Casler: The Circus in Parkhurst
With an ongoing occupation of Parkhurst Hall, it is perhaps tempting to give the student-authored “Freedom Budget” a second consideration — they showed up with sleeping bags and pizza, and it appears that these students are not disappearing anytime soon. If anything, however, these actions should further delegitimize the movement as wrongheaded and politically inept.

Dartmouth exists to serve the interests of a wide variety of students, alumni and faculty, and I’d argue that it does those things reasonably well. Setting aside their frustration with the administration’s admittedly lackluster, hurried initial response, I must conclude that “Freedom Budget” supporters fundamentally misunderstand how this College, and perhaps even the wider world, works. This institution aims to prepare students as well as possible for a range of futures and continues to do so at a better rate than any other school in the country. As community members, we all (emphasis on the “all”) have access to professors, research dollars and academic and professional opportunities that exist at few, if any, other colleges. So before we start talking about diverting resources away from the things that make a Dartmouth education most valuable, I’d like to point out what we already have — because what we have is pretty damn awesome. Yet those who currently occupy Hanlon’s office apparently view the College’s very functioning as a “methodological assault on their dignity.” Previous columns have already lambasted their tone and demands, so I will skip those. I’m more concerned with what actually happened Tuesday in Parkhurst — students’ actions betrayed not just a lack of respect for administrators who want to help, but also basic ignorance in the purported solutions they posit. Watching yesterday afternoon’s live coverage confirmed for me that while the policy ideas in the “Freedom Budget” are not uniformly bad, the movement itself should not be taken seriously. First, the manner in which students conducted themselves was confrontational and accusatory. In the face of Hanlon’s simple requests for a conversation, the students would not agree to a discussion on anything less than their terms. Hanlon gave students a chance to name their priorities, and they refused, continuing to demand their hallowed “point-by-point” response. As Hanlon stated in an email to campus yesterday, threats and demands are not the route to progress. His job is not to chart administrative policy (his job, in fact, is to raise money for the College). Moreover, the students unfairly laid the blame for Dartmouth’s problems at Hanlon’s feet. He has been president for less than a year and has made extraordinary efforts to take the pulse of campus. If supporters of the “Freedom Budget” cannot appreciate this, then the sit-in is perhaps even more frustratingly naïve than the document itself. Second, specific student actions show the movement’s laughable lack of credibility. When Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson asked the students to name the total financial costs of their budget proposal, one student responded that she was seeking “transformative justice” for Dartmouth, which would involve transformation of the school’s budget. I’m sorry, but if your level of concern has landed you in the president’s office, you’d better have thought critically about the logistics and practical aspects of your demands before you walk in the door. For instance, have they considered the cost of creating several entirely new departments? That “Freedom Budget” supporters dismiss concerns about the price and logistics of change out of hand — regardless of whether certain suggestions have any validity — makes me wonder whether the movement deserves the dignity it claims has been stolen. This entire situation is ultimately so vexing because many students do want change, but not the kind that the “Freedom Budget” advocates. I’d bet that many want to see a more transparent administration and improved residential options and retention of minority faculty members. Yet the longer this circus drags on, the less attention will be paid to policies that might have deep and enriching effects across the community. Dartmouth can keep doing what it does best and be self-critical with or without the “Freedom Budget.”
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