Dartmouth Review Celebrates 25 Years

By GARY SHAPIRO | April 28, 2006

The peal of the old Dartmouth Indian war cry "Wah-hoo-wah" resounded as the Dartmouth Review, the insouciantly conservative student publication, celebrated its 25th birthday at a dinner in Manhattan last week. For a quarter century, its jaunty pages have enlivened the idyllic campus in Hanover, N.H., challenging liberal presuppositions - sometimes raucously - while earning recognition as a model for conservative newspapers nationwide. Distributed door to door to every student and mailed to subscribers across the country, the Review has been at the center of stormy cultural and political debates since its inception.

Alvino-Mario Fantini '90 told The New York Sun that some friends on campus stopped talking to him after they learned he worked for the Review. "All we wanted to do was spark debate and discussion on campus and have an exchange of ideas, which is what you would think a university is for," he told the Sun.

"The Review made me who I am," the radio host and former editor-in-chief of the Review, Laura Ingraham '85, said.

"A vibrant, joyful provocative challenge to the regnant but brittle liberalism for which American colleges are renowned," William F. Buckley wrote of the publication in "The Dartmouth Review Pleads Innocent: Twenty-Five Years of Being Threatened, Impugned,Vandalized, Sued, Suspended, and Bitten at the Ivy League's Most Controversial Conservative Newspaper" (ISI Books), edited by James Panero and Stefan Beck.

Mr. Buckley, who attended the dinner, added that the Review bucked educational trends in which "tradition and piety are scorned, injustices sociologized, and the state glorified, patriotism patronized."

A commercial litigator, Harmeet Dhillon '89, wrote that several times the Review had gone too far in its criticism of college policies "so that other people will feel compelled to go far enough." A fellow at the Hoover Institution, Peter Robinson, told the Sun: "The Review talks back - to the administration, to the liberal orthodoxy, and to the wider culture." In its early years, he said, the simple act of talking back was viewed as inflammatory in itself.

In the book, Dinesh D'Souza elaborates on the Review's role:

Typically, the conservative attempts to conserve, to hold on to the values of the existing society. But what if the existing society is liberal? What if the existing society is inherently hostile to conservative beliefs? It is foolish for a conservative to conserve that culture. ...This means that the conservative must stop being conservative. More precisely, he must be philosophically conservative but temperamentally radical.

"Its story illustrates what happens when you give precocious twenty-year-olds unfettered control of a six-figure-a-year media operation," Messrs. Panero and Beck write in the introduction to the book.

The Review began when disaffected editors fell out with the Daily Dartmouth over issues such as endorsing a conservative trustee candidate.

The Review was hatched at the home of emeritus professor Jeffrey Hart, and it went on to raise a ruckus during the culture wars, on subjects ranging from shantytowns and South African divestiture to trying to restore the school's Indian symbol, which was perceived as politically incorrect.

The Review, Ms. Dhillon noted, harbored "a withering disdain for anodyne and characterless school mascots." Ms. Ingraham recalled how the Review hired the Gallup organization to conduct a poll of all living Indian chiefs in the United States and found that 82.7 percent thought the college should keep the Indian mascot.

Whereas the late Dartmouth president James Freedman thought the college experience could be exemplified in the lonely act of "writing poetry or mastering the cello or solving mathematical riddles or translating Catullus," the Review sought to tap into an older Romantic Dartmouth model of the warrior poet.

Mr. Hart, writes Joseph Rago in the anthology, would crank a mechanical wooden hand to drum loudly on a mahogany table when faculty meetings grew tedious. He sported an anklelength raccoon coat at football games, Mr. Robinson recalled, dipping into a hip flask to take a swig when Dartmouth scored. Preferring, Mr. Rago wrote,"the exuberance of the Jazz age to the austerity of the Carter years," Mr. Hart wore a chauffeur's cap and drove around in a secondhand Cadillac taking up three metered spots on campus. In response to stickers advising, "Turn out the light. Energy is scarce," Mr. Hart added, "In that case, produce more energy."

"For me," Thomas "Harry" Camp said, "the Dartmouth Review embodied the Dartmouth spirit: A hard-working and highly intellectually stimulating atmosphere that nonetheless always found time for barbecues, cocktails, and croquet."

Cocktails do seem to be a theme: William Sushon once wrote an appreciation for alcohol in the Review's pages, recounting famous drunks in history. The Review's exuberant change-of-editor dinners have sometimes drawn ire from local inns.

Speaking of alcohol, a counsel to the deputy attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice, Ted Cooperstein '84, recalled this anecdote. To counter a silent vigil of liberals on the college green, the Review formed the Hanover Mallet Society and played croquet in madras shirts and wild sunglasses on the nearby south lawn of Baker Library. As the vigil slowly petered out, the crowd joined their party with its open bar.

Attending the party was Marty Singerman, of News Corp., who said while liberal papers are called "alternative" publications in most cities, at Dartmouth and other colleges, the opposite is true: The Review and similar conservative magazines are called "alternative."

At the 25th anniversary dinner, Mark Steyn gave the keynote address. Mr. Robinson (who is best known as the presidential speechwriter who penned the line "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,") offered brief remarks. The audience chuckled when he told those assembled that, contrary to the New York Times, "The Cold War did not just end. We won."

Mr. Panero asked all the Review staff past and present to stand and be recognized. The audience laughed when he also thanked "25 years of unpaid student labor" in producing the Review.

What about the Review today? "The campus has an ambivalent attitude to the paper," the executive editor, Stethers White '07, said. Mr. Panero said, "I think the Review has seen itself not just as a conservative journal of opinion but a student newspaper that could beat the Daily Dartmouth at its own game."


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