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Arrested Dartmouth seniors permitted to participate in college’s graduation this weekend

Dartmouth College in Hanover
Dan Tuohy
Dartmouth College, Baker Library, Hanover, New Hampshire. Dan Tuohy photo

Graduating Dartmouth students who were arrested during protests against Israel’s war in Gaza will be allowed to participate in commencement this upcoming weekend, after a judge agreed to modify their bail conditions.

Most of the 89 people arrested during those May 1 protests were students. Since then, bail conditions have prohibited those arrested from accessing parts of campus, including the Dartmouth Green, the site of both the protests and the upcoming commencement ceremony. Joe Earles, a graduating senior from Atlanta, was charged with criminal trespass. He said he was relieved to learn that he will be able to walk across the stage during this weekend’s ceremonies.

“I've got family coming from all over who I'm really excited to see no matter what, but it would have been really, really hard to say, ‘Oh, thanks for coming and thanks for all the support for my time here, but you're not going to get to see me walk. You're not going to get to see me do the thing you came here for,’” Earles said.

Graduating seniors will be allowed to access the Dartmouth Green for June 8 and 9 only. Other students and faculty charged during the protests will still be barred from the area, which means they will not be able to attend the main graduation ceremony.

Jana Barnello, a Dartmouth spokesperson, said that school officials asked the court to allow everyone to return to the campus lawn for graduation, but that request was denied.

“The court decided to grant that exemption only to the 14 students who are graduating this June,” Barnello said via email. “While we were hoping for a different outcome for all who sought an exemption, we are pleased that the 14 students will be able to attend Commencement activities this weekend.”

However, court documents show that Dartmouth declined a proposal to roll back campus restrictions for all of the students, faculty and staff arrested on May 1. In a court order dated May 31, a judge denied Dartmouth’s request to waive bail conditions just for commencement weekend, because of the logistical challenge of amending each bail order with such specific conditions and because it said it was unclear why the defendants would continue to be a threat to the college’s safety except for these two days. Instead, the judge said he would modify bail conditions for all 37 arrestees associated with the college to permanently grant them access to the entire campus. Dartmouth said it would not accept this proposal, and instead offered to extend the access to the Green only to graduating students, and only for commencement weekend.

In recent weeks, the college dropped charges against two student journalists swept up in the arrests following growing public outcry from press freedom advocates but has declined to do so for others arrested during the protests. The arraignments for the rest of those arrested are scheduled for July and August.

Despite the bail modification, Earles said he’s still frustrated with how Dartmouth leadership has handled the protests. Dartmouth president Sian Beilock has faced intense scrutiny from both students and faculty for her decision to call the police on protesters and her unwillingness to drop charges against all those arrested. He said the ban from the Dartmouth Green, the school’s primary social and community gathering space, took a toll on his last month of college.

“It feels like an unjust punishment for the alleged crime,” he said. “I don't think anybody has been made safer by 60 some students not being able to go on the Green.”

Updated: June 10, 2024 at 5:08 PM EDT
This story has been clarified to include a fuller accounting of how attorneys for Dartmouth and the court agreed on how to allow some seniors access to the college green for the college’s graduation.