HANOVER, N.H. -- A lawyer for 10 conservative Dartmouth College students suspended for destroying anti-apartheid shanties told a disciplinary panel Monday that racism was not a motive in the assault.
Attorney Dort Bigg said there was 'very little if any dispute' about the facts of the Jan. 21 sledgehammer attack on the shanties but added it was his 'fervent hope that no racial connotations be attached to their (the students) conduct.'
Bigg, in opening remarks to Dartmouth's Committee on Standards, said any suggestion that the student attack was racially inspired would be an 'inaccurate interpretation of their motives.'
The committee of students, faculty and adminstration began two days of new hearings on the students' appeal of their suspensions. Nine of the 10 students are affiliated with the conservative off-campus weekly The Dartmouth Review, which lampoons liberal professors and institutions on campus.
The students were among 12 who were suspended last month for the shantytown attack, which they said was intended to clear 'trash' from the campus green. Two of the 12 students had their suspensions lifted after a second hearing.
The shantytown assault sparked a 30-hour sit-in at the administration building that ended when the college suspended classes for one day to discuss racism and division on campus.
Two Dartmouth College students, who were asleep in one of the shanties, testified Monday they were awakened by the sound of hammers and glass shattering when the students destroyed the shacks.
'I haven't been able to sleep. I've had nightmares that have been related to it and I've found myself not able to study,' Kim Porteus said.
Porteus and Lillian Llacer said the students laughed as they swung sledgehammers at the scrap-wood shanties. Porteus said she fled the shanty in her long underwear.
'They never threatened us verbally but they never told us we weren't in physical danger,' Porteus said.
Bigg urged the new panel to disregard the findings of the first hearing. 'Our major concern will be with the interpretation of these circumstances and applicability of the rules of conduct,' he said.
The shanties, made of scrap wood, were erected last fall by students opposed to Dartmouth's $63 million investment in companies doing business with South Africa.
A campus policeman testified that students used sledgehammers and their feet to kick down three shanties.
One of the students said before the hearing that Dartmouth was intent on punishing The Review by suspending its editors.
'It seemed in the first hearing that the students who received the most severe punishments were the top-ranking officers from The Review,' said Deborah Stone, editor of the newspaper. 'We'll find out if these hearings are in fact a ploy on the part of the college to shut down The Dartmouth Review.'
Seventeen anti-apartheid protesters who were arrested for trying to prevent the college's removal of the last shanty on Feb. 11 were found guilty of violating Dartmouth rules, but were not punished.
Frank Reichel, former president of The Review, said several colleges had offered the students 'asylum' if they failed to win reversal of their suspensions. He declined to name the colleges.