Concerned Black Alumni of Dartmouth in Response to President Hanlon
Concerned Black Alumni of Dartmouth in Response to President Hanlon
Dear President Hanlon, Members of the Board of Trustees of Dartmouth College, President Hanlon’s Senior Leadership and President of Alumni Council
In response to the letter from President Philip J. Hanlon and The Dartmouth Board of Trustees, we, the undersigned Black Alumni, believe that this is an important moment for Dartmouth College to lead with intellectual and moral clarity during this inflection point for the United States of America, especially in the wake of the flagrant murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Amaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Nina Pop, and countless other Black men, women and children. We believe that now is the time for Dartmouth to reaffirm, not just in word, but also in deed with -- specificity and intention. We acknowledge the college’s statement of “Black Lives Matter”. We want the College to lead with anti-racist campus-wide work and deliberate actions to support this statement. We call on Dartmouth to lead with a bold voice, as well as with academic and programmatic investments that move us forward as a diverse and inclusive academic community and as a national leader.
Our founding President, the Reverend Eleazar Wheelock, completed his Yale course of studies in 1733 with the support of a scholarship funded by profits garnered from the Reverend George Berkeley’s Whitehall slave plantation in Rhode Island slave plantation. Reverend Wheelock went on to found Dartmouth College in 1769 with funds secured by Rev. Samuel Occom, a member of the Mohegan nation for the express purpose of establishing a school to educate Native American students. As history shows us, Wheelock, never fulfilled his commitment, founding Dartmouth instead for the education of English colonists.
Enslaved Black people played a critical role in the literal founding and survival of that fledgling College, clearing land, building structures, growing crops, and other key roles that have gone unrecorded and unrecognized in the Dartmouth institutional origin narrative. Our Alma Mater has yet to fully acknowledge, yet alone atone for, the Black backs upon which it stands.
The anti-Black racism manifested in examples of police brutality over these last weeks has made it unavoidable to contemplate the multitude of racial inequities and disparities that have been woven into the American fabric for centuries. We recoil in horror at the violence and absence of justice – not to mention the absence of respect for the humanity of Black people. For some, this is an awakening to a new realization of wrongs yet to be made right. For others, this is a reminder of an ongoing nightmare, seemingly with no end in sight. We must, and we can do better.
At particular points in its history, Dartmouth has shone a light in the wilderness of the morals of our Nation and has pushed itself forward by increasing educational opportunity. In 1824, European-American Dartmouth students petitioned the Trustees to admit Edward Mitchell, who having successfully passed the admission exam for class of 1828, had been blocked admission by the College Trustees, who reversed themselves in the face of the solidarity of students across perceived boundaries. Mitchell became the first student of African descent to graduate from an Ivy League institution of higher learning - 42 years before Harvard and 119 years before Princeton had Black undergraduates. Under Presidents John Sloan Dickey and John G. Kemeny, Dartmouth moved to reaffirm its original mission of serving students from the Nations of Native Peoples, significantly increased Black student enrollment, increased financial aid to admit students of diverse economic backgrounds and transitioned to co-education.
It should be of particular note that the McLane Report, published by the College in 1969[BM1] , began an institutional effort to introduce a new initiative in the movement towards racial equity. Further, in 1969, the Faculty of the College voted to initiate a series of institutional changes which coincided with the historic hiring of Black faculty, Black administrators and an exponential growth in the number of Black students enrolled at the College. The initiatives in 1968 and 1969 – and then implemented during the following decade - represent the best of what the Dartmouth Family can and should be.
Embodied in this letter is the spirit and work of the 2014 Freedom Budget that was presented by then Dartmouth students to President Hanlon. These students, who are now younger alumni, have given us permission to incorporate the salient issues they attempted to present at that time that specifically address Black life on Dartmouth’s campus.
In this same familial spirit, today – we, Black alumni of Dartmouth, call on President Hanlon and the Board of Trustees of Dartmouth College commit to:
● Increase the number of Black students at the College to 13% of total enrollment within 5 years.
● Increase the number of Black faculty at the College to 13% of the total faculty within 5 years*
● Join the Universities Studying Slavery coalition established by the University of Virginia, with more than 60 participating institutions, https://slavery.virginia.edu/universities-studying-slavery/
● Increase support to Dartmouth libraries to ensure that oral histories of Black alumni and faculty are recorded, archived and made available to students, faculty and researchers, beginning with capturing the histories of our eldest alumni, emeritus and retired faculty, as well as retired staff;
● Increase funding for student fellowships in the Historical Accountability Student Research Program, including funding for library personnel needed to provide support to student researchers
● Establish a fund to enable faculty members to obtain course release time to research and design new curriculum and courses that leverage the history of Black women and men in the establishment and evolution of Dartmouth
● Increase funding for academic and career mentoring for Black students
● Continue providing funding for faculty and library personnel to collaborate with students and alumni to establish The Black Experience @ Dartmouth 1769 to the Present digital repository
● Call for an endowed research committee on the role of the enslavement of peoples of African descent in the founding and early growth of Dartmouth College; connections to direct and indirect profiteering from “Slavery By Another Name” post-Reconstruction and through the Jim Crow period; as well as profiteering from international oppression of peoples of African descent (such as the Apartheid system in South Africa). Such a study also should explore the academic, research, athletic and community contributions of Black women and men of Dartmouth since 1769. Such a research committee should include students, alumni, faculty, staff together with outside scholars.
● Establish a new academic research center at Dartmouth focused on slavery and justice. Models such as Brown University’s Center for Slavery and Justice are examples, https://www.brown.edu/initiatives/slavery-and-justice/
● Reinvest in Cutter Hall/El Malik Shabazz Hall physical plant and program funding to return it to its originally intended purpose – a safe space for the community of students of African descent.
● Dartmouth fully funds and expands the E.E. Just Institute. Dartmouth can make a difference in developing African American students and scholars interested in STEM. Growing the Institute should be a top priority for Dartmouth.
We are grateful for the educational opportunity that Dartmouth has given us, and we cherish our deep connection to the best of the Big Green legacy. We hope this letter begins an open dialogue that embraces the words of creating the beloved community Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. resonates with what we know now as “Black Lives Matter” in May of 1960. We ask the Dartmouth Family to stand together and affirm in word and deed that our Black sisters and brothers are true family members in the academic and education research project that began more than 250 years ago.
Concerned Black Alumni of Dartmouth
Robert Bennett ’69
Wallace L. Ford II ‘70
Tyrone Byrd ‘73
Eileen Cave ‘76
Rev. Monica R. Hargrove ‘76
Rich Nichols ’76
Rev. JB (Judith) Redding ’76
Karen M. Turner ‘76
Benjamin Moynihan ’87
Dr. Maria Cole ‘84
David Cumberbatch ’84 Class Vice-President
Nelson Armstrong ‘71
Dr. Adrienne (Tee) Lotson ‘82, President, Dartmouth Alumni Council 2018 – 2019
Nikkita McPherson '13
Rev. JB (Judith) Redding, '76
Deborah Gisele Hope ’76, P’01
Lancel Joseph ‘13
* One critical issue with Tenure and Promotion (“T&P”) is that African/African American research is not highly valued by T&P committees and should be. Often faculty of color find that “top tier” journals have biases against research that does not focus on majority cultural issues. These T&P committees need to value publications that play host to the broadening of academic knowledge creation.
[BM1]So-called “McLane Report” was product of the Committee on Equal Opportunity which worked 1968-1969. Formed in response to MLK’s assassination and comprised of administrators, alumni, faculty, and students (including Wallace Ford, ’70).