Dartmouth Students Condemn Op-Ed Criticizing Overwhelmingly Female Staff of Student Life Executive Board

Dartmouth Hall
Dartmouth Hall / Wikimedia Commons
February 6, 2018

Dartmouth College clubs have exploded with letters of condemnation this week, eviscerating a student who wrote an op-ed that criticized the hiring of an overwhelmingly female staff for a student life executive board as a "white supremacist" who has "endangered" lives.

At least 37 letters, most titled "In Solidarity," have been distributed by student groups since The Dartmouth published an opinion piece Friday by Ryan Spector, who took issue with nearly 80 percent of the 19-person directorate of the Dartmouth Outing Club's First-Year Trips being female this year.

The makeup constitutes a "virtual erasure of men" from the student-run pre-orientation program, wrote Spector in "You're Not Tripping."

Trips Director Lucia Pierson and Assistant Director Dalia Rodriguez-Caspeta have an "obsession with diversity [that] verges on the inane," he continued.

Spector, who failed in his bid for a spot on the directorate, was writing in direct response to Pierson and Rodriguez-Caspeta's assertion in an earlier Dartmouth article that merit, not identity, was the determinant in the selection process.

The directors had also admitted in that article that they "were intentional in the way [they] read the applications," and that identity played a role in their thinking and would have played a larger part had there been a lack of diverse identities in the applicant pool.

Spector called Pierson and Rodriguez-Caspeta's explanations "doublespeak."

"Pierson and Rodriguez-Caspeta may believe in merit, but it is a twisted form of it, a pernicious theory that sees race, gender and identity as dictating qualification," he wrote. "This is what it looks like to systematically devalue minorities, to reduce them to nothing but a plate on the diversity buffet."

The response was swift, with letters pouring into the Dartmouth undergraduate listserv almost immediately.

The Stonefence Review, a student publication made up mostly of minority students, has accused The Dartmouth of spreading "hate speech."

Spector, wrote Stonefence, "has committed an act of violence."

Spector's views were described as an "attack on people of color, women, queer folks, gender non-conforming folks, first generation, and low-income students on campus," by the Amarna Undergraduate Society.

Spector had questioned and delegitimized the credentials of those selected in an act of "blatant" and "hateful" sexism and racism, according to critics, evidence of a campus that continues to value "white male privilege."

"The implications of such rhetoric are extremely violent," warned the Coalition for Immigration Reform and Equality at Dartmouth.

Spector does not understand "systematic oppression, power, and privilege," according to women's and sexual violence groups.

"White male tears will not stop women of color from thriving," wrote Asian/American Students for Action.

The Dartmouth editorial board has stood behind its publication of the piece, while its conservative counterpart, the Dartmouth Review, has stated its support for both the paper and Spector.

Two Dartmouth government professors, John Carey and Yusaku Horiuchi, published an op-ed urging students to deescalate their character attacks on Spector, or risk increasing polarization and the end of intellectual debate.

"Anyone who does not hew to established and codified positions will be afraid to express any opinion. Worse, it could encourage self-segregation, as students will feel secure only among those whose views are known and shared," wrote the professors.

According to a Monday student survey of 846 Dartmouth undergraduates, 71 percent of students responded that it was "okay" for the Dartmouth to publish Spector's piece, but nearly 80 percent disagreed with Spector's assessment.

The Outdoor Programs Office has stated its support for the Trips directors and confidence in the application process.

Pierson, the Trips Director, refused to comment on Spector's piece or the directorate selection process.

Spector has declined to comment.