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Four Students Face Disciplinary Board on Harassment Charges

March 6, 1988

HANOVER, N.H. (AP) _ Four staffers of a conservative student newspaper faced a Dartmouth College disciplinary board Saturday, charged with harassing a black professor in an incident that sparked charges of racism at the Ivy League school.

The students, part of the off-campus Dartmouth Review, faced possible expulsion for a confrontation last week with William Cole, a black music professor who sued the paper two years ago for libel, then dropped the case.

The hearings adjourned Saturday evening, and a second day of hearings was scheduled for Sunday. But before the hearings even started, Review editor Chris Baldwin said he expects to be expelled.

The students confronted Cole in his classroom after publishing an article last month in the Review that was harshly critical of Cole’s teaching abilities.

Baldwin on Saturday denied the article was motivated by racism. He said the writers ″are trying to contribute to the intellectual vitality of the Dartmouth community. The function of the paper is to act as a check on power.″

″It is entirely legitimate to question what the students are getting in return for their tuition,″ Baldwin told the Committee on Standards during his opening statement.

But when Cole took the stand, he said, ″The whole thing is to harass. The whole thing is to initiate a response.″

The school charged Baldwin, of Hinsdale, Ill., Review photo editor John Quilhot of Fort Wayne, Ind., executive editor John Sutter of Saint Louis, and contributor Sean Nolan of Lexington, Mass., with harassment, disorderly conduct and violation of the right to privacy.

Baldwin said the Review contacted Cole by telephone for his response before publishing the first article, and Cole responded with profanities. The Review published those remarks in its article.

Then the four staffers approached Cole after one of his classes.

″We wanted to establish clearly that we were not denying Professor Cole space in the paper,″ Baldwin said.

The students went to his room armed with tape recorders and cameras, which led to the privacy violation charges. Baldwin said that considering the incident took place in a public classroom on campus, Cole ″couldn’t have any reasonable expectation of privacy.″

Baldwin said Cole ″exploded into a fit of violence and vulgarity″ when they asked him to respond to the article.

The next day, the Review published another cover story on Cole, with a large picture of the agitated professor during the confrontation and a headline: ″The truth hurts; Cole explodes over Review criticism.″

Cole testified that he told Baldwin, during the telephone conversation before the first article was published, that ″You know I don’t talk to you people ever.″ Cole said Sutter called back that night, and ″At that time I told him what I thought of him and his paper.″

Cole said he believed the Review staffers were trying to provoke him into assaulting them when they confronted him in his classroom.

Quilhot ″was taking pictures of me the whole time,″ Cole said. He said he asked Quilhot to stop taking pictures and reached for the camera, but Sutter blocked him and demanded an apology for Cole’s remarks about the Review.

″I said, ’Hey, I don’t give apologies to bigots,‴ Cole said.

″The man has such contempt and disrespect for me as a human being, and that’s what it’s all about,″ Cole said of Sutter.

The articles prompted hundreds to attend several rallies during the week, reminiscent of a semester of sit-ins and rallies condemning racism on the campus two years ago, also provoked by Review staff’s actions.

In that earlier case, 12 Review staffers, including Baldwin, said they were launching a campus beautification campaign when they smashed anti-apartheid shanties on the college green, hours after services marking the birthday of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

The disciplinary committee sentenced Baldwin to 180 hours of community service, which he spent at a soup kitchen in a predominantly black part of Chicago. Four others also were charged.

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