Protests outside Ivy League’s only GOP debate expected to fizzle

David Martosko Executive Editor
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Hanover, N.H. — As the most geographically remote campus in the Ivy League readies itself for the presidential spotlight, at least three different student groups say they will stake out territory near the site of Tuesday’s debate to give the Republican field a piece of their mind. But Dartmouth College undergrads who spoke to The Daily Caller said protests were so rare in this peaceful New England setting that they doubted any of the students’ messages would connect.

John Finkelberg, a junior from San Diego, told TheDC that protests at Dartmouth were rare. “There’s no protests here,” he said. “I think the last protest I actually remember was … our freshman year.”

“We’re definitely isolated,” added Eric Finkelberg, John’s twin brother. “It’s ‘Camp Dartmouth.’”

Working with a group of liberal students calling themselves Dartmouth Students Stand With Staff, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) local 560 has begun organizing a campus protest in support of the Occupy Wall Street rallies for Tuesday afternoon. The event will take its inspiration from the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations that have taken place in many U.S. cities.

The group’s website was last updated in May, and it has organized only one other protest event in its history. At that event, more than a year ago, students complained about staff layoffs imposed by the college to close a reported $100 million budget gap.

Andrew Lohse, a Dartmouth senior, told TheDC that students were largely “apathetic.”

“Just wait and see how few people attend the protest,” Lohse said. “It will most likely be futile as well — its premise is confusing and unclear. That being said, I hope to be there.”

The Dartmouth Coalition for Global Health is hosting its own Tuesday afternoon rally to demand a greater level of federal funding to combat the spread of AIDS. Dartmouth College president Jim Yong Kim was previously director of the HIV/AIDS initiative at the World Health Organization, and headed up the WHO’s first worldwide effort to promote treatments to AIDS patients.

“The recent cuts to HIV/AIDS treatment funding and Obama’s broken promise of $50 billion over five years will [lead] to growing wait lists for antiretrovirals,” the group said Monday in a statement, which also said businessman Herman Cain is the only GOP candidate so far to pledge that he would be “the president to end AIDS.”

That group, an affiliate of the Global Student AIDS Campaign, sent activists Monday to ask pointed questions about AIDS advocacy at public events hosted by Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney. But its campus footprint is small.

“I don’t think more than a handful of students will come,” said a Dartmouth senior from California who asked not to be identified. “Protests are just not a big draw here.”

Karenina Rojas, a student involved with the SEIU-led protest, also told TheDC that the Dartmouth Ecovores, a campus group concerned with the environmental impact of food choices, is “planning an event focusing on environmental policy.”  The organization’s website calendar, however, is blank for Tuesday.

Despite Dartmouth’s reputation as the most politically conservative Ivy league school, its student body it not exactly aligned with the GOP candidates who will face off during the Tuesday debate. On Friday the campus newspaper, the Dartmouth, published a survey indicating that Democratic-affiliated students outnumbered Republicans 2-1.

In the same survey, 82 percent of Dartmouth students identified themselves as pro-choice. Ninety percent said they supported marriage for gays and lesbians.

But despite their collective beef with some Republican candidates’ campaign platforms, debate-watchers shouldn’t expect a sea of undergraduates to actually show their displeasure.

Joseph Kim, a New Yorker studying economics, explained that, “For the most part, a lot of Dartmouth students are just comfortable here, and we’re in our own bubble.”

“There’s much more talk about protests over our own issues, like dining services [price hikes], sexual assault issues, but never … like, interest rates.”

David is The Daily Caller’s executive editor and a Dartmouth alumnus. Follow him on Twitter