tenure case, and each failure to retain a talented colleague has its own story," the letter read. "But these narratives, when pieced together, produce a picture of systemic institutional failure as a result of ongoing structural racism and a culture of White supremacy and an institution predicated on it."

The group also demanded more faculty diversity. They want to see more people of color hired, promoted and retained, in order to have equal representation at the college. 

"Dartmouth’s inability to retain and promote its faculty and staff has cost the institution greatly," the letter continued. "The Black community at Dartmouth is small. As a result, individual departures have a large impact. In addition, high turnover means that there is little continuity in anti-racist work."

They are seeking changes to the hiring process including a new faculty recruitment process focusing on finding black talent and holding a fundraising campaign to double black faculty by 2027. 

Nationwide black professors make up 6 percent of college faculty. Currently, 3.1 percent of black faculty are tenured at Dartmouth.

Lastly, the group feels African and African American studies program does not receive enough support from the school, even though they claim it's the "keystone of the Black presence and experience at Dartmouth." They are demanding that the school fund and support the creation of the Center for Black Intellectual & Cultural Life, as well as providing more funding for the AAAS program. 

"Funds should be set aside for classes that address issues of racial injustice, systemic racism, and institutionalized inequality," the letter said. "Fund an endowed research committee dedicated to investigating peoples of Africa and African descent in the history of Dartmouth College and the region whose work will be organized by a new academic research center at Dartmouth focused on slavery and justice."

The letter ended with cries for Dartmouth to seek institutional change throughout the school. 

"The assumption of White supremacy has shaped this institution from its founding, but it does not have to determine our future," the letter concluded. "There are turning points in which the assumptions limiting our horizons are fractured and historical contingencies yield systemic and imaginative change."

Dartmouth leadership has yet to comment on the comments made by students and faculty.