Racism Revisited at the Review

THE editors of The Dartmouth Review were getting testy. The readers were bored, Pat Robertson was running amok in the primaries, and things were looking generally sour for Dartmouth's conservative vanguard. Something had to be done.

Then someone had an idea: "Why don't we provoke a racial incident? When we are criticized, we can scream racial double standard and make martyrs of ourselves."

Was this what really happened behind the doors of The Dartmouth Review? Who can say? But something inspired those journalistic commandos to demonstrate, once again, that racial insensitivity is alive and well in Hanover.

The editors of the Review felt "compelled to write an article bringing public attention to the inferior quality..." of Black professor William Cole. Although the Review offered him an opportunity to respond to their charges, they thought it necessary to explicitly warn the professor not to use the words "motherfucker, ass, and bullshit."

The Review struck again when three staffers marched on Cole's classroom after one of his lectures, bringing with them a camera and a tape recorder. Confronted with members of a publication which obviously had malevolent intentions--a publication that once printed that he "...looks like a worn out brillo pad..,"--Professor Cole became enraged. During the ensuing shouting match, Review staffers took photographs of Cole's outburst and tape-recorded him cursing. The Review reported that Cole broke the photographer's $230 flash unit, although that sum inexplicably grew to $300 in an interview two days later.

With the publication of the Review's attack on Cole came a heated debate. Blacks and others in the Dartmouth community charged that the attack was racially motivated, while The Review insisted that they were victims of a racial double standard--that any criticism of blacks, however warranted and fair, is construed as a racial attack.

A panel composed of Dartmouth students and faculty found four Review editors guilty of disorderly conduct, harassment, and invasion of privacy, charges stemming from their confrontation with Cole. Baldwin, John Sutter, and John Quilhot were suspended, while Sean Nolan was placed on probation. Now, these four have elevated themselves to martyrdom in the battle against what editor-in-chief Chris Baldwin called "racism, the familiar doctrine of affirmative action and racial double standard," enforced by "men of timid intellect."

BUT before we canonize Baldwin and the other Review editors, it is best to examine their motives for attacking the professor.

The Dartmouth Review is not known for its efforts to improve racial relations. Two years ago, Baldwin and nine other Review staffers went on a midnight smashing raid, destroying shanties erected on the Dartmouth campus for the purpose of protesting apartheid.

It is hardly believeable that the Review was simply offering fair and legitimate criticism. Although Baldwin denied any malicious intent in the Review's attack, he allowed such flattering statements to be printed about the professor as "he looks like a junkie," "he isn't qualified to be a migrant fruit picker," and "if professors had to take English 5, Bill Cole would be out on the street."

Although the Review claims to abhor racism, they have consistently demonstrated that if they are not racist, they are at least shockingly insensitive to racial problems. The Review's confrontation with Professor Cole was a carefully orchestrated attack on affirmative action at Dartmouth. The Review claimed that affirmative action denigrates the value of a Dartmouth diploma, and that it is tantamount to racism. But this argument denies the existence of institutionally imposed barriers to minority achievement. It plays on latent racist sentiment, and it displays a profound insensitivity to the problems of minorities.

HARVARD'S Professor Martin Kilson, who teaches "Ethnic Groups in Modern America," says, "The Dartmouth Review is known for its irresponsible, neo-conservative, racist behavior. They are entitled to comment, but comment presupposes an obligation to keep civility at the forefront, and they have chosen to ignore that obligation."

Baldwin insists that the issue at stake is, "Why is a tenured professor using words like 'motherfucker'?" But the Review's exercise of free speech in criticizing Professor Cole's teaching ability is not the only issue. If it were, the editors would not be facing suspension.

THE real issue is whether a publication carrying the Dartmouth name on its masthead can be allowed to viciously harrass a professor, inflame racial tensions, and shamelessly play on racist sentiment. It is whether Dartmouth will tolerate students who deliberately exacerbate sensitive racial problems.

Racial insensitivity is an ugly, poisonous attitude, and The Dartmouth Review is, unfortunately, content to showcase it. Uwe Brandes, a senior at Dartmouth who attended a large rally against the Review, says, "The Dartmouth Review is the most vociferous voice of racism, sexism, and homophobia on campus. They are on a steady course of antagonizing the college," and would "destroy any perceived progress in racial relations since blacks were first admitted."

The Review, by aggravating racial tensions, refuses to admit the need for constructive, civil, and consistent efforts to eliminate racism. And that, says Professor Kilson, "is tantamount to a racist refusal."

Baldwin and his confrontational cohorts are crying persecution, but they deserve no sympathy. Even if their journalistic attack on Cole was warranted, their harassment and intrusion on his privacy were not. The editors of The Review inexcusably provoked racial conflict, and Dartmouth College is justified in suspending them.