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Dartmouth apologizes after student journalists arrested at pro-Palestinian protest


Response comes as students’ rights groups demand charges be dropped

Dartmouth College issued an apology Tuesday to two student journalists who were arrested last week while covering a pro-Palestinian protest on campus, saying the writers were just “doing their jobs.”

The apology from college President Sian Beilock came on the same day as the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression demanded the school drop charges against Alesandra Gonzales and Charlotte Hampton. Both are reporters at The Dartmouth, an independent student newspaper.

“[T]he student journalists for The Dartmouth who were on the Green to report on the protests should not have been arrested for doing their jobs,” Beilock wrote in a letter published in the newspaper. “We are working with local authorities to ensure this error is corrected.”

Responding, FIRE spokesperson Katie Kortepeter told The College Fix in an email, “The message from the president may be a step in the right direction, but we are still watching closely to see how Dartmouth follows up with action.”

Gonzales and Hampton received permission from the university to cover the May 1 protest and wore press identification while there, FIRE told Beilock on Tuesday in a letter signed by 15 organizations, including the National Press Club and the Student Press Law Center.

“Nothing suggests either journalist impeded the duties of law enforcement or campus security,” the letter states.

However, Gonzales and Hampton were “pulled from a group of journalists,” arrested, and charged with criminal trespass, it continues.

The letter demands the university and local prosecutor’s office immediately drop the charges and any other potential disciplinary action against Gonzales and Hampton.

“Arresting journalists engaged in legitimate news gathering sets a dangerous precedent, harms the public’s right to know, and defies Dartmouth’s commitments to students’ expressive and press rights,” the letter states. “Further, charging the journalists with trespass—on their own campus—when Dartmouth had knowledge of and approved their presence defies logic.”

It also urges the New Hampshire college to work to ensure nothing similar happens to student journalists in the future.

During the May 1 protest, the Hanover Police Department arrested 90 people after giving “multiple” disbursement warnings, according to a news release. Charges included criminal trespass and resisting arrest, police said.

According to The Dartmouth, university leaders also sent a campus-wide message earlier in the day reminding students the college “specifically prohibit[s] the use of tents and encampments on the Green and other areas of campus.”

Beilock said Tuesday the two student journalists should not have been arrested, but she stands by her decision to call police.

“Encampments on other campuses incited violent anger, horribly divided student bodies, created exclusionary zones and attracted outside agitators. We have seen clearly over the last few weeks that, too often, encampments do not foster dialogue; they prevent it,” she said Tuesday.

However, Beilock also said college leaders are “working to ensure that anyone who was inadvertently swept up in the chaos on the Green, but not in violation of any Dartmouth policy, suffers no consequence.”

Editor’s note: The post has been updated to include a comment from FIRE.

MORE: Violence erupts at UC San Diego as police in riot gear arrest 64 pro-Palestinian encampment activists

IMAGE: Dartmouth New Deal Coalition/Instagram

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About the Author
Micaiah Bilger is an assistant editor at The College Fix.