By Zach Greenberg, FIRE
Dartmouth’s eleventh-hour cancellation of a student event featuring journalist Andy Ngo due to “safety” concerns immediately raised suspicion, especially after precious few protesters actually showed up. Now, police department records cast even greater doubt on Dartmouth’s security rationale and demonstrate how university administrators ignored law enforcement when they censored their students.
In the weeks leading up to a Jan. 20 in-person campus event featuring Ngo and activist Gabriel Nadales about left-wing political violence in the United States, the student organizers alerted Dartmouth to online groups threatening to disrupt their event. Communications between the student groups, public safety officials, and Dartmouth show the university was well-prepared for potential violence, as it had enlisted the local Hanover Police Department to help safeguard the campus discussion.
Despite the online fervor, few came out on the blustery, New England night to protest the event. Even so, right before the event was set to begin, Dartmouth forced the student organizers to hold it online, or not at all.
If such threats did exist, Dartmouth has not shown them to the student organizations, FIRE, or the general public.
Dartmouth claimed it based its decision on “concerning information” from the Hanover police, yet refused to provide any details. Responding to FIRE’s Jan. 26 letter calling on the college to explain these alleged security concerns, university President Philip J. Hanlon furnished no additional information and instead curtly remarked that “Dartmouth prizes and defends the right to free speech.”
FIRE didn’t buy it. Something stunk, and it wasn’t the smell of stale beer emanating from Keggy the Keg — the anthropomorphic barrel that serves as Dartmouth’s unofficial mascot. We filed an open records request for all communications logged by Hanover police about threats against the event.
Our skepticism yielded results: It turns out the Hanover police “did not make a recommendation to Dartmouth College regarding the January 20th event.” In fact, Hanover police chief Charles Dennis stated, “With the information we had, we were as operationally prepared as best we could to handle the event and protest.” He also added that “we were not provided a reason or reasons for Dartmouth’s decision” to cancel the event. Likewise, the daily crime logs of campus and local police detail no threats to the event.
Records of police communications to university administrators describe online posts about mythological Antifa supersoldiers, opposition to Ngo’s views, and some discussion of violence, but no explicit threats of harm to Ngo or students. If such threats did exist, Dartmouth has not shown them to the student organizations, FIRE, or the general public.
Dartmouth’s conduct is far from that of an institution that “prizes and defends the right to free speech.” When faced with illiberal attempts to use violence to squelch speech, a commitment to expressive freedom requires universities to address the disruption, protect the speaker, and ensure that events can go on as planned. Dartmouth did the exact opposite — punishing the student groups by altering the venue and format of their event at the last minute despite no evidence of severe disruption, and law enforcement’s extensive preparations to ensure public safety.
In our letter to Dartmouth today, we explain why bogus safety concerns must not be used to excuse canceling students’ expressive events:
“Sacrificing free speech rights when faced with actual violence is seldom justified; restricting expressive activity in the absence of substantial disruption is inexcusable. Far from protecting free speech, Dartmouth’s actions will only prompt future threats and will deter speakers from coming to campus—to the detriment of campus safety and students’ expressive freedoms.”
FIRE once again calls on Dartmouth to explain what specific security concerns necessitated the cancellation of the Jan. 20 event. We urge the college to recommit itself to free speech by promising to make genuine, serious, and transparent efforts to protect students’ expressive rights when threatened with disruption going forward.
Censorship by any other name would be as contemptuous
I hope that freedom-minded donors to Dartmouth will take this into account next time they think about getting out their checkbooks. They have discriminated against hosting a gay speaker so according to the current way of thinking, Dartmouth is officially homophobic.
Tyranny of the minority has become the rule of the day
WHY ARE THEY AFRAID OF A SPEAKER?? ARE HIS WORDS DANGEROUS?? ARE THEY FORCED TO LISTEN?? MIGHT THEY DISCOVER A NEW IDEA?? ARE THOSE WHO COMPLAINED DANGEROUS AND VIOLENT?? I ASK AGAIN, WHERE IS THEIR FEAR??
Andy Ngo is an American hero. He exposed Antifa and BLM and it nearly cost him his life. He tells the Truth. No one is more hated than he who speaks the truth (Plato.) Dartmouth is controlled by the Rockefellers and their merryband of nihilists. Ivy league indoctrination center for the neo-facists eugenicists NWO WEF stooges.
Someone should initiate a congressional inquiry into this breech of the 1st amendment and if the college is found guilty, they should lose all federal funding for school and the administrators responsible should lose their job and any opportunity for future employment in a government funded institution,
This is a flagrant violation of the 1st amendment of our constitution and should be punished to set an example to others who desire to violate the laws of the land.
That citadel of objective and unbiased socio-academic excellence and woke snobbery, Dartmouth College where CRT, BLM and BDS spells PCU, with arrogant PHDs, who couldn’t differentiate between truth and Howard Zinn and Ed, I’m still dead, Said, patron liars of the left.
Disgusting ! Deception is unacceptable on the right as it is on the left.