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February 10, 2007

The history of the Dartmouth Review has confirmed Christie Davies in his admiration of the American virtues - love of freedom and bravery in defending it: The Dartmouth Review pleads Innocent - (Eds.) James Panero and Stefan Beck

Posted by Christie Davies

The Dartmouth Review pleads Innocent
edited by James Panero and Stefan Beck
Wilmington, Delaware: ISI Books, 2006
Hardback, $25

The Dartmouth Review pleads Innocent is the inspiring story of a conservative student journal that took on the oppressive left-liberal administration at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, an American Ivy League University founded in 1769, and won. It is a very American story, rather like the good guys winning a shoot out in a western. It couldn't happen in supine Britain because we lack America's free institutions, confidence in private initiative and willingness to fight. Once upon a time we had all these good qualities but now we are hollowed out.

Britain lacks an unequivocal constitutional guarantee of free speech and lawyers and judges willing to uphold it. We have no American First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech; in the past we had no need of them but our once proud traditions of freedom have been whittled away, first by Parliament and now by the EU. Even our internet is free only because the Americans insist on it; the Dutch are keen to deny us that freedom.

Britain has only one small private university. All the others are servants of the state and there is no way of outflanking a leftist vice-chancellor who decides to stamp on liberty in the name of "tolerance" and "community". Besides British conservatives are gutless, me-tooers ever willing to "conserve" left-liberal institutions because they exist and are dominant. When Dinesh D'Souza tells us what he and the other editors of the Dartmouth Review thought and did, it is an indictment of the failings and cowardice of our own British students and academics. D'Souza (editor of the Dartmouth Review, 1983) wrote in 2005:

Typically, the conservative attempts to conserve, to hold on to the values of the existing society. But what if the existing society is liberal? What if the existing society is inherently hostile to conservative beliefs? It is foolish for a conservative to attempt to conserve that culture. Rather, he must seek to undermine it, to thwart it, to destroy it at the root level. This means that the conservative must stop being conservative. More precisely, he must be philosophically conservative but temperamentally radical. That is what we quickly understood at the Review. We recognized that to confront liberalism fully we could not be content with rebutting liberal arguments. We also had to subvert liberal culture and this means disrupting the etiquette of liberalism. In other words, we had to become social guerrillas. And this we set out to do with a vengeance.
What an inspiring manifesto! What a call to arms! Oh to be an American and have a tea-party! How would I have loved when a young lecturer in the early 1970s to have seen my students at Leeds University take on in this way Leeds' appalling Vice Chancellor, Edward "Fatty" Boyle, Baron Boyle of Handsworth PC CH, a slimy ultra-progressive, ultra-privileged, old Etonian (and the House) pretending to be a conservative; there is someone else like that now but his name escapes me.

One of my fondest memories of the late, much and rightly esteemed, Ralph Harris is of his doing Lord Boyle imitations and impressions until we were all reduced to helpless laughter. One was of Boyle's grovelling to the Titmice, another of Boyle pressing a book as a gift on a reluctant editor of The Times. But none of the students ever did take on Boyle in print the way the Dartmouth Review took on Freedman, President of Dartmouth.

The student press in Leeds was, by the high standards of America, illiterate, leftist and both paid for and controlled by the student's union. Remember Jack Straw (soon to become Lord Straw of Basra) as he was then, the "Broad Left" president of that students' union? The Foreign Office do - at the time they called him a:

troublemaker acting with malice aforethought.
Some people never change.

To see what Britain could have been like but never was, read this wonderful anthology of pieces from The Dartmouth Review, which tell the story of the battles it fought, written about at the time or as remembered by student editors. There are also contributions from William F. Buckley Jr and Professor Jeffrey Hart. Many of the young tigers of the 1980s and 1990s went on to yet greater things. James Panero and Stefan Beck joined the editors of the New Criterion.

In their pursuit of affirmative action and political correctness the Dartmouth administration appointed unqualified African-American staff unsuited to the positions they had been given, censored everything including a mural of bare-breasted ladies, and encouraged the self-segregation of any group defined as a minority.

The Dartmouth Review pointed all this out very forcefully. One of the College's administrators, fifty-three year old Mr Sam Smith, was so angry at this that he attacked Benjamin Hart, the founder of the Review, tried to push him through a plate-glass door, smashed his spectacles and then bit him. Mr Hart had to have a tetanus shot; I am surprised he was not also given one for rabies. Sam Smith was convicted of assault, fined and given probation by the courts. Similar assaults on students by members of staff often occur at British universities, but mysteriously they never get to court; the vice-chancellors see to that, to make sure their university doesn't "get in the papers". Sein oder Schwein und Schein? Shine wins. Swine win. Dartmouth College took no disciplinary action of its own against Smith and some of the faculty publicly defended Smith's "principled" violence in their classes.

By contrast the editors and staff of the Dartmouth Review were constantly harassed, and kangarooed, convicted on inadequate evidence and severely punished for trivial and unproven infractions of university rules. Two were suspended for "vexatious oral exchanges" - not sexual ones but what you and I would call an argument. In Britain that would be the end of it; offend the system and you are ejected, with no real redress. Unlike us, however, individual Americans have rights and the will and the means to enforce them.

The Superior Court of New Hampshire ordered the Dartmouth administration to "forthwith reinstate" the editors (who had been sent down) "as full-time students". It happened because leading American journals were willing to publicise the student editors' side of the case and the John M. Olin Foundation was willing to help pay their legal costs. In Britain a university can easily get rid of someone whose right-wing politics it doesn't like with relative impunity but in America the absence of equal justice and due process in Dartmouth was seen as an outrage. Everyone could see the contrast with the treatment of those Dartmouth students holding leftist political views, whom the administration allowed to get away with violence, vandalism and occupying buildings. But if conservative students got involved in a "vexatious oral exchange", they were out.

At the heart of much of the conflict was the administration's hatred of the stance of the Dartmouth Review as a non-racist paper criticising the racist behaviour of the administration and even more so of racially exclusive "minority" student groups, sponsored or encouraged by the administration under the guise of anti-racism. Let me quote on this point some clear-sighted members of non-white "minorities" writing for the Dartmouth Review:

After my first year here, I've learned that it's not Dartmouth's white population that's racist or exclusionary, but rather it's the organized minority groups themselves.
[Dave Pan, American, born in Taiwan, writing in the Review in 1997].

In retrospect, it is no surprise to me that in the balkanized and Orwellian world of Dartmouth in the late 1980s, the only place that I experienced complete meritocracy and egalitarianism was on the staff of the Review.
[Harmeet Dhillon, American, born in Punjab, daughter of a Sikh doctor in North Carolina, editor 1989, looking back and writing in 2006].

Freedman (the President ) chose to turn blind eyes to a grave problem at Dartmouth; students, faculty and administration who escape scrutiny and censure solely because of race or sex.
[Harmeet Dhillon, writing in 1988].

Racism is alive and kicking at Dartmouth College, but not where you would expect it. The narrow-minded advocates of fear and loathing are headquartered in Cutter Hall, the building the Afro-American Society calls home.
[Kevin Pritchett, editor 1991, writing "as a black student at Dartmouth" in 1988. Cutter Hall was de facto segregationist. No white students had lived there since Winter 1986 and most non-blacks felt intimidated even from visiting the Hall].

It can't happen here, we Brits think smugly. Wrong. Most British universities have rules to the effect that student societies receiving funding must admit students of both sexes on an equal basis and that their meetings on campus must be primarily for students and freely open to all members of the university. Ask yourself whether these fundamental principles are stringently enforced in your local university in relation to their Muslim societies, particularly if it happens to be Brunel University. Ask Jewish students how comfortable they feel in those universities when there is a strong, organized, militant Muslim presence. How many gay Muslim university students in your university dare to come out quietly, let alone be seen to have pranced and paraded? How easy is life for a black or Asian female student attached to a white boyfriend, particularly if they display affection in public? How much help would the suits give to a student who complained of harassment by members of a "minority"? None! The suits sole priority is to repress "insensitivity" and some sensitivities are more equal than others.

The Dartmouth administration got their biggest slap in the face in the twenty first century, when they failed to strip the alumni of their governance rights and then saw their "official" candidates lose elections to the board of trustees to outsider candidates, who actually believed in education and in liberty. Times have changed.

James O. Freedman, President of Dartmouth 1987-1998, the man who did most to persecute the Dartmouth Review, must be watching in fury as his false teeth grind together in their glass of water beside his bed. The Dartmouth Review gave Freedman a good drubbing and it has even been said that the bad reputation Freedman earned in Dartmouth stopped him from going on to run Harvard. He will always be remembered by Dinesh D'Souza's nickname for him, "the Al Sharpton of Academia". You can't even imagine a leftist vice-chancellor in Britain being humbled like this. Vice-chancellors are part of that highly paid, tightly-knit group of politically motivated men who run Britain and, provided they do what their political pay-masters want, they are invulnerable.

Still, even if we can't enjoy a conservative liberty ourselves, we can at least rejoice that another and better place across the Atlantic, that isn't Canada, is still the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Christie Davies was as a student, President of the Union, (Michaelmas, 1964), a columnist of the independent student newspaper Varsity and, together with Norman Lamont, a member of the British student debating team that toured the United States and defeated the American national team.


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Pues sepa vuestra merced, the authorities of Dartmouth College are just as American as the students. The country is like the feet of the statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Daniel 2:43):

And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay. And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.

The following was written by Joy Davidman, an American herself, in 1955:

But the articulate, the leaders of opinion, the policy makers, all those who set the tone of our society, seem to be for the most part frightened men. And how do frightened men deal with life?

But the comparison with Britain is apt – as Captain Claw of Sharky and George would have said “I’ll get those spineless vertebrates!”. On American Idol recently, Simon Cowell let a female contestant through with the words “I like you. You’re ballsy”. Since neither her nor the American judges understood what he meant, he explained “you’ve got spunk”. It still didn’t click.

So, what is it that has turned us into a notion of hombrecitos sin cojones? Guilt merchants, methinks, especially those on the BBC.

Posted by: Robert H. Olley at February 17, 2007 11:05 AM
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