Dartmouth College. (Wikimedia Commons/CC, 2.0)

Dartmouth College students who filed a federal complaint against the school for failing to report sexual assaults are themselves being charged by the school with violating the student code of conduct. Their crime: “failing to follow college officials’ instructions” about participating at a protest at a campus event on April 19, where they marched through a meeting where prospective students were encouraged to come to Dartmouth.

“We were protesting sexual assault on this campus, and the administration’s failure to respond to homophobia and racism on campus,” Nastassja Schmiedt, a Dartmouth sophomore, told The Huffington Post. “We were informally informing the college of civil rights violations.”

At least ten students who joined the April 19 demonstration received letters from the director of the Undergraduate Judicial Affairs Office informing them of the disciplinary proceedings. Most of the students, Dartmouth senior Lea Roth told The Huffington Post’s Tyler Kingkade, had been part of formal complaint filed against Dartmouth last week under the federal Cleary Act, stating that the school failed to prosecute and report sexual violence on campus. The Cleary Act requires public disclosure of campus crime.

At the recruiting event, attended by several hundred prospective students, fifteen members of a student group called Real Talk Dartmouth marched through the room. They chanted “Dartmouth has a problem!” according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, and described incidents of homophobia, racism and sexual assault. One carried a sign that read “I was called a fag in my freshman dorm.” Administrators had attempted to prevent the students from entering the room where the meeting was being held—that’s the basis of the charge of “failing to follow college officials’ instructions.”

During the protest event, other students in the room chanted “We love Dartmouth!” Afterwards an online unofficial campus forum called “Bored at Baker” was filled with anonymous hostile and violent comments—including, according to the Chronicle, “Why do we even admit minorities if they’re just going to whine?” and another, which read “Wish I had a shotgun. Would have blown those [expletive] hippies away.”

In response to the online posts, the school administration cancelled classes for a day and scheduled special meetings to discuss diversity and tolerance.

Nina Rojas, class of 2013, one of the protesters who received a letter from Undergraduate Judicial Affairs director Nathan Miller, told The Dartmouth, the student newspaper, “I don’t understand it at all because not following directions seems like something incredibly benign.” She pointed to Dartmouth’s Principles of Community, which protect and encourage dissent.

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