We laugh at it now, we laughed at it then

Greg Prince | Professor & Dean | 1970-1989

Greg was hired as Dean of Summer Programs in the summer of 1970 to get Dartmouth to go year round and thus be able to admit women to Dartmouth. The campus physically did not have dorm space to accommodate more students, and the solution was to add a summer term and disperse students across four terms rather than the current three terms.

“The reason we couldn’t take women in the 3300 students we had was that the alumni opposition to co-education was so tense, taking fewer men would just intensify that opposition,” Prince said. “Their worry was about athletic teams. If we dropped to 2000 men [to take 1300 women], we wouldn’t be as competitive in the Ivy League. We laugh at it now, we even laughed at it then.”

So, Greg was brought in to make the summer term intellectually exciting and financially profitable. Only under these two conditions was it likely the faculty would vote to have school year-round, and only if school went year-round would Dartmouth become co-education.

“I had one alumnus tell me, ‘my daughter got a great education at Dartmouth but I am mad as hell that they are accepting women!’ I mean, what do you say to a father that says that? Well, I knew the daughter quite well, so I said, ‘I know you don’t think that Dartmouth needed to take women, and I don’t know that women needed Dartmouth to take women, but Dartmouth needed women,’” Greg said. “When we were pushing for co-education, I just kept saying, we’re not doing this to save women. Women in the world will get along just fine without Dartmouth. We’re doing this because Dartmouth needs women to create the kind of education that graduates need to deal with the world in the future. If it’s an all male school they’re not gonna learn how to see women as equals, and work for women as well as with them. So we gotta change, or we’ll become irrelevant.”

Greg also oversaw three hundred high school students in the A Better Chance summer orientation program. And it was high school Native students from Project ABC that pitched the idea to hold a powwow at Dartmouth.

“I looked at them and said, ‘I think it’d be a great idea but you’re going to have to teach me what a powwow is. I'm not gonna be able to run a powwow but if you’ll run it we’ll have it,’” Greg said. “They said, ‘Well the most important thing besides music is food.’ I said, ‘Why don’t we go meet with the dining hall staff.’ The director of the dining hall looked at the students and said, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, I’ve never cooked anything like that. But that sounds really fun. If you’re willing to teach us what to do, we will have a powwow and we’ll cook the food for you. Or you’ll cook it, and we’ll show you how to use the kitchen.’”

In the summer of 1970, Dartmouth became the first Ivy League institution to have a powwow on campus.

“I argue that A Better Chance, as a program, saved the Ivy League; it was a pathway for bringing very talented, very strong students who basically taught the Ivy League how to diversify,” Greg said. “I think our institutions would be way behind the curve if it weren’t for the pain and the sacrifice that the ABC students went through. It was not easy. It cost them a lot – they gave a lot. I don’t think what they gave has ever been recognized. But the NAP is in some ways the most visible gift of what they gave to the Ivy League.”

The Dartmouth American Indian Program was established in 1971, after Native students on campus rallied for better support from administration. Dartmouth hired an NAP director, a Native student admissions officer, and a Native student counselor. In a way, the reason for the NAP was to care for Native students on campus. But Greg thinks the program was more something from which NAtive students could draw strength.

“The students wanted the NAP to be their space where they organized themselves to be a community,” Greg said. “They wanted to be a presence politically and culturally within the [Dartmouth] community. No question they drew support from it. I think they saw it more as their interacting with the community, not so much as taking care of themselves. Of course, interacting with the community is taking care of themselves. But it was not a place to retreat, but a place to interface.”

As dean of summer programs, Greg reported directly to the provost and president Kemeny, and did not have anyone overseeing him. As long as the provost and the president did not get upset with him, he could do anything he wanted.

“I could hire anybody I wanted and I hired Michael Dorris,” he said. Michael Dorris was the first chair of the Native Studies department. “Michael would not have been hired through the committee structure of any university because he didn’t have a PHD. But the most important thing for the Native American program at Dartmouth, I think, was hiring Michael Dorris. He created a faculty connection so the students had somebody on the faculty. Things were not easy, but it was also very important that we had that leadership. An incredible person. He did incredible things at Dartmouth, maneuvering through the politics of an institution that was committed to Native American education but with a history that was not equal to the commitment. A lot of things had to change.”

In 1972, president John Kemeny recommitted the college to its founding mission to educate Native students. In his inaugural address, Kemeny said,

The decision was made to single out two minority groups for special programs and

special support as our significant contribution to solving a national problem. One of these is the group of Black students, since their problem is of such major national proportions that probably every institution in the country must participate in this. In addition, we have made a commitment to Native Americans, because of the long, historic ties between Dartmouth College and Indian Americans… I mentioned the importance of diversification of the student body, and certainly the admission of a significant number of minority students is one tremendously important factor in that diversification. I am convinced that the educational experience of every student is much better because of that diversity.

From then, the college only ever became more sophisticated in its ability to support native students on campus. Every generation of Native students, Greg noticed, shifted the college’s understanding of Native peoples for the better. He remembers, towards the end of his time at Dartmouth, a Native student talked to the board of trustees about her experience at Dartmouth. She told them about the cultural bridges she had to build – a 45 minute story about the shock of entering such a diverse community. After that story, she said, ‘And then there was the challenge of learning to live with white people. There were gasps throughout the room, because for 45 minutes, nobody understood that she had been talking about the challege of learning to live with people from all of the different tribal nations that were represented within the Native American community at Dartmouth. At the time, towards the end of the eighties, there were twenty one tribal nations represented at Dartmouth.

“That was part of the issue at Dartmouth,” Greg said. “They thought if you were Native American you were Native American. The college began to understand that there was a much more complex community that they were dealing with.”

During his time at Dartmouth, the two main points of contention surrounding the Native American community were the Indian Mascot and the Hovey Murals.

“[The Mascot] was probably the touchstone for all of the tensions that existed. A lot of other issues would get conflated into it because it was real, it was there. It became the symbol for all the things people didn't like about Dartmouth: more diversity, things being taken away from them,” Greg said. “The mascot issue had more to do with [students] being upset about change in general. The symbol became a symbol of other things. Using the Indian symbol became a way of attacking the authorities. It persevered not because people loved the Indian symbol, but because it became a way of expressing their frustration about all kinds of changes at Dartmouth. [The removal of the figurehead] came at the same time co-education did and by the same president. Kemeny brought in Native Americans, Kemeny brought in women, Kemeny was jewish, Kemeny was an immigrant…  there were a lot of things going on in the psyche of students.”

“I never saw a group of alumns who, after listening to Native American students at Dartmouth talking about this issue, ever wanted to persist in having the symbol after that,” Greg continued. “They weren’t necessarily happy about giving it up, but they were not prepared to argue for it. It certainly didn’t disappear but the college stopped using it as its symbol.”

During the same time that the Indian head mascot was removed, Native Students were also rallying for the removal of the Hovey murals.

The history of the Hovey Murals, Greg explained, goes back to the 1930’s, and begins, really, with the creation of the Orozco Murals. In 1931, Dartmouth hired muralist José Clemente Orozco to paint a mural in Carpenter – the new art gallery on campus. During his walk to Carpenter to study the space designated for a 500-square-foot mural, Orozco passed through the just constructed reserve room in the basement of Baker Library. When he saw the wallspace in that hall, he insisted that that is where a 4,000 square foot mural should go. The college scrambled to find money to pay for what went from being a three-month long project to a four-year long project.

At the time, Nelson Rockefeller, later Governor of New York and Vice President of the United States, had just graduated from Dartmouth with a degree in Art History. He was embarrassed that his family had painted over the famous mural in Rockefeller center, so he offered to anonymously fund Orozco’s mural. In 1934, the Orozco murals were completed and displayed to the public. When Dartmouth alumni saw the murals, they were insulted and outraged by the message that was portrayed. Created during the height of the depression, the theme is dead knowledge, the greed of the industrial complex; the academic world is portrayed with skeletons in black robes. There was a huge cry from the alumni to destroy the murals. Rather than destroying the murals, Dartmouth President Earnest Hopkins responded to this controversy by giving the alumni a space to paint their own mural. That space was the Hovey Grill. By 1939, the Hovey Murals were finished (Prince). This mural depicts drunken “savages” and half-naked “squaws.” The murals are meant to celebrate Dartmouth’s history, but they send the message that Indigenous students are not up to par on Dartmouth’s campus.

In the 1970’s, Greg said, Native Americans at Dartmouth were not asking that the murals be destroyed. Their first request was to remove the murals and put them in a museum, rather than the dining hall where Dartmouth entertained “distinguished visitors.” They were told, however, that the murals could not be removed without destroying them, and they accepted that position. So, they asked that the Hovey Grill be converted into a museum, instead.

“We couldn't take the pictures to the museum so we could turn the room into a museum. The college was not prepared to do that, so we lost the fight. Too bad, I think it would have been a really interesting thing to do, in terms of cultural imagery and racism. But they needed the room. So the solution was to cover them up and open them up for the two weeks that alumns were visiting. Not a very happy solution. But their argument was about destroying art. In an academic institution, books, art, history, should not be destroyed. Even if their motives were not pure in one sense, to destroy racist art that’s part of the history of the institution would not be appropriate.”

In 1987, the NAP went about brainstorming ways to better educate non-Native people about Native Americans, and, at the same time, educate Native American people on the value of a higher education. They produced a film called A Way of Learning. The college gave the NAP a budget of $50,000 to make the film, and Native students recruited a filmmaker, Alanis Obomsawin, a First Nation film maker.

“We interviewed a lot of filmmakers, but we all agreed she was the one,” Greg said. “But she said, ‘I will not do a video, she would only do film.’ She was a real artist, and an incredible story teller.  I was the one negotiating this, and asked what would a film cost? She said about $150,000. I looked at her and said I have a budget of $50,000. I will sign the contract, therefore it will be valid. I may get fired for signing it, but it will be good. You can do it. Save whatever money you can. But we have to have it. I never heard a word from anybody. When the film was shown, it was so powerful, nobody was ever going to question the cost. She did exactly what all of us  thought she would do. I don’t know who paid for it, but they cared, we cared, and she was so good.”

In 1980, the Dartmouth Review was founded, and for decades to come would be a conservative publication that pushes back against Native student’s push for change.

“Dartmouth created the Dartmouth review. We produced a lot of the conservative movement today. A lot of the students I worked with went off to Wall Street Journal and Fox News. Those were all students I debated and struggled with as undergraduates. And they were an incredibly powerful smart group and shaped American culture, and they were centered at Dartmouth,” Greg said. “So Dartmouth was the birthplace of a very important conservative movement in America and at the same time became one of the centers for Native Americans in the East – in the Ivy League. They were the first institution to have ten percent African Americans in it. How do you explain the duality? I take some pride in an institution that could manage to have had such extremely opposing views and still hold itself together.”