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What Is the Freedom Budget?

Sept 5, 2021

By The Freedom Budget Coalition

INTERVIEW: DSA's Internationalist Experiment: News Articles

Officially, Dartmouth’s 2014 MLK Celebration was dedicated to “Vigorous and Positive Action.” The latter half of January was filled with screenings, speeches, performances, and other events meant to reflect Dartmouth’s commitment to justice and equality. But for BIPOC, low-income, immigrant, LGBTQIA+, women, and disabled students, the celebrations were nothing more than a shallow attempt to paper over the continued oppression they faced on campus. So, on January 20th, they took control of the narrative. Jalil Bishop ‘14, then-president of the Afro-American Society, was asked to introduce President Hanlon’s keynote address. Instead, he used his time to recite a fiery speech condemning Dartmouth’s wanton abuses against marginalized communities:

This is what vigorous and positive action looks like. And as we stand here today and they ask why we protest, tell them you have attended their talks. You have served on their committees. You have allowed our faces on their brochures. And still they did not honor your voice. You tried to be acceptable. You tried assimilation. You tried respectability. But your Black was too Black, your accent rolled on too many r’s, your gay was too gay, your gender change was too changed, your poor was too poor, and your sexual assault was too much your fault for them to accept you. Tell them we know assimilation, being quiet, just fitting in does not work unless you annihilate who you are. 

In the wake of the protest, student organizers unveiled the Freedom Budget on February 23, 2014 and held open discussion of the budget that same week. The budget contained 70 measures to “transform [Dartmouth] into a safe, inclusive, and supportive environment for us all.” The organizers demanded a public response from administration to all demands by March 24, 2014. If the College failed, they promised “physical action” to advance the Freedom Budget. 

President Hanlon and then Interim Provost Martin Wybourne released a response on March 6, 2014, claiming that the administration “must engage the campus more effectively in current and future action to achieve our shared vision of Dartmouth.” The statement also cited already existing programs but did not directly address any of the demands in the Freedom Budget (the original statement can no longer be found as statements from the President only go as far back as 2018).  When the deadline passed with no response, students occupied the President’s office for two days, April 1st and 2nd. Though the administration knew it was coming well in advance, the occupation exposed their indifference and inaction in the face of the crisis. An editorial from The Dartmouth following the protests highlights this with the President’s toothless response to the protestors:

“President Hanlon,” a demonstrator asked, “are you opposed to white supremacy?”


“You know, I don’t, I wouldn’t, you know, I wouldn’t know what that term meant,” he responded. “I’d have to understand deeply what that term meant.” 

In a campus-wide email, Hanlon condemned the protests, saying:

[p]rogress cannot be achieved through threats and demands. Disrupting the work of others is counter-productive. Academic communities rest on a foundation of collaboration and open dialogue informed by respectful debate among multiple voices.

Deflecting student demands with worries over respectability is a common defence by the administration. But actions like the occupation of Parkhurst are not the rash, petulant tantrums that the College would like to characterize them as. Militant student activism emerges when conditions are no longer bearable and all other avenues have been exhausted. For decades, there have been school sponsored task forces and programs that claim to tackle the problems the Freedom Budget does. Yet somehow the College, with its vast resources and personnel, has made little to no progress at all. In fact, recalling Jalil Bishop’s speech at the MLK protest, many of these students did try to work through institutional channels in the past. What they found is that these methods do nothing except maintain the comfort of those in power. 

  On April 3rd, the administration conceded to holding a series of six meetings with the organizers behind the Freedom Budget. During these talks, administrators dismissed the demands in the budget as too difficult to implement and attempted to placate the organizers with other ways that Dartmouth was working to treat all its students justly. Ultimately, the Freedom Budget was dismissed by the College.


Though it has been 7 years since its introduction, the Freedom Budget and the movement around it are still relevant to Dartmouth students today. For one, we can look back on this period to study the political terrain of Dartmouth and the obstacles that are put in the path of students organizing for change. The demands proposed by the budget are arguably even more necessary now. Herein, we present a summary of the Freedom Budget’s demands and what, if anything, has been done to address them since 2014. 




1. Undergraduate Admissions


While the admissions office has made some progress in terms of BIPOC student enrollment and maintains some resources for undocumented students, equity and inclusion in both of these areas have yet to be fully, or even adequately, realized. Resources for undocumented students remain confusing, with no readily available language accessibility options. Admission rates of Native American students also remain below the rates set by Freedom Budget demands, an ethical embarrassment considering the College’s terrible history as a residential school.


Examples of unmet demands from the original Freedom Budget:

  • Increase enrollment of Black, Latin@, and Native students to at least 10 percent each.

  • Increase outreach to prospective qualified undocumented students (see Harvard College Act on a Dream link). / The admissions office and the financial aid office shall release a guide to be placed on their websites explaining the financial aid and admissions application process for undocumented students by the beginning of the fall 2014 term.

  • Organize external review of the Admissions Office. 

  • Release a public statement in which Dartmouth commits to increasing diversity across underrepresented communities.


2. Undergraduate Curriculum


In the undergraduate curriculum, a few changes have been made but there are still major pieces missing. For example, the NAS program is now a department, but AAAS and LALACS are still programs. There is no Asian American studies department, no Hindi-Urdu language program, and there continues to be a lack of courses integrating social justice issues into the curriculum. This is not a learning objective required of all first-year seminars either.


Examples of unmet demands:

  • Establish Korean and Hindi-Urdu language programs within the Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures (AMELL) department. Dartmouth is the only Ivy League institution without Korean and Hindi-Urdu language courses.

  • Create a class that discusses the history of undocumented immigrants to the United States, analyzes the contemporary immigration reform movement and how the DREAMers changed the civil rights movement. Essentially, it will be a class that accurately illuminates the undocumented immigrant experience.

  • Enact curricular changes that require all students to interrogate issues of social justice, marginalization and exploitation in depth. Each student should have to take classes that will challenge their understanding of institutionalized injustice around issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, etc. This learning objective could be embedded in all first year seminars.


3. Faculty and Staff


The demands surrounding faculty and staff at Dartmouth are primarily concerned with improving representation of BIPOC people in professorships and post-doctoral work. While Dartmouth has made some minimal progress in this area over the past few years, the College, or more accurately the administration, is still largely nowhere near even the targets they have set for themselves. They have made their own deadlines and then pushed them back when they became inconvenient. This is not the behavior of an institution supposedly dedicated to diversity and inclusion. 


Examples of unmet demands:

  • Make a multi-million dollar commitment coupled with hired positions focused on increasing numbers of faculty/staff of color (i.e. Asian, Black, Latin@, and Native faculty/staff) in all departments and offices at Dartmouth College and the Dartmouth graduate schools (Tuck, Thayer, Geisel).

  • Ensure that 47% (the percentage of undergraduate students of color at Dartmouth in 2014) of post-doctoral students are people of color.

  • Create a professor of color lecture series; bring a professor of color once a month in order to expose the Dartmouth community to a wide range of ideas (e.g., University of Pennsylvania).


4. Financial Aid


In the past year, Dartmouth has raised the income cutoff for its loan-free full tuition scholarship from $100,000 to $125,000, lessening the financial burden for some students. Even so, there is still a long way to go to make financial aid more inclusive, and to make sure it is serving all students to the best of its ability. There are still many demands that the administration has not met.


Examples of unmet demands:

  • Organize external reviews of the Financial Aid office.

  • Include student advocates on the review committee to review special circumstances in financial aid cases.

  • The financial aid office shall continuously aid the Dartmouth Coalition For Immigration Reform, Equality and DREAMers (Dartmouth CoFIRED), in creating a collection of grants and internships that undocumented students and holders and non-holders of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) are qualified for at Dartmouth College starting the spring 2014 term.


5. Residential Life


Dartmouth has made some better progress in residential life than it has in many other areas. Even so, there is still no language affinity housing for Korean or Hindi/Urdu speaking students. Many, if not most, spaces on campus remain inaccessible to students, faculty, and other community members with disabilities.


Examples of unmet demands:

  • Renovate Cutter–Shabazz, the affinity house for Black students on campus

  • Require that all ORL spaces are accessible to all students, regardless of physical condition/ability.


6. Campus Climate


Very little has been done to address the issues students face on campus, from sexual assault to external reviews of critical aspects. The College has not responded or explicitly indicated that they are taking action on any of these issues to improve campus climate. Additionally, the call for external reviews has not been fulfilled and progress remains at the will of the College to share.


Examples of unmet demands:

  • Organize continuous external reviews of the College’s structural racism, classism, and ableism.

  • Create a policy outright banning the Indian mascot (e.g., turn away people from sporting events who are wearing Indian head shirts).

  • Allocate funding for the formation of an external commission of higher education professionals and scholars whose task is to evaluate Greek Life in depth.


7. Advising and Support


The majority of these points have not been visibly met with clarity available to the public. One, the release of a statement recognizing and supporting undocumented students, has been partially met with the creation of a webpage on Dartmouth’s website that includes a statement on resources for DACA and undocumented students but does not explicitly state support. President Hanlon signed a statement supporting DACA in 2016 but this statement neglects undocumented students on campus. On the other points, there is either little available information or little to no progress made, such as integration of SAS (Student Accessibility Services) into the Dean’s office and OPAL’s (Office of Pluralism and Leadership) budget. 


Examples of unmet demands:

  • ​​Increase OPAL’s budget to support student organizations that represent Asian, Black, Latin@, Native, Undocumented, Queer, and Differently-Abled Students.

  • Release a statement of recognition on the existence of undocumented students at Dartmouth and support for their community.

  • Provide more US-based internship, LSA (Language Study Aborad) and FSP (Foreign Study Program) opportunities for undocumented students due to legal and physical barriers.

  • Formally integrate the Student Accessibility Services (SAS) with the Dean’s Office.

  • Institutionalize Latin@ Heritage Month.


8. Miscellaneous


No demands have been clearly met in this section. While some points have shown the college has acknowledged they need to happen, there has not been an effort to carry these tasks to completion. There is an obvious disregard for tangible change on campus, despite the administration’s reassurance that “they’re working on it.”


Examples of unmet demands:

  • Every Dartmouth student should be taught and made aware that the land they reside on is Abenaki homeland. This should take place during all major Dartmouth ceremonies, especially during orientation and commencement.

  • Ban the use of “illegal aliens,” “illegal immigrants,” “wetback,” and any racially charged term on Dartmouth-sanctioned programming materials and locations.

  • Both gender-specific and gender-neutral facilities (bathrooms and changing areas/locker rooms) need to be available in every building on campus.

  • All male-female checkboxes should be replaced with write-in boxes to make forms, surveys and applications more inclusive for trans, two-spirit, agender, gender-nonconforming and genderqueer folks. This should be a campus-wide policy.


Concluding Words


The efforts of the Freedom Budget continue to reflect the need for change on Dartmouth’s campus. Administrations’ lack of a response to dire needs of students of marginalized identities on campus does not reflect the mission statements of several on-campus organizations that center around “diversity, equity and inclusion.” The Freedom Budget aims to hold the College to these principles not only in theory, but also in action. The College’s neglect to support and help the advancement of marginalized groups puts extreme pressures on students within said groups and erases the residual safe spaces and representation that we have sought to preserve. Little has been done to address the Freedom Budget’s demands since 2014; however, this does not discourage the efforts. In the end, we find solace and strength in one another. Activist alumni from ranging classes, including the class of 1979, continue aiding in the mission of the Freedom Budget.


Crucially, however, we are not attempting to simply reissue the same set of demands from the original budget. Time is always marching forward, and we can no longer return to 2014. The experiences of the last seven years, both on campus and off, have evolved the political consciousness of the left. Where our predecessors saw their objective as transforming Dartmouth into a truly equitable institution, we find that there are fundamental contradictions within Dartmouth that cannot be fully resolved. The crimes that birthed Dartmouth, slavery and settler-colonialism, cannot be undone with land acknowledgements and creating a more diverse campus. If anything, these things only work to obfuscate the rot inherent in Dartmouth and all institutions of capitalism, colonialism, and heteropatriarchy. Instead, we struggle to awaken our fellow students’ consciousness around these issues, demonstrate the possibility of mass militant action, and affirm that a better world than this one is possible. 


**Participant organizations in the Freedom Budget Coalition include Sunrise Dartmouth, Dartmouth Young Democratic Socialists of America, the Dartmouth Radical, Dartmouth Student Union and the Afro-American Society. If you or your organization would like to get involved in the Freedom Budget Coalition and help us renew our demands and fight for student power, please join one of these organizations.

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