Confront and Learn from the Past

Commission public projects on Dartmouth's history of diversity and inclusivity

In consultation with faculty, students, alumni and staff, Dartmouth will commission public projects on the historic treatment of underrepresented, marginalized and excluded groups as part of the College's sestercentennial celebration in 2019.

President/Provost/School Deans/Executive Vice President/Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity/Dean of the College/Vice Provost for Student Affairs

During the past decade, many universities have taken steps to acknowledge their role in historical injustices. Most of these efforts have addressed institutional ties to slavery, though several institutions have examined their past treatment of Native Americans, as well.

Institutional acknowledgement has taken a variety of forms. Colleges and universities have issued formal statements of regret, convened investigative committees, removed the names of historical figures from campus buildings, and built memorials. Most recently, Columbia and Georgetown announced plans to shed light on their past involvement in slavery.

In Dartmouth’s Inclusive Excellence plan, the College committed to “confront and learn from the past.”  In honor of this commitment, the College will convene a task force in Fall 2017 to examine the College’s involvement during its founding period with African American and Native American communities. This committee will comprise faculty, staff, alumni, and students, and will be led by one or more expert faculty.  It will be charged to provide a formal account of Dartmouth’s early history, and will provide senior leadership with recommendations about how Dartmouth should formally acknowledge and mark the institution’s past actions by May, 2018. Prior to convening the committee, we will contact peer institutions that have completed similar projects in order to learn about the process.

The following considerations inform this approach:

Continuity:  Many institutions plan acknowledgements to coincide with major events or anniversaries. Given that Dartmouth’s sestercentennial celebration is approaching, it seems like a particularly good time to take action. It is also relevant to consider that Dartmouth’s 250th anniversary marks the 50th anniversary of President Kemeny’s pledge to restore Native American education at Dartmouth and to diversify the student body.

Learning Benefits:  Many institutions have placed students and faculty at the center of their efforts to acknowledge their histories. This model seems particularly appropriate for Dartmouth given our commitment to faculty-student collaboration and active learning.

Timing:  At many institutions, efforts to explore institutional history are prompted by community protests or negative campus events. In these cases, resulting initiatives can seem reactive to campus events.  Because we are not (yet) in a reactive position, we have the opportunity to engage our history as a strong and direct expression of our institutional values today.


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