Dartmouth’s President Is Censured by Faculty Over Protest Actions

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The Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Dartmouth College voted on Monday to censure the university’s president, Sian Leah Beilock, over her decision to summon the police to remove a pro-Palestinian encampment on campus, calling her action harmful to the community and disruptive to the university’s educational mission.

The censure motion was adopted by a vote of 183 to 163, according to Justin Anderson, a spokesman for Dartmouth.

The close vote illustrated the division on campus over Dr. Beilock’s decision on May 1, made just hours after the encampment had been erected on the college green. At the meeting, Dr. Beilock defended her actions, saying that she believed there was a reasonable and credible threat of violence.

Monday’s vote was believed to be the first censure vote against a president of Dartmouth in its 255-year history.

In a statement, the university noted that a censure vote had no practical effect. And the chair of Dartmouth’s board, Liz Lempres, applauded Dr. Beilock for her “strong leadership” in nearly impossible circumstances. “The board unequivocally and unanimously supports President Beilock,” she said in a statement.

Eighty-nine people were arrested, including two faculty members, as the police moved in to clear the encampment this month. One faculty member, Annelise Orleck, a labor historian, was knocked to the ground as she tried to grab her phone from a police officer.

Dr. Orleck, who once served as head of Jewish studies at Dartmouth, said on Monday that she was gratified at the vote. “I’m hoping that she and perhaps anyone who follows her, and maybe presidents on other campuses, hesitate for a second before they bring down violence on peaceful student protesters.”

Dr. Beilock attended the meeting of the arts and sciences faculty, the core faculty teaching undergraduate students on the New Hampshire campus, and explained her position.

The criticism of her “was withering,” said Matthew J. Garcia, a professor of history. Dr. Garcia helped draft the resolution, which was introduced by Christopher MacEvitt, a professor of religion who hwas also arrested, and seconded by Dr. Orleck.

Dr. Garcia argued that the protesters had taken a vow of peace, and that Dr. Beilock’s claim that she feared violence was implausible. “None of it rang true,” Dr. Garcia said.

He added that some of the arrested students were of Asian American, Native American and Latino ancestry who identified with the plight of Palestinians. “They’re the ones who bore the brunt,” Dr. Garcia said, noting that the students were allowed to remain on campus but were in limbo.

Among faculty members supporting Dr. Beilock was Bruce Sacerdote, a professor of economics. “Everyone agreed, whether they thought she called law enforcement too early and could have waited a little bit longer, everyone agrees that it was a difficult decision,” he said, expressing disappointment over the vote.

In a similar move last week, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Columbia University passed, by a wider margin, a vote of no confidence in its president, Nemat Shafik, over her handling of pro-Palestinian protesters there. A vote of no confidence is regarded as more serious than a censure vote.

And on May 8, the Academic Senate at the University of Southern California voted to censure Carol Folt, the school’s president, after the administration canceled the valedictory address of a Muslim student and called in the police to arrest dozens of protesters.

Dr. Beilock, who joined Dartmouth last June, is a cognitive scientist who previously served as the president of Barnard College.



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