Just before Dartmouth College’s Dimensions show on April 19, an interactive performance that introduces prospective students to campus life, 15 student protesters shed light onto the college’s lack of response to recent acts of homophobia, sexual assault, and racism on Dartmouth’s campus. They screamed to all who could hear, according to a USA Today article: “Three years, fifteen reported sexual assaults. But ninety-five percent go unreported. Only three rapists expelled in ten years. Dartmouth has a problem!” Unfortunately for the protesters, the demonstration only sparked an angry backlash, complete with death threats and pure intimidation. Though such a violent response was definitely unwarranted, did the protesters honestly expect anything different?
The First Amendment to the Constitution states that everyone has the right to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and peaceable assembly. But there’s an unwritten rule involved as well—not only do you have the right to express your beliefs as you see fit, but so does everyone else. Just as they have to respect your beliefs, you have to respect theirs, no matter how radically their beliefs differ from your own. This, unfortunately, is a rule that not very many people fully understand. It’s easy to get angry with people whose views oppose our own, and our first instinct is to prove to them how wrong they are. The endless debate spurned by such controversial matters diverts attention from the true issues at hand and fail to do anything to solve such issues.
The problem with what happened to the protesters at Dartmouth, however, wasn’t that their views were too controversial or that their demonstration was too extreme—it was that their views were expressed at the wrong time. Would you want your children, siblings, or friends exposed to the harsh truths of college life before they even graduate high school? By protesting an event held specifically for prospective freshmen, the protesters not only exposed these high school students to a culture they may not have even known existed, in the bluntest manner possible, the protesters may have also played an important role in the high school seniors’ college decisions. While inaction regarding rapists and rape victims is arguably a problem on college campuses throughout the country, not exclusive to Dartmouth alone, most parents would think twice before sending their children to a college that, according to its own students, does little to ensure its students’ safety and well being.
The protesters had every right to demonstrate their beliefs that day, but was it really the wisest decision to expose the impressionable prospective students to such a harsh truth so soon? Here at University of California, Santa Barbara, rape culture and what to do in the instance of rape aren’t even introduced until orientation, and, even then, it’s more to do with safety and what to do should such an event occur, not the faculty’s stance on the matter. No one wants to discuss such a heavy, serious, sensitive topic, but it has to be done, simply because it exists. Regardless, Dartmouth may have just lost a good number of freshmen in the graduating class of 2017.