Art History Open Letter to the Dartmouth Administration

The faculty of the Art History Department join our colleagues across the college to voice our deep concerns and disagreement with the decision on the part of President Beilock to use a militarized police force to arrest students, faculty, staff, and community members who were engaged in peaceful protest on the Dartmouth Green on the evening of May 1, 2024. Instead of being met with dialogue and efforts to deescalate the situation peacefully, the protestors were subjected to  a violent and disproportionate police response that resulted in 90 arrests, including two faculty members: our colleague in the Department of History and Chair of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Professor Annelise Orleck, and Professor Christopher MacEvitt, in the Department of Religion, who is also a House Professor.The unprecedented use of the police to quell free speech on our campus not only goes against democratic values, but questions Dartmouth's own stated "core values," including "the vigorous and open debate of ideas within a community marked by mutual respect."[1]. We worry about the detrimental effect that these arrests and the use of violent force will have on the future of free speech at Dartmouth.

We join our colleagues in the History Department and the Department of African and African American Studies in calling on the administration to adopt the following measures:

  • To acknowledge publicly that the deployment of state police and armored vehicles was an excessive and punitive response to peaceful protests, which will not be repeated.
  • To announce publicly that you are asking prosecutors to dismiss all criminal charges against the faculty, students, and staff who were arrested on May 1– a request that in no way infringes on prosecutorial discretion—and charges against the two students arrested in the fall, Roan V. Wade and Kevin Engle, should also be dropped immediately.
  • To make it officially and publicly known that academic freedom includes the right to peacefully express support for Palestinian rights. The college should permit nonviolent protest outdoors and restore faith in fair process and commitment to free speech on campus.