Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Student Assembly Enters Trustee Fray

The Student Assembly's Alumni Affairs Committee submitted questionnaires to the six alumni Trustee candidates, asking their positions on free speech, room searches, athletics, fraternities, class size and other important issues. So far, Sheila Cheston '80, petition candidate Peter Robinson '79, Curtis Welling '71 and petition candidate Todd Zywicki '88 have posted their replies.

Both Robinson and Zywicki come out swinging in favor of free speech. Robinson, in particular, attacks President James Wright's statement that "Dartmouth has no speech codes":
As a trustee myself, I would refuse to accept any mere form of words like that President Wright offered at Convocation. The administration must instead take action, rescinding all infringements on freedom of speech while promoting a climate in which every man or woman on campus feels genuinely at liberty to speak his or her mind.
Read all the statements.


Anonymous said...

Does Zywicki think that voluntarily subjecting Dartmouth to federal laws will make it a better place? Will that keep it among the top twenty schools in the country, where none of the other institutions is a state university? Since when does a college seek a greater federal regulatory burden, and why would a conservative support it?

And would it even make a difference? Zywicki complains that fishing a newsletter from a private garbage can with "no warrant, probable cause or due process" demonstrates "an alarming disrespect for student privacy and legal rights," though he does not acknowledge that the fishing was done by private individuals (Review 6/11/01). The Hanover Police wouldn't have needed a warrant to read a newsletter that someone brought them, and neither would the college, even if it had been forced to hew to the Fourteenth Amendment like a state school.

The lack of interference from the state is one of the things that helps make Dartmouth and any private institution great, and the last thing Dartmouth should do is seek to subject itself to laws that it fought to escape in 1819. Zywicki knew he was going to a private school when he went to Dartmouth. If he'd wanted to live under a different legal regime, he would have gone to U.N.H.

Anonymous said...

Wow! The things you learn on the internet. The Dartmouth College case was really about saving the college's young charges from the dangers of free speech. I didn't know that. And if we eliminate speech codes we will be taken over by federal marshals. I never would have guessed. Seriously, is that the accepted wisdom in Hanover nowadays?

Anonymous said...

Me again. The 14th Amendment? What's that got to do with unlawful search and seizure? (I forgot to ask because I was overwhelmed with the image of federal officers invading the college to force the students to express their opinions. Sorry.)

Ben said...

Frankly I don't like some of the questions asked, they were loaded or poorly constructed. At least one, the one on traditions, blames the administration for something it had no control over.

It was the conference that forced the tennis ball issues, not the administration. Dartmouth did not tell the officials to start calling it a penalty, but the ECAC. (Of course, if the students would have only thrown them after the first goal and not every goal in recent years - it might not have been a problem to begin with.)

Now blocking off the seats immediately surrounding the penalty box - that is most definitely the admin's fault.

David said...

Dear anonymous,

How about this: I'll come over to your place, rifle through your trash, find something you wrote, print it in the newspaper, tell you that anyone I'm associated with is forever banned from living on your property (destroying your property value without reducing any of those pesky property taxes you pay)... and then when you demand I respect your rights, I'll answer that I'm a private person and it doesn't matter what the police could do under the circumstances?

I'm not saying Zywicki is right that the college should voluntarily bind itself to the 1st and 14th amendments; I'm just saying that there should be a law against doing what Dartmouth did to Zeta Psi.

Emmett said...


First of all, people who sign anonymously should at least use a pseudonym, if not their own names. It helps to follow the various argument threads.

Secondly, to the first anonymous, who questions whether Zywicki (and, I assume, Robinson) are right to argue that Dartmouth should "voluntarily subject" itself to the First and Fourteenth Amendments: you miss the point entirely. Of course, they are not suggesting that Dartmouth should turn over enforcement of its rules to the state or federal government. That would be absurd and pointless, and is in no way what they are suggesting.

Rather, they are saying that that the College should adopt the principles embodied in the First and Fourteenth Amendments -- not only because they are desirable in their own right, but because they are particularly relevant to life at a private liberal arts college. And it certainly is a shameful thing for a great liberal arts college to grant its students fewer protections than students at UNH enjoy.

Undergrads ought to be, and should be considered, mature adults (even if their behavior occasionally suggests otherwise), and I think this is more true of Dartmouth students than most other students. So why is the College so reluctant to recognize their rights?

In sum, Zywicki and Robinson are not advocating a "greater federal regulatory burden," not at all, at all, at all. They no doubt want the federal government to stay as far away from Dartmouth as possible, and I'm with them on that. But why you assume that an argument that Dartmouth should honor the principles behind those rights equates with an argument that the government should take over Dartmouth is completely unintelligible.

I really have no idea where you came up with that interpretation. And I thought I had heard it all....

Anonymous said...

David I think missed his point, because David really is free to ban anyone associated with him from from living with the person from whose trash that person took something that David wrote. More power to him. He is not a government and neither is Dartmouth. Neither David nor Dartmouth has the power to compel someone to follow his/its rules by imprisoning him. The police can investigate a crime that a private person or corporation has committed (and the individual students who took the trash may have trespassed), but they cannot restrict his/its freedom to contract with students for their education contingent on their meeting a standards of conduct. If the students do not like the standards or any other part of the contract, they may leave.

Anonymous said...

Dartmouth students do not have "fewer protections than students at UNH" as emmett said. Their right to free speech on public property under either state law or federal law is exactly the same. Dartmouth students are free to try to protest at UNH (protected in some places, definitely restricted in others) and on private property such as Dartmouth's (unprotected), and vice versa. It's pretty commonly known whether any given school is a state school or a private school, and that's one of the things that goes into a student's decision to attend, so it would be hard for her to say she didn't know what she was getting into. No one is forced to go to college, and she can always leave if she doesn't like the rules. If you don't like Wal-Mart, then don't shop there.

Anonymous said...

"It's pretty commonly known whether any given school is a state school or a private school, and that's one of the things that goes into a student's decision to attend, so it would be hard for her to say she didn't know what she was getting into. No one is forced to go to college, and she can always leave if she doesn't like the rules. If you don't like Wal-Mart, then don't shop there."

Uh...wasn't the point here that we are in the middle of a time where we can voice our opinion as to the place we WANT Dartmouth to be. Dartmouth is a far better school than UNH even with the restrictions on speech. The point here is that Dartmouth would be even BETTER if speech were protected as it is at a public school, and that preference can be expressed through voting in the Trustee election.

Any Stray Marks said...

Emmett, Anonymous failed to explain his assumptions: Zywicki and Robinson suggest adopting some or all of the Bill of Rights only voluntarily and do not want to turn over enforcement to New Hampshire or the U.S. But 1st Amendment enforcement these days is done through suits by citizens, or at least it is done that way at state universities. There are no 1st Amendment Police looking around for violations.

What did not get said is that adopting the 1st and 4th Amendments at Dartmouth (or any others in the Bill of Rights that the SA adds) would have the same effect that imposing those amendments on a state school has had: it would give Dartmouth students the right to sue the school over violations. When a Dartmouth student sues to enforce these "voluntary" rules (and once you grant others the right to sue you over something, it starts to seem less voluntary...), you could argue that Dartmouth will have ceded to its students at least thing that makes a corporation different from a state.

The effect for the 1st Am. ONLY would be the same as if Dartmouth had been taken over by the State of New Hampshire: people would be able to sue to enforce rights whose source is in the Constitution, whether they are binding on Dartmouth by force of law or voluntary agreement. That effect seems like it would be pretty small. Therefore only some of the effects of granting students the right to sue under the Bill of Rights would be the same as if Dartmouth had lost the Dartmouth College Case, and using that case is hyperbolic.

Anonymous said...

Are you saying that a right to free speech at Dartmouth would be OK with you provided it is unenforceable? I think President Wright is ahead of you there.

Anonymous said...

The Dartmouth College case had nothing to do with the Bill of Rights (on or off private property). It stands for the proposition that state action must respect contract and property rights. The Govenor tried to take over the College in violation of the charter signed by a predecessor and the US Supreme Court said he couldn't. I suppose you could say that if Daniel Webster had lost, Dartmouth would be public and its students free to express their opinions. By that token I guess you could also say that, if Webster had lost, we'd have a stronger athletic program.

Emmett said...

Anonymous (guys, pseudonyms at least -- please!):

You said:

Dartmouth students do not have "fewer protections than students at UNH" as emmett said.

Then, you said:

Dartmouth students are free to try to protest at UNH (protected in some places, definitely restricted in others) and on private property such as Dartmouth's (unprotected), and vice versa.

These are inconsistent: first you say that Dartmouth students do not have fewer protections, then you say that Dartmouth and UNH fall into different categories on this score.

And as for your "you know what you're getting into" argument: what part of being at a liberal arts college suggests to a prospective student that you will be afforded fewer free speech rights than your UNH counterparts? Indeed -- shouldn't it imply the opposite?

Time and again, I see people make more hay out of this "public/private" distinction than is warranted. Check out Dartmouth's website and promotional brochures; they all emphasize the free exchange of ideas, the marketplace of ideas, challenging intellectual stimulation, etc. etc. etc. These all depend on vigorous free speech rights. I'm not saying that the conception of free speech as enshrined in our First Amendment is the gold standard, but it's worked pretty well in the wider society. Besides, I can't see how you can meet the goals of vigorous exchange of ideas without affording your students at least as much free speech rights as they have as citizens. (And as a liberal arts college, Dartmouth should be affording even more.)

David said...

Emmett: WELL SAID.

I'm going to address anonymous here, mostly because you're almost all saying the same thing. But this is specifically to the "anonymous" who says I'm free to ban anyone I don't like from living on his property (I hope I'm interpreting this correctly, since it didn't make too much sense as originally written). That may be true: there is no law against me not inviting over for dinner a guy who lives on anonymous's property. But wouldn't you suddenly find the same situation criminally unfair if, instead of just refusing to have him over for dinner, I refused to hire him? Or refused to let him open an account at my bank? Or refused to let him enroll at my Ivy League college?

Unconstitutional or not, I cannot believe that anyone smart enough to get into Dartmouth genuinely thinks it's morally right to force students to choose between going to Dartmouth and living with his friends. This becomes an even more heinous choice because Dartmouth says it doesn't punish students for their speech. The fact that Zeta Psi is banned from housing Dartmouth students stems from a vengeful woman digging through the fraternity's trash is just window-dressing to me -- it only further demonstrates that Dartmouth will turn a blind eye to any accompanying circumstance in order to silence voices it doesn't want to hear.

Anonymous said...

This post is being posted anonymously on purpose, so don't complain. I just wondered how you all would feel if I told you that the Balloting Committee refuses to allow students to meet Trustee candidates who offered to come to Dartmouth. They called it unfair campaigning. Let's just keep in mind that it's pretty hard to campaign to a group of people that can't vote...

Emmett said...

They may call it "unfair campaigning." I call it "outrageous," "bullying," and "not in the least bit surprising."