Community Conversations: Returning Student Belongings

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Provost Helble spoke with Dean Kathryn Lively and VP Josh Keniston.

Dean of the College Kathryn Lively
Dean of the College Kathryn Lively spoke on the broadcast from her home. (Photo by Michael Yacavone)

Watch the May 13 Community Conversation with Provost Joseph Helble and guests Dean of the College Kathryn Lively and COVID-19 Task Force Co-Chair Josh Keniston.

In this week’s Community Conversations broadcast, Provost Joseph Helble spoke with Dean of the College Kathryn Lively and Vice President for Institutional Projects Josh Keniston about how Dartmouth plans to reunite approximately 3,200 students with belongings left behind when the campus closed for residential learning at the end of winter term.

Helble, Lively, Keniston, and other campus leaders have been tackling the issue “almost from the moment that students left campus in mid-March,” said Helble, who spoke from the Starr Studio in the Dartmouth Library’s Baker-Berry Library. “We understand its importance to our community, and even though it was a relatively simple question—how will belongings be returned?—as I’m sure many can imagine, the details and logistics were extraordinarily complex.”

Earlier in the day, Lively had sent an email to students detailing a plan for returning belongings over the course of the summer, first to graduating seniors and then to other undergraduates. Professional packers will pack all items, and, with a few exceptions, students will have the option to have these stored or shipped to them at Dartmouth’s expense. By the end of this week, students will receive a questionnaire on which they can indicate their preferences and any special requests, and staff members will follow up as needed.

“There’s a lot in the plan, as you might imagine,” Lively said. “I would recommend that you read it very closely, perhaps more than once.”

Today’s broadcast was the third in a series of Community Conversations, a weekly online forum for members of the Dartmouth community to ask questions and get updates from campus leaders about the institution’s priorities, decisions, and operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Next week, Helble will speak with Vice Provost for Research Dean Madden about plans to ramp up on-campus research this summer. On May 23, President Philip J. Hanlon ’77 and Trustee Chair Laurel Richie ’81 will join Helble.

Helble began this week’s broadcast with a discussion of the timeline and decision-making process for reopening facilities; plans to reinstitute grades for remote summer term courses; the process for determining how many students, faculty, and staff may be able to safely return to campus for the coming fall term; and how the roll-out of new health screening guidelines for those working on campus might be broadened to allow more faculty, staff, and students on campus. (The guidelines are available on Dartmouth’s COVID-19 website.)

For all of these decisions, maintaining the health and safety of the Dartmouth and Upper Valley committees is paramount, he said.

He also thanked alumni and other members of the community who have donated more than $185,000 to an emergency relief fund for students. “That fund has been fully allocated by the financial aid staff according to their normal process for determining student financial needs,” he said.

Regarding research, Helble said he expects an announcement by the middle of next week on initial plans to gradually resume research in laboratories that have been closed since mid-March. But he urged patience with the process.

“It won’t be business as usual in all research laboratories immediately at the beginning of June. It will be a slow and gradual ramp up,” he said.

As previously announced, a decision about whether—and how many—students, faculty, and staff can return to campus for the fall term will come by June 29, based on the recommendations of a joint working group that includes leaders and experts from Dartmouth and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

“There are two high-level questions that they are helping us work through,” Helble said. “First, what is the maximum number of students that we can host in a residential learning environment beginning in fall term. And second, a higher-level question: whether we should focus on fall term alone in our planning, or we should step back and think of the entire academic year as our planning horizon.”

“We will, as with other decisions, be methodical and thorough and thoughtful and data-driven,” Helble said. “There are no shortcuts to getting to a thoughtful decision.”

Helble was joined via Zoom from other locations by Lively and Keniston, who co-chairs the COVID-19 task force, to field viewer questions about student belongings and other issues, in a conversation moderated by Vice President for Communications Justin Anderson, who spoke from a room adjacent to the Starr Studio.

Asked how she and her team have been in contact with students this term, Lively said, “I would like to give a quick shout out to the current leadership in Student Assembly and Palaeopitus (a senior society). They have been incredibly helpful in gathering all kinds of questions and concerns and comments from the student body and channeling them to the administration.”

Keniston talked about the new health screening guidelines that require staff, faculty, and students currently working on campus to take their temperature daily and answer a set of questions about their health.

“It’s a tool to make sure that everyone is monitoring themselves on a daily basis before they come to campus,” he said. “We’re really viewing it as a pilot this week, where we have relatively small numbers on campus. We hope to learn from it, so that as we think about bringing more folks on campus over the coming months, we’ll be prepared to have some of these screening protocols in place.”

He also noted that Dartmouth employees who work at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center should follow the medical center’s protocols for returning to their workplaces.

Helble answered questions about plans to reopen the Dartmouth Child Care Center—a decision that depends on state guidelines, he said—and financial aid decisions for summer and fall terms.

“We recognize that demonstrated need will be increasing, and we are committed to meeting that need,” Helble said, noting that the timeline for applying for and receiving financial aid has not changed.

“These are challenging and unprecedented times for all of us,” Helble said. “I ask for and thank you for your support of one another as members of the Dartmouth community as we find our way forward.”

Community Conversations air Wednesdays at 3:30 p.m. through spring term. Past episodes are available on the Community Conversations site, which includes call-in numbers for those who want to listen to the show without video. Find out how to watch or listen to the broadcast.

Community Conversations is produced by Dartmouth’s Media Production Group and the Office of Communications.

For the latest information on Dartmouth’s response to the pandemic visit the COVID-19 website.

Hannah Silverstein can be reached at

Hannah Silverstein