The editors at The Dartmouth, the primary campus newspaper for Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, have once again handcuffed the free exchange of ideas. The paper refused to run an ad submitted by the non-profit Independent Women’s Forum (IWF). Without even informing IWF about its decision, the paper chose to ignore the advertisement for the sake of comfort on campus. It seems allowing students to view something that might make them think, or even create a conversation on campus is “too risky.”
What was contained in this apparently controversial ad? It depicts Cupid attached to a ball and chain, hanging his head, and wearing a dejected look on his face as he passes by a theatre playing the Vagina Monologues. It suggests that some feminist groups have gone too far by promoting male-bashing and female victimology. Instead, the ad encourages students to restore mutual respect to campuses by reinstating the old art of dating and romance. The headline reads, “Free Cupid.”
Instead of letting students contemplate the message in the ad and formulate their own opinions, the editors of The Dartmouth kept Cupid locked behind bars, and took away IWF’s free speech in the process.
This isn’t the first time The Dartmouth has chosen to avoid a potential controversy over a free exchange of ideas. The paper refused to run David Horowitz’s ad opposing slavery reparations. The Dartmouth’s then president Omer Ismail said, “We chose not to run the ad because of its potentially inflammatory and offensive nature.”
A recent Supreme Court decision heralded diversity as an integral factor in a college education. Yet leaders at Dartmouth College are stifling a diverse environment by blocking material that offers an alternate point of view. For three years, Dartmouth College hosted performances of the Vagina Monologues on campus. Each year a lengthy article about the performance appeared in The Dartmouth. And last year, the performance was broadcast campus-wide on Dartmouth Television. Yet IWF’s simple advertisement questioning the message in the play was banned from the campus newspaper.
That’s not all. According to students on campus, The Dartmouth has repeatedly run ads paid for by Planned Parenthood. Surely there were students at the school who saw the Vagina Monologues performances or the Planned Parenthood ads suggesting ways to obtain birth control as “offensive.”
I’m not denying that the producers of the Vagina Monologues or the people at Planned Parenthood have the right to have their viewpoints heard by students. To say that would be defeating the exact argument I’m trying to make. But just as they are allowed to put on their performance, and Planned Parenthood is allowed to run its ads, IWF should be allowed to have its point of view published.
The purpose of the IWF ad is to open the minds of students to a dating culture based on respect, morality, and responsibility. But instead of allowing both sides of the debate to be heard, The Dartmouth used its power to filter which viewpoints students were exposed to. And it is obvious those viewpoints are heavily skewed in one direction. In the name of diversity, The Dartmouth is failing miserably.
Students at Dartmouth deserve better, and apparently want more. As IWF’s campus program manager, I visited Dartmouth College the day the ad was supposed to run. I spoke to a packed room of students about current dating habits, how students react in relationships, and ways to move beyond the often destructive social life focused on “hooking up.”
During the hour-long discussion that followed my presentation, I found that some students disagreed with my opinions. But all students welcomed the fresh perspective and agreed it is an issue worth exploring. Their energy and willingness to listen to each other’s points of view was uplifting, and it showed me that when given the opportunity, students will take part in an education forum based on truth, fairness, and most importantly, diverse opinions.
If the student body of Dartmouth is willing to open their ears and their minds to new, independent ideas, shouldn’t the school paper that claims to represent the students do the same? IWF says yes — free Cupid and free speech!