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Students, faculty react after tense night on college campuses in NH

Protesters gather on the Dartmouth Green in Hanover on the evening of May 1, before being dispersed and — in some cases — arrested by state and local police.
Olivia Richardson
Protesters gather on the Dartmouth Green in Hanover on the evening of May 1, before being dispersed and — in some cases — arrested by state and local police.

Members of the Dartmouth faculty are voicing concerns about the college's response to Wednesday evening’s pro-Palestinian rallies that resulted in the arrest of 89 people on the Hanover campus.

In a petition circulated Thursday, faculty are asking for an emergency meeting with Dartmouth leaders to address what they view as the school’s use of excessive force in dispersing protesters, and demand the lifting of any campus bans or legal charges for arrested students, faculty and staff.

Local and state law enforcement officials broke up protests at Dartmouth and on the University of New Hampshire’s Durham campus Wednesday. The students are calling for their schools to divest from companies that profit from Israel’s actions in Gaza, which began last October following Hamas’s attack on Israeli civilians.

Students at UNH were granted permission to protest, but were reportedly warned in advance that an encampment — similar to those that have sprung up on college campuses nationwide in recent weeks — would not be permitted. When students allegedly violated the school’s warnings, New Hampshire State Police, along with UNH and Durham police, began making arrests.

According to a UNH spokesperson, Gov. Chris Sununu offered the use of state police to UNH administrators ahead of the protest.

Ten students and two people not affiliated with UNH were arrested in Durham. According to UNH officials, the students will receive further disciplinary measures, at a later date.

“While we will always protect free speech on our campus, UNH belongs to every citizen of New Hampshire and we will not allow it to be co-opted by a small group of protesters, including outside agitators,” said a UNH spokesperson.

UNH's Thompson Hall, where
Todd Bookman/NHPR
UNH's Thompson Hall, where 10 students and two others were arrested Wednesday evening after they attempted to form an encamptment.

At Dartmouth, Wednesday’s arrests included five college staff, 65 students, and 19 people not affiliated with the college, according to Hanover Police Chief Charlie Dennis.

Following the arrests, students at both colleges on Thursday had mixed reactions to how their peers, law enforcement and school leadership have managed the simmering tensions on campus.

“When it gets to a point where they don't feel like their voices are heard, there is a certain line where you're going to have to push a boundary in order to try to get something done,” said Sona, a UNH undergraduate who would only provide her first name.

Other students on campus, however, view the ongoing protests — and calls for the school to divest from Israel over what they see as a genocide in Gaza — as overt antisemitism.

“I feel it every single day,” said Jane Eidelman, a UNH junior who said she’s experienced antisemitism on campus. “ ‘Free Gaza’ or ‘Free Palestine’ should not be a poster in front of my library.”

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Lucia Hatray, a freshman at Dartmouth, said she was proud of how many students turned out to take part in the demonstration.

“I think there's definitely a bit of a Dartmouth bubble where it's really easy to feel kind of out of touch, and it's easy to kind of ignore what's going on in the world,” she said. “What happened last night kind of forced everyone to acknowledge it.”

Videos circulating on social media captured struggles between some protestors and law enforcement — many wearing riot gear — prompting some students to question if the police were justified in their use of force to break up what they perceived as peaceful demonstrations.

In a statement Thursday, a New Hampshire State Police spokesperson said that “troopers worked collaboratively to ensure the safety of those participating in First Amendment gatherings and to stop unlawful actions.

The agency said it used “numerous de-escalation techniques” at both schools, and “warned individuals who chose not to disperse that they were subject to arrest for trespassing.”

Annelise Orleck, a longtime professor of U.S. history at Dartmouth, was among those arrested Wednesday after she yelled at police. Video of Orleck circulating on social media shows her being placed in zip ties by multiple police in riot gear.

Orleck,65, was charged with criminal trespassing, and as a condition of her bail, is prohibited from campus. Hanover police said Thursday that they are working to amend those conditions so Orleck can return to her classroom.

A spokesperson for Dartmouth said the college is "taking every reasonable step to ensure [Orleck] can continue teaching classes" and did not intend to bar her from campus.

Orleck’s arrest was referenced by several attendees at a gathering of college faculty and staff on the Dartmouth Green midday Thursday. Members of the Dartmouth chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) are calling for an emergency meeting next week to discuss, among other things, the administration’s "use of excessive force" and to demand the lifting “of any total or partial campus bans, unjust academic consequences, and legal charges, for any and all arrested students, faculty, and staff.”

The petition, addressed to the college president and members of senior administration, requires at least 75 faculty signatures.

Editor's note: This story was updated on Friday, May 3 to include a comment from Dartmouth College.

Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.
Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.
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