The Ivy Coach Daily

December 5, 2023

How Dartmouth Schooled the Ivy League in Its Response to Antisemitism: A Statement

White-bricked Dartmouth Hall is featured beyond the Green of Dartmouth College.
“As an American, as a Jew, I have never been prouder to be a Dartmouth alumnus, nor has Dartmouth ever been more deserving of its moniker, the College on the Hill.” – Brian Taylor, Managing Partner, Ivy Coach

By Brian Taylor

Over the years, the centuries-old eight Ivy League institutions have borne witness to and, in some cases, participated in some of our nation’s darkest sins — beginning with America’s original sin. Today, the fifth day of December 2023, marked a day that will live in the annals of infamy as the day two Ivy League schools told Jewish students that they were not equal to their peers, that they were less than, that their safety — and indeed their lives — were not as valuable as the right to speak hate.

Penn and Harvard Presidents Disgrace Their Institutions

In testimony before the United States Congress, when asked by a Congresswoman if calling for the genocide of Jews violated Harvard’s Code of Conduct, Harvard president Claudine Gay replied, with a smile, “It depends on the context.”

When Penn’s president Liz Magill was posed the same question concerning her school’s own Code of Conduct, she said, also with a smile, “It is a context-dependent decision.” When pressed further, she stated, “If the speech becomes conduct, it can be harassment.” The Congresswoman then retorted, “Conduct meaning committing the act of genocide?”

At Ivy Coach, we fail to recognize how calling for the genocide of Jewish students — or Black, Latino, Native American, Asian, LGBTQ+ students — does not violate the Codes of Conduct of these publicly-funded Ivy League institutions. We fail to recognize how uttering such hateful words could facilitate the kind of open dialogue and scholarship that Ivy League schools have long modeled.

Dear Old Dartmouth Give A Rouse, For the College on the Hill

But I wish to refrain from paying further attention to these disgraceful ex-presidents. Today, I wish to bring the attention of Ivy Coach’s readers to the Ivy League school that got it right, to the school that set the example for other institutions to follow, to the school that led with love and understanding, scholarship and mutual respect, instead of hate hidden with the Trojan Horse of free speech.

That school that got it right, the school that is a voice crying out in the moral wilderness is my alma mater, Dartmouth College. And, as an American, as a Jew, I have never been prouder to be a Dartmouth alumnus, nor has Dartmouth ever been more deserving of its moniker, the College on the Hill.

Allow me to walk our readers through how, when so many of America’s elite universities fumbled their responses to campus antisemitism, Dartmouth shined the light ahead for all, heeding the words of its own Robert Frost by “[taking] the [road] less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Dartmouth’s trailblazing first-year president Sian Beilock said on October 10, 2023 that she had “watched with growing horror the Hamas attack on Israel this weekend, the escalating violence, and the devastating loss of life, especially among civilians.” Beilock encouraged students to participate in a series of discussions featuring professors from Israel, Lebanon, and Egypt to “help bring us together and shed light on the situation.”

The Dartmouth forums drew praise from the independent Jewish publication The Forward for Beilock’s “radical, out-of-the-box approach to an emotional complex issue.”

Susannah Heschel, Dartmouth’s chair of Jewish studies and Tarek El-Ariss, the Lebanese-born chair of the Middle Eastern studies department, appeared on NPR and PBS together, where they emphasized their longtime close working relationship, the many cross-listed courses between their departments, and how a joint class the two professors taught drew students who trusted them and helped facilitate thoughtful conversations. They spoke of how their role, both in their classrooms and the campus community, is not to lead with emotions but to inform and ask questions as scholars.

On October 28, 2023, when two student members of Sunrise Dartmouth, an organization that calls for divestment from any so-called apartheid states, pitched a tent outside Dartmouth’s administration building, Parkhurst Hall, they were arrested for trespassing after receiving repeated warnings by Beilock and Dartmouth’s Department of Safety and Security to vacate.

Jewish Students Will Continue to Attend the Ivy League Schools

But we at Ivy Coach recognize that the brilliance and simplicity of Dartmouth’s “radical, out-of-the-box” response does not erase the abysmal responses and morally bankrupt rhetoric of the leaders at its peer institutions, including Penn and Harvard.

And, as a college counseling firm, while we understand that Jewish and Arab students at these institutions are sadly fearful for their safety, we ever so strongly disagree with articles that have come out in recent days that suggest Jewish students are eschewing the Ivy League institutions for so-called second-tier schools, including Southern METHODIST University. Yes, you read that bubbameister correctly. A college counselor really did suggest Jews were considering choosing a Methodist school over an Ivy League school. Bring forth that student, and I’ll bring forth a flying donkey.

Yet in all seriousness, such suggestions defy my experience and what I believe to be the ethos of so many of my fellow Jewish people. Perhaps it takes a Jew to share something non-Jews may not now nor ever fully appreciate about our people. Education is everything. As so many generations of Jews have sadly learned, while those in power can take our businesses, our art, our homes, our lives even, the one thing they can never take is our education.

It’s why, I suspect, my fellow Jews — after they bring about needed change by suspending their donations and asserting just the right pressure on the Boards of Trustees at schools like Harvard and Penn — will never cease pursuing the finest education in America. They will do so as dismayed as so many of us are with the responses of certain Ivy League institutions to repugnant acts of antisemitism, including and especially today’s testimony before Congress.

We Wait for Better Days That Surely Will Soon Come

So, while today marked one of the darkest days in the history of the Ivy League, I am hopeful for better days to come. I am hopeful that Harvard and Penn will denounce their leaders, name new leaders, and turn the page from this moment that historians will one day look back on with bewilderment.

The speaker at my Dartmouth commencement — which also happened to be the commencement of Ben Schwartz of our firm — was, because it is a small Jewish world, my Israeli brother-in-law’s Auschwitz-surviving grandmother’s first cousin, Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. As the Nobel Peace Prize winner once wrote, we will “[wait] for better days that surely will soon [come].”

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