Undergraduates on campus will have more opportunities for socializing both indoors and out, as COVID-19 safety precautions will remain in effect during the coming winter term, Provost Joseph Helble told viewers during this week’s Community Conversations webcast.
He listed new and expanded options to give undergraduates more access to facilities on campus and to keep them physically and mentally healthy during winter term. A number of the offerings have been created as a result of input Student Affairs staff have received from student groups and individuals as well as comments from families, alumni, and employees.
Helble said officials remain committed to open dialogue and receiving feedback, “And I want you to know that we heard you,” he said, adding that they are continuing to listen. Students and other community members are asked to propose ideas for winter activities and events, sending them to an email address—WinterTermSuggestions2021@Dartmouth.edu—that has been set up to take suggestions.
The changes undergraduates will see when they return to campus in January are aimed at improving their quality of life, Helble said. Among the changes:
- New rules to allow students to visit friends in residence halls other than their own.
- Access to more indoor spaces, and expanded hours where possible in locations such as the Top of the Hop and Collis.
- Simplified access to the Dartmouth Library’s Baker-Berry Library, including expanded hours and an occupancy-monitoring system that will do away with the need for reservations.
- Increased outdoor opportunities, including busing to downhill skiing at the Dartmouth Skiway; groomed cross-country ski trails on the former golf course property; and sledding, ice skating, and snowshoeing, with equipment available for those who need it.
- An expanded winter carnival and expanded Collis Center Outdoors programs, hosting outdoor fire pits around campus, among other activities, with details to be announced.
- A change in the revocation policy, retroactive to fall term, for students found to have violated the COVID-19 Community Expectations Agreement, to decrease the time they will have to be away from campus from four terms to two terms, and instituting an informal review process so students can ask questions and share their side of the story. (Out of about 600 reported violations in the fall, 86 students were sent home, Helble said.)
The Community Conversation webcast allows community members hear from campus and community leaders about Dartmouth’s priorities, decisions, and operations during the pandemic. This week Helble was joined by Dean of the College Kathryn Lively and COVID-19 Task Force co-chairs Lisa Adams and Josh Keniston. The group answered questions moderated by Vice President for Communications Justin Anderson.
Though the current surge in COVID-19 nationally will delay undergraduate students’ return to campus until Jan. 16 and 17, Dartmouth has no plans to revert to a fully remote term, Helble said. “None of us anywhere in this country can offer guarantees, but if things are as they are today, I assure you that we will be welcoming you back in mid-January.”
Adams spoke about adjustments to Dartmouth’s testing protocols and quarantine requirements, based on new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and the State of New Hampshire. Notably, arriving students who receive a negative COVID-19 test on or after day seven will be able to shorten their quarantine period to eight days, rather than 14, and all students and members of the community on campus will now be tested twice a week.
“Testing remains a critical part of our response for a successful winter term, so we need everyone to consistently adhere to this new schedule,” Adams said.
Lively described how her office hears from students, including in one-on-one meetings, communication with a student advisory board set up during the pandemic and with Student Assembly members, as well as through email from students and parents. These communications have led to changes in the residence-hall visitor policy and options for scheduling COVID tests and temperature self-assessment screenings, among other improvements, she said.
Keniston said his team has been working to make quarantine spaces more welcoming, and has developed a system to allow students who test negative for the virus to schedule a time to pick up their stored belongings within 24 hours of arriving on campus in January.
Helble thanked all members of the community for their “extraordinary efforts in helping us navigate an unprecedented and challenging situation,” efforts that kept Dartmouth’s COVID-19 numbers among the lowest in the country throughout the fall.
“There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but we have to get through the tunnel,” Helble said. “We cannot ignore that we are months from vaccines helping to bring this under control.”
The provost encouraged students to embrace the coming winter. “Winter is one of the seasons that makes Dartmouth different. This winter will be unlike any other, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have the special moments that make winter winter—the moments that make Dartmouth Dartmouth.”
Among the other topics discussed in the broadcast, Helble said that all spring off-campus programs, domestic as well as international, have been cancelled. He also said that testing for staff and others still on campus will shift to Thompson Arena from Dec. 14-31 and return to Leverone on Jan. 3.
For the most recent information on Dartmouth’s response to the pandemic, visit the Dartmouth Together COVID-19 website.
Hannah Silverstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.