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Crying Out in Ignorance

BRASS TACKS

By Chuck Lane

WHAT DID A NICE big green college like Dartmouth ever do to deserve a tawdry little rag like The Dartmouth Review?

Since its first issue in the fall of 1980, the conservative student weekly has mounted a steady series of attacks on Dartmouth's minority groups. The Review's first cause celebre was the restoration of the Indian as the college's official sports emblem. Having insulted Native Americans at the college with that campaign. The Review proceeded to harass Dartmouth's gays. The paper printed the names of all members of the school's Gay Students' Association, some of whom had not yet come out of the closet. And The Review launched a drive to revive the sexist custom of crowning a "queen" during Winter Carnival, outraging the school's female minority.

These actions were controversial in themselves--350 students rallied in the spring of 1981 to protest the invasion of gay students' privacy. But The Review's editors have always saved their cheapest shots for Dartmouth's Black students, or "Negroes," as the paper calls them. And the cheapest shots of all came this past semester, when The Review printed:

* an interview with a New Hampshire Ku Klux Klan leader--next to a doctored photo of a Black student being lynched on campus;

* a column by their mentor and unofficial adviser Dartmouth English professor Jeffrey Hart, entitled "Black is Boring";

* and an editorial attacking affirmative action headlined "Dis Sho Ain't No Jive Bro,"--written entirely in a mock version of purported Black English.

The paper prints these articles because its editors believe that Blacks--and other minority groups--have it "too easy" at Dartmouth and receive too much "special treatment." Blacks, for instance, are the subject of a minority recruitment program, and the Gay Students' Association, like all other student organizations, receives college funding. But the [white] boys at The Review think of themselves as brave satirists--like Jonathan Swift, they say--who stand alone among the Ivy League's masses in decrying these abuses of decency and the American Way.

The Review editors, however, don't live by principle alone--they aren't quite that brave after all. A lot of The Review's gumption--and money--comes from the Institute for Educational Affairs (IEA). The IEA, led by conservatives like William F. Buckley, William E. Simon, and Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), set up shop after the 1980 elections in order to foster the growth of papers like The Review on colleges campuses around the country. So far, IEA has been fairly successful--new conservative student papers have sprung up at Harvard and Williams, as well as at Dartmouth. And the IEA's support has made The Review boys feel very important indeed--the organization's members let the paper use their names on its masthead, and Buckley even persuaded Ronald Reagan to write the paper a letter of support.

So the Review isn't out to antagonize Black students--it is just trying to take a stand for tradition--and to do it in a funny and controversial way. Much to The Review's consternation (or glee?), however, Blacks at the New Hampshire college don't get the joke. As a result, Dartmouth's traditional liberal arts tranquility has been ruptured--perhaps irreparably. For one thing. The Review's attacks have undermined the morale of Black students--fending off racist innuendo has made it difficult for Afro-Americans to concentrate on studying. In addition, The Review is giving Dartmouth a reputation for racism that threatens the college's ability to recruit minority freshmen. And, most seriously, The Review's provocation have led to violence. A Black alumni official, Samuel Smith, was recently convicted for assaulting a Review editor following the "Dis Sho Ain't No Jive" editorial. The Review also claims that Black students slashed the tires and broke the windows of the paper's delivery truck.

THE REVIEW IS A divisive force on the Dartmouth campus--a threat to the academic mission of the college and a perverse deviation from the scholarly norm of reasoned discourse. It doesn't belong there. And when The Review insists otherwise, its protests that it is a victim of a liberal "establishment"--the paper called a faculty vote condemning their racist policy a "smokescreen" for the "real issue" of Smith's conviction--border on shamelessness.

Such shamelessness leaves fair-minded Hanoverians only one option--ignore The Review. Don't write letters, don't carry signs. The paper seems to thrive on the angered responses it provokes. It relishes mocking protesters. But that only means that The Review has invited itself out of meaningful campus debate. By not honoring The Review with its protests. Dartmouth students can give the paper the exclusion it so richly deserves. And maybe when The Review truly becomes a voice crying out in the wilderness, its stupidity will stand out in sharper relief. Maybe that's what Dartmouth's Black students had in mind when they refused to write any letters of protest in response to the latest Review attacks.

But this call for dignified silence doesn't really sit right. The Review's depredations do make you want to write letters and carry signs. But if The Dartmouth Review makes you mad at racism in America--and it should--get mad also at the political leaders whose benign neglect of the struggle for equality creates a climate in which the paper feels secure. The IEA hotshots--the Buckleys and the Simons who finance The Review in the name of combatting special treatment of minorities--have been feeling bold since the 1980 elections. They feel safe living under a president who grants tax exemptions to segregated academies one day and claims ignorance of their existence the next. They and The Dartmouth Review think they're riding the wave of the future. It's up to the rest of us to turn the tide.

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