Dartmouth Freedom Budget: Take the Message, Not the Threat

On Feb. 25, anonymous students at Dartmouth College proposed a "Freedom Budget" to address issues of racism, sexism, classism, ableism, and heterosexism on their campus. The eight-page document has extensive demands calling for social reform and “restoring justice in an institution beset with a history of discriminatory and oppressive practices.” The plan addresses important social issues, but the proposal lacks tact.

The most prominent issue of the Freedom Budget was the use of phrase “physical action.” The proposed plan, released on Feb. 24, gave Dartmouth until March 24 to respond to a list of eight demands or else the students “will be forced to physical action.” Though proponents of the plan later clarified that physical action referred to protests rather than violent action, this statement is unnecessary. The threat of physical action, no matter how serious, should not be taken lightly. The phrase portrays the students as a group of radicals with a list of demands, rather than rational students advocating for institutional reform.

Another misstep in the document is the demand that the Dartmouth administration answer to these proposals by March 24, only a month after it was delivered. To give the administration only a week to create a proposed plan on so many issues is absurd. The students should realize these are problems that will be dealt with over years, not over the course of one month.

However, the issues within the Freedom Budget carry weight. After speaking to a friend at Dartmouth, she claims that the student body is not showing outstanding support for the plan. The controversy has been great for fostering discussions on campus though. The advent of this plan just goes to show how passionate students still are about creating equality for all on a school’s campus.

The Freedom Budget was poorly arranged, but it generated a response from administration on March 9. Dartmouth released a plan that includes allocating $1 million to hiring faculty members with “diverse perspectives” and $30 million on a program to bring diverse post-doctorates to Dartmouth.

As a member of the Boston College community, it is easy to see similarities in campus climate between Dartmouth and here. BC has groups devoted to taking on minority issues and facilitating discussions of inequity. In one of the proposed reforms, Dartmouth students called for the creation of more courses devoted to minority studies such as African American studies, Latin American, Latino and Caribbean studies and the creation of an Asian American studies program. Boston College has courses in certain numbers of these various areas, but funding and awareness of these courses ought to be brought up more.

These issues of inequity will never die and it is important that there is open dialogue everywhere to address them. If these topics interest you, I encourage you to check out FACES, a group dedicated to addressing “issues of race, identity, and systems of power and privilege.”

The Freedom Budget was poorly proposed and made the proposed reforms come off as radical more so than restorative. Yet, the proposed plan has interesting demands and is a good spark for conversation about important student issues.