Department of African and African American Studies Responds to the May 1, 2024 Events and Arrests on Campus

May 5, 2024

We, the faculty members of the African and African American Studies Department, join our colleagues at Dartmouth College in expressing our profound outrage and condemnation of the violent arrests and use of militarized force against peaceful demonstrators, including our esteemed colleague in the Department of History and Chair of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Professor Annelise Orleck, and Professor Christopher MacEvitt, in the Department of Religion.

The use of violence to suppress peaceful protest not only undermines our principles of democracy but is also antithetical to academic freedom and the values that Dartmouth College purports to uphold. As scholars dedicated to the pursuit of truth and justice, we cannot remain silent in the face of such egregious violations and the flagrant disregard of a hard-won, precious, and fundamental right: the right to voice dissent through protest.

Dartmouth's Department of African and African American Studies is among the oldest in the nation, and central to our mission is a commitment to teaching, preserving, and safeguarding the histories of Black people worldwide. In our research and teaching, we are committed to amplifying marginalized voices and advocating for systemic change through protest. Indeed, our very disciplines result from protest, and this moment lays bare the scars of that indisputable history. The past is prologue.

African and African American Studies scholars have been critical in connecting the expansion of mass incarceration and growth in militarized policing to the global histories of racialized subjugation and the oppression of people of African descent. We are dismayed and angered that many of the universities and colleges that promised to redress this historical legacy in the wake of the #BlackLivesMatter protests of 2020 are now deploying militarized police against students and faculty while their Institutional Diversity and Equity statements languish online.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. taught us: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." Students have used their Dartmouth education to understand this "network of mutuality" and act on it through nonviolent protest. Not all will agree with their choices, but they are not criminals.

We call on Dartmouth's administration to acknowledge that summoning police in riot gear to arrest nonviolent protesters is incompatible with Dartmouth's values and deviates from the institution's recent history. We demand that the charges against those who were arrested be dropped and campus bans removed.

We call on Dartmouth's administration:

  • To acknowledge publicly that the deployment of state police and armored vehicles was an excessive and punitive response to peaceful protests, which will not be repeated.
  • To announce publicly that you are asking prosecutors to dismiss all criminal charges against the faculty, students, and staff who were arrested on May 1– a request that in no way infringes on prosecutorial discretion—and charges against the two students arrested in the fall, Roan V. Wade and Kevin Engle, should also be dropped immediately.
  • To make it officially and publicly known that academic freedom includes the right to peacefully express support for Palestinian rights. The college should permit nonviolent protest outdoors and restore faith in fair process and commitment to free speech on campus.

1We embrace these points culled from our colleagues in the History Department's May 3 Open letter to President Beilock, Provost Kotz, and Dean Smith


The Department of African and African American Studies at Dartmouth College