Jim Kenyon: Updates on continuing conflicts

Jim Kenyon. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Jim Kenyon. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.


Valley News Columnist

Published: 01-19-2024 10:00 PM

Modified: 01-22-2024 6:11 PM

A few updates of recent columns while waiting for the New Hampshire presidential primary to be over so network TV can get back to running mostly ads hawking wonder drugs and snack chips.

On campus

With students having returned to campus after a six-week term break, Dartmouth President Sian Leah Beilock’s administration is starting to take heat for the arrests of two student activists who staged a nonviolent protest on the lawn outside the president’s executive suite in late October.

“Not only should the Beilock administration acknowledge that it mistakenly accused its students of threatening violence, but it must also commit to doing everything in its power to get the students’ charges dropped and lift their disciplinary probation status,” Ramsey Alsheikh, president of the college’s Palestine Solidarity Coalition, wrote in a column for The Dartmouth, the daily student newspaper, on Thursday.

“Doing so would send a signal to campus that the administration is committed to freedom of expression and prioritizes the well-being of its students over promoting a flashy new initiative,” Alsheikh wrote.

Alsheikh was referring to Beilock’s latest public relations campaign. In a Jan. 10 campus-wide message, Beilock wrote that she hopes “every member of our community feels comfortable expressing unpopular views and questioning others who hold beliefs with which they disagree.”

Beilock didn’t mention that two students were arrested for “disagreeing and protesting her policies,” Alsheikh pointed out. “How can the administration expect students to take its initiatives seriously if it does not resolve the fact that it arrested two students in the process of engaging in dialogue?”

Freshman Kevin Engel and junior Grace Hillery have pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of criminal trespass. Their trials are scheduled for Feb. 26 in Lebanon District Court.

“No amount of webinars or online videos, such as the kind Dartmouth Dialogues is advertising, will magically fix the marginalization of Palestinian students on this campus,” Alsheikh wrote.

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The more Beilock touts her “Brave Spaces” and “Dartmouth Dialogues,” the more I’m reminded of the Texas saying that trailed former President George W. Bush: “All hat, no cattle.”

On the court

The Dartmouth men’s basketball team continues to play a waiting game to see if their effort to unionize moves forward.

The National Labor Relations Board’s regional office in Boston heard the case in October but has yet to render a decision.

Laura Sacks, director of the Boston office, is still “reviewing the evidence and testimony presented in the hearing,” a spokeswoman for the NLRB in Washington told me via email Thursday.

Dartmouth hired a big-time Boston law firm, Morgan, Brown & Joy, to argue its case that requiring the college to collectively bargain could throw the program into disarray. In a post-hearing brief, the college asked, “Would the parties have to negotiate over less practice time? Playing time in games?”

While Dartmouth brings up red herrings, players I interviewed for a December column told me they’re just hoping to earn enough so they don’t have to continue working part-time jobs to help cover living expenses.

They’re looking to be paid along the same lines as Dartmouth’s student dining hall workers, who make about $20 an hour. Players also want the college to cover their health insurance deductibles, if they’re injured.

In September, all 15 players signed cards that indicated they wanted to join Local 560 of the Service Employees Union, which has represented the college’s blue-collar workers since 1966.

The players are trying to become the first collegiate athletic team in the country to unionize.

Fresh off his team winning a national championship, University of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh has endorsed the idea of college athletes being able to unionize, the political website, The Hill, reported last week.

Players deserve to be compensated as they are the “ones that risk life and limb out there on a football field,” Harbaugh said.

In the caucus

John MacGovern, chairman of the Windsor County Republican Committee, has fended off — at least for the time being — a challenge from members who want to take the GOP down a more conservative path.

At a state meeting in Barre last Saturday, Vermont GOP Chairman Paul Dame recognized MacGovern as Windsor County chairman, a position he won in an uncontested election in September.

A group of conservatives led by Weathersfield Selectboard member August Murray and his wife, Andrea, have tried to oust MacGovern, a Windsor resident who has been active in Republican politics for decades. The group claims MacGovern’s election wasn’t valid for procedural reasons. At a Jan. 6 meeting, the group installed Lynn Baldwin, of Ludlow, as county chairwoman.

But Dame refused to go along. At Saturday’s meeting, August Murray objected to Dame’s ruling. A majority of 60 county delegates from across the state, however, supported Dame’s decision.

“It was established clearly that this vote was strictly for the meeting’s voting delegates and had no bearing on the dispute” within the Windsor County GOP, August Murray wrote in response to my request for comment.

Murray is vice chairman of the county Republican committee and won a delegate-at-large seat on the party’s state executive committee in November.

MacGovern told me that he expects the Murrays and their followers to continue trying to force him out when Windsor County Republicans meet in March.

“If members prefer to get on their soapbox and spout Trump propaganda, that’s their prerogative,” MacGovern said.

Jim Kenyon can be reached at jkenyon@vnews.com.