Folt Faces Challenge: Sink or Swim

BY: NATHAN VAIL

Back in April, UNC announced Carol Folt, former interim president of Dartmouth College, would replace Holden Thorp as University chancellor.

Thorp also started out fresh and excited.   However his golden boy tenure was marred by a myriad of scandals: academic fraud, hazing investigations, sexual assault on campus, and unfair benefits to our lackluster football team.

These scandals were a pressure cooker waiting to pop.  They were all going to come to the surface sooner and later, and Thorp’s level of involvement in them is debatable. In fact, while researching this article, I found then-interim president Folt used similar words to describe the threats of rape and sexual violence at Dartmouth. According to The Atlantic, she said the campus climate was a “pressure cooker very close to exploding.” Look closer at this analogy, and you can see that it is more than just a faux pas. Both administrations had their hands pressed on top of the lids, and it is only their fault that it exploded while they were playing a game of administrative hot potato.

In January at UNC, a formal complained was filed with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights by Landen Gambill and Andrea Pino on behalf of themselves and 64 other victims of sexual assault.

Likewise, in May, 30 Dartmouth students filed a complaint with the Department of Education, saying that the college is in violation of the Clery Act, which requires all colleges that earn federal financial aid programs to keep and maintain a public record of information on crime on and around their campuses.

Like UNC, Dartmouth has an acute case of under-reported sexual assault cases. However, students were more proactive, and took to interrupting a lecture reserved for prospective students, yelling, “Darthmouth has a problem.”  The students cited homophobia, sexual assault, and racism as cause for their protest, and had elevated the discussion to the fever pitch of a hot water kettle.

The protests became so disruptive to campus life that Dartmouth cancelled classes for the first time in six years. Protesters had then faced death threats online, most of which came from boredatbaker.com, an anonymous chat site reserved for those with a Dartmouth email address only. So the administration lifted the lid ever so much to relieve the pressure and pet the protesters. They used the day instead for programs that included ‘teach-ins’ and a speech on social justice.

The day off wasn’t successful, or popular. According to The Dartmouth, the college newspaper, over 67% of respondents replied to a (non-scientific) poll that the administration’s decision to cancel classes was not appropriate. A majority of respondents also thought the administration’s efforts were ineffective in the aftermath of the sweeping protests.

Presumably UNC chose Folt because she knew how to handle scandal, and for the most part, she does, at least on a social awareness level. She seems open to dialogue and former Dartmouth students have given testimonies about her warmth and dedication. But it’ll take more than sincerity to change UNC, though it is a start. Anyone who willingly throws themselves into the four-way tug-of-war between Ram’s Head, UNC athletics, UNC hospitals, and teachers and staff has one tough job ahead of them. Then there’s the students, upon whom all this depends on. Folt can either sink, or she can swim, and like Bob Dylan said, the times are indeed changing. Let us hope the new administration at least knows how to float.

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