Open Letter from members of Spanish and Portuguese

Open letter to President Beilock, Provost Kotz, and Dean Smith

We, the members of the Dartmouth Spanish and Portuguese Department who submit this open letter, want to join the many voices, from colleagues and students alike, who have risen in protest against your handling of the peaceful demonstrations that have taken place on campus in recent days. We share the deep concern expressed by our colleagues in WGSS and LALACS in their recent posting. We also applaud the thorough analysis provided by our colleagues in the History Department of your response to these events, and of the radical break this response represents with Dartmouth's long-standing commitment to freedom of expression, proper consultation, and respect of differing viewpoints upheld by previous administrations.

We understand your anxiety in the face of the protests that have provided a visible way for students and faculty to express freely their anguish and condemnation of the ongoing violence and humanitarian crisis that are devastating Gaza. We also understand your fear of losing control of the situation. But anxiety and fear are no excuses for your decision to allow armed police forces to disperse a peaceful gathering that had remained consistently within normal freedom of expression boundaries. Charlotte Hampton, the student reporter who was arrested on Wednesday wearing Press identification from the D, is also one of our students in Spanish and Portuguese and was on the LSA Santander Program last summer. Residents of our Spanish-language affinity house were among those arrested on May 1, and we are now focused on how to provide support and reparative justice to the members of our community who have been traumatized by the use of excessive force. Your response to the protest has been grossly disproportionate, and the turmoil and violence it has generated were both harmful to our community and wholly unnecessary.

We condemn antisemitism of any kind, yet the presence among the protesters of many committed Jewish students, Jewish student organizations, and Jewish faculty underscores the fact that alleged antisemitic threats are never an excuse for an authoritarian clamp down. Many members of our department come from Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking areas where authoritarian state violence against peaceful protest has looked exactly like what so many witnessed on the Green on May 1. Rather than pursuing any form of peaceful dialogue, the only outcome of your actions has been to undermine the thoughtful yet impassioned dialogues in which students and faculty have engaged up until this unwarranted show of police force.

Your administration claims to do this to protect some students who feel threatened by the protests, but your actions constitute a major threat not just to a few students but to the entire faculty and student body of this institution. They threaten what binds us together as members of this college we all love: the desire to learn and share in complete intellectual freedom, and to express our beliefs without silencing those of our classmates and colleagues. This is how we teach our students to engage with the world and with each other, and this is what is behind their actions and ours in protest for the terrible humanitarian crisis in Gaza.    

We call on you to reconsider your authoritarian approach to dissent and your stifling of free expression and productive dialogue. We also urge you at this point to reinstate all students' access to campus and to drop all charges and reprisals against students, faculty, and staff involved in the protest. Only these measures can begin to repair the damage caused by your categorically erroneous decision to meet peaceful protest with the use of brute force by the police.

Prof. José del Pino does not support this letter.