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Mommy and Me: A Black Mother’s Reflection on 50 Years of Co-Education

By Dylan Dunson

Interview with Nicole Haynes

Devotion can be described as love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a cause. I know without a shadow of a doubt the alumnus Nicole Haynes has been a devoted member of the Dartmouth community since her Freshman Fall in 1989. Nicole Haynes, like many women before and after her, played an active role in shifting the culture of Dartmouth’s campus. As a member of the group that was a predecessor to a newspaper that would later be known as Spare Rib, Nicole Haynes was a part of the early discussions about a paper to express the narratives of women that often went unheard on the campus. Although Nicole Haynes never officially wrote for the paper because she was not confident in her writing ability, the women she was surrounded with became the group founders of a liberating newspaper that inspires women to this day. I know these facts to be true because Nicole Haynes is my mother.

I am currently a freshman at Dartmouth, and I see myself walking the steps that my mother walked thirty years before me. Although my mother and I attended the same college, we are very different people. I am a rugby player while my mom was, as many would say today, a NARP (non athletic regular person). My mother was a nerdy biochemistry major while I am into the humanities and avoid STEM like the plague. In honor of the 50th year of coeducation at Dartmouth, I decided to interview my mom to see first hand how the campus has evolved. I decided on six questions for both of us to discuss: me in red and my mother in green (our favorite colors).

1. What words would you utilize to encompass your experiences as a Black woman on campus?

Nicole Haynes: “Loyalty.” Dartmouth taught me the necessary skills to be loyal to my fellow Black women. I was surrounded by women who did not take anything from anyone. I still to this day use these skills in my professional life and as a mother. I am loyal to my family and will always speak up for myself as well as others.”

Dylan Dunson: “Adventurous.” Upon arrival at Dartmouth, I was thrown into the woods to sleep outside with strangers. When I came back to campus, I was thrusted into the fast pace academic world. While managing academics, I was exposed to the social scene at Dartmouth. The phrases, the culture, and the dos and don'ts of campus life.

2. Did any event occur to you or someone near to you that targeted the foundation of your identity as a Black woman while on campus?

Nicole Haynes: “There was not one big moment, but I do remember one specific event because I was a biochemistry major. My major was seldom pursued, at the time, by a lot of 1) Women or 2) Black people in my classes. My professor during one of my labs came up to me randomly and asked “how does it feel to be the first person in your family to go to college?” I am not the first person in my family to go to college and I never said this. I did not realize it till later that he was stereotyping me. I thought he meant that I was the first of my siblings because I was the oldest sibling. I even made the remark that my brother was merely two, but that is not what my professor meant. There was never one big event, but there were almost daily little instances of discrimination especially since my major lacked women, and especially Black women, I was exposed more to Dartmouth discrimination despite that there was a balance with my biology professor and students that would step in immediately before I could utter a word to explain to the person that their words were unacceptable.”

Dylan Dunson: I have only been on campus for a short eight weeks, so I have not had any major instances of racism on campus. However, the campus as well as the town of Hanover is predominately white. With this being said, there's a lack of proper accommodations for people of color because a large majority of the population is white and does not have to worry about those problems. Despite this demographic issue, I have not personally had a devastating experience.

3. What was the gender and racial climate on campus and around the nation during your time on campus?

Nicole Haynes: “The big racial issues were the fact that MLK day was not recognized in Hanover or Dartmouth. Dartmouth refused to recognize MLK day as a holiday. Another issue was the South African aperthaid issues and Dartmouth had some kind of investments or link to a company out of South Africa. There were some Black South Africans on campus so students wanted the college to sever ties with South Africa. The Dartmouth Review was super racist at this point. Dartmouth refused to address that with protests about the newspaper.”

Dylan Dunson: A pressing issue discussed amongst students and faculty on campus is the June 24, 2022 decision by the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade. This decision has been a rampant topic of discourse amongst students especially since New Hampshire is in the midst of Election season. With campaigns and politicians all across the campus over the past couple of weeks, it is hard to ignore the pressing issues that are affecting the state we reside in for school as well as my home state of Georgia. As far as pressing racial issues, the issue of racial inequality is more prevalent now than ever on Dartmouth’s campus as well as around the world. A pressing issue on campus, for me, currently is the tension between the Graduate Laborers at Dartmouth, which is a group of graduate students that are advocating for a dependable living wage, and the college. This group of graduate students publicly announced their concerns on the Green which allowed for the students at Dartmouth to grasp the negative relationship between these workers and the college.

4. Was there a divide between race and gender that was polarizing during your time on campus?

Nicole Haynes: “That did not really happen as much. My experience is that this did not really happen. There was even a white person in the Black sorority. We were in it together. I think it is because we [women] had a shared struggle for value on campus. We did not just want to be an add on to Dartmouth but an integral part to the campus. I had two engineering friends and we would walk to the lab with them to support and encourage them in a male dominated space.”

Dylan Dunson: In my opinion, there is a clear distinction between race and gender on this campus. I think gender based issues on this campus are not driven by a large fighting force that was so prevalent in the past. I believe that as time has passed the discrimination has become less overt, so less women are involved in the fight. The discrimantion’s evolution into subtle rather than blatant has allowed for many individuals to overlook its presence within campus life. I think this population lacks as much diversity as I would assume. I think racial issues are addressed separately from gender with a united front from minority men and women.

5. Did your experience at Dartmouth as a Black woman empower or belittle you?

Nicole Haynes: “Empower. It allowed me to recognize racism and sexism immediately and gave me the power to address racism and sexism head on. I have no problem telling people to their face that what they did was racist or sexist. I owe that in part to Dartmouth.”

Dylan Dunson: Empower. My classes have played a key role in this empowerment. I have the privilege to dig deeper in the nation's history to discover not only the facts but the rationale behind the facts. I think the deeper analysis within class time has expanded my understanding of the progress that has been made but also the various issues still at hand. I also have a voice on this campus. I have learned the power in my voice. My teammates and undergraduate advisor have instilled in me the power I truly have.

6. As a mother to a Black woman currently on campus, do you see parallels to your experiences on campus in the 90s that remain stagnant in Dartmouth culture? Or have you seen a dramatic shift in Dartmouth culture to the point of unrecognition?

Nicole Haynes: “The vibe is different. It seems like you are included more. It's not like having women on campus is an afterthought — like where are we going to house them. I think Dartmouth is less empowering than before. The women around me seemed to be protesting all the time with a lack of tolerance for anything. You guys aren't like that but maybe you guys do not have to be. And maybe that is a good thing. It seems like there used to be more Black only things— more Black sorority and fraternities, more Black activities. There is more of a blend. There is less self segregation. These spaces were empowering for us at the time with “big brothers and big sisters” now there's more of a push to integrate.”

Dylan Dunson: After talking with my mother, I am shocked to see the regression of racial unity on this campus. It is rather disheartening. I came on campus with this impression that my mother had given me beforehand that Shabazz would be a perfect place of refuge.Unfortunately,I have not had similar experiences with Shabazz of liberating events with this sense of Black unity. I do see the beauty in the diversifying spaces which the campus is doing more now than in the past. After speaking with my mom, I think that Dartmouth still has a long way to go. The phrase, “Somethings may never change” sadly applies to the Dartmouth Review, which finds its way to my front door biweekly. The newspaper’s racist and sexist past still prevails into the current newspaper that we see today.

These six questions are just the surface of the evolution of Dartmouth. The past allows for Dartmouth to understand its present and its future. As a piece of Dartmouth’s present and future, I am truly honored to navigate the evolution of Dartmouth with my mother by my side. My mother has instilled in me the foundational skills to succeed as a Black woman from the women before her. I hope that I can provide the future women of Dartmouth the same flourishing wisdom as women before me. The devoted women of Dartmouth such as my mother laid the foundation for women like me. Two Black women that are devoted to Dartmouth and each other.

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