Spencer Rendahl: Yale At Dartmouth

Oct 3, 2018

I can always count on Stephen Colbert to put my brain’s inner musings to words.

After reports alleging that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh exposed himself to a classmate at Yale, Colbert’s late night response was: “Seriously, that’s not good. I mean, you expect that kind of thing at Dartmouth, but Yale?”

I arrived on campus in nineteen eighty nine, excited about Dartmouth’s academic opportunities but aware of its male-dominated past. I considered myself lucky to have arrived on campus close to two decades after it had gone coed. Legend had it that the first women to arrive in the nineteen seventies were called pigs as they simply walked to their classes, and I knew that probably wasn’t the worst of it. Indeed, claims of assault during that period have recently surfaced, including from New Hampshire Representative Annie Kuster and New Hampshire State Senator Martha Hennessey, who says she didn’t report the assault for fear of retaliation.

“Things are so much better now,” went the unwritten script I heard in my head. “Be grateful.” But during my time, the editor of The Dartmouth where I worked was accused of sexual assault, as were other undergraduates. Efforts were made to maintain confidentiality, but it’s a relatively small school, and people talked. Accusers often became outcasts because they didn’t stick to the “be grateful” script.

Female students watching the Anita Hill hearings in nineteen ninety one saw that if we reported grossly inappropriate behavior – even as professors - we could be publicly smeared as “a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty.” Then we watched as nominee Clarence Thomas, the focus of these accusations, was confirmed by the US Senate for a seat on the US Supreme Court.

The following year I myself went off script to call out offensive behavior I experienced during a foreign study program which included, but was not limited to, male students placing bets on women. This was a quarter century before the #MeToo movement. I didn't expect, nor did I receive, accolades for bravery.

A few years after graduation I saw posters on campus with the message that “she will remember on Tuesday what you said on Saturday.” But in fact, we remember for decades.