Welcome everyone, to our second Community Conversations during the fall term. I’m David Coates, the interim provost. As always, I am joined by Justin Anderson, our vice president for communications from the Starr Instructional Studio in Berry Library, where we are recording today’s conversation in the morning of Sept. 29. Justin and I will be joined today by Scott Brown, the interim dean of the College, Marianne Thomson, the interim associate dean of Student Affairs and Peter Roby, the interim director of athletics and recreation. Before I introduce our guests, I’ll begin with a brief campus update. As I noted last time, we have a record number of students in Hanover this fall—literally more than at any time in Dartmouth history. While it is exciting to have everyone back, it has put some pressure on campus facilities and resources. Most recently, students and others have noticed the long lines in Dartmouth dining services, in part due to the large campus population and in part due to an ongoing shortage of staff.
Like many employers in the Upper Valley and beyond, we have been short on staff for more than a year. We are continuing to work hard to fill positions in dining, student affairs, health services and many other important services. Please be patient and bear with us. Last Friday, the board of trustees were back on campus for a meeting with President Hanlin and other senior leaders. Among other things, we had an in-depth discussion about student housing. I had the opportunity to join the trustees in visiting the new graduate student apartments, now under construction a few miles away over by the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Once they open next fall, these 638 new beds will dramatically expand the stock of housing in the Hanover area, relieving pressure on downtown housing and making it easier for all students to find a place to live. In addition, I’m pleased to confirm that the board voted to allow us to proceed with planning for a $50 million renovation of two residence halls in the East Wheelock housing cluster, Andres and Zimmerman, and Brace Commons, a social space adjacent to those dorms. These renovations will commence next summer and are the first two in a series of dorm renovations that will renovate all of our older dormitories over the course of the next decade.
In late August, we anticipated a return of all employees to onsite work on Oct. 4. Now, as that date approaches, we have decided not to set a specific date to expect all remote employees to return to onsite work. We recognize that many Dartmouth faculty and staff are already working onsite in a variety of roles and that many jobs necessitate employees’ presence on campus. Going forward, the leadership within schools and divisions will evaluate community needs and determine the best approach for their departments and teams.
There will continue to be some employees who can perform their work remotely. It will remain at the discretion of an employee’s supervisor to determine if their work can be completed fully remotely or in some hybrid model using Dartmouth’s alternative work arrangement policy as a guide. If we later decide to set a campus-wide return date, we will provide 30 days of notice, recognizing that individual units or supervisors may need to call some or all of their staff back to onsite work on shorter notice given unexpected circumstances. This approach allows us to remain flexible while maintaining campus operations.
For those of you on campus, you’ll see five large tents set up around campus, each with tables and chairs, many with audio-visual equipment and some with heaters. These tents are available to groups who wish to hold meetings or events outdoors. Tents are located at Cutter Shabazz, Parkhurst Lawn, Hitchcock Lawn, Moore Building Plateau and Wheeler Lawn. You can find the tent map on the web and you can contact the office of conferences and special events with any questions. In addition, the Lord tent, located on Tuck Drive, also known as the Gold Coast, is open to all students, faculty and staff on a first come, first served basis, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. This tent may be a good location for faculty to hold office hours, departments to have weekly staff meetings, and for students to meet up for lunch or to hold a study group.
Professors, before you schedule outdoor class activities, please consult with students to determine whether any may have accessibility concerns. For example, some students may have limited mobility or find it difficult to see screens or hear conversations in the tent context. You may invite them to contact you directly, but please also provide them an anonymous way to communicate their concerns. If you hear any such concerns, please stick to the classroom.
And now an update on COVID. As you recall a few weeks ago, President Hanlon articulated our shared goal in his message to campus. To quote, “Our primary objective will be to keep our campus as open as possible and to maintain as much of the student experience as we can while minimizing the risk that anyone—and especially those who cannot be vaccinated—falls seriously ill from COVID.” So far, we’re achieving that goal. An incredible 96% of the on-campus community is vaccinated. And as of yesterday, we have only five active cases, two undergraduate students and three employees.
Over the seven days prior, we had administered 7,109 tests with only four coming back positive, two students and two employees. That’s an extremely low 0.06% positivity rate. We are pleased that positivity rates have remained low since the beginning of the term and that we are aware of no known transmission of COVID-19 between any student and a staff or faculty member. However, given that we are still working to ensure that our students, faculty and staff are testing at the required frequency and we are seeing continued prevalence of COVID-19 throughout the region, we believe it is premature to relax the precautions that we currently have in place. As stated in our email message last Friday, we continue to monitor several important metrics related to the pandemic. Positivity rates on campus, positivity rates in the surrounding community, compliance with vaccination and testing policies and isolation capacity.
In that message, we told you we’d be watching for consistent mask wearing in the community, low test positivity rates and strong participation in required testing protocols. So far, we’re seeing mixed results. I’m hearing generally positive reports from students and faculty about the use of face masks in the classroom. Thank you to everyone for their cooperation. On the other hand, I’m hearing from many who have serious concerns about inconsistent mask compliance in public spaces like first floor Berry or the West Gym. For those students who choose not to wear your mask in such spaces, you’re actually making it less likely that we will be able to return to mask-free living any time soon. Please respect the people around you, including the staff and faculty who work in these spaces and wear your mask. As a reminder, the face covering policy applies to all who are indoors, including those who are exercising, playing music, singing, speaking at events, participating in theater or dance and so forth.
For more details on the face covering and other policies, please visit COVID.dartmouth.edu. Meanwhile, we’ve been taking several approaches to improve mask compliance. First, I know of many faculty and staff, myself included, who often walk through these spaces and remind students to mask up. Second, we’re working with student leadership to communicate to their constituencies about the importance of this policy. Third, we’re working with students, staff and the library to prepare flyers that help remind library patrons of the reason why we ask everyone to wear masks there because there are faculty, staff, and students who use that space, but who have health conditions that put them at particular risk. Fourth, the gym has posted notices warning gym users that they may close the gym to recreational users if they continue to see poor mask compliance. Fifth, staff and faculty can report students who are not wearing masks, not staying home when sick, or otherwise not following college policy by emailing those students’ names to community.standards@Dartmouth.edu. The college disciplinary process will pick it up from there.
Finally, I’m asking you all here right now to appreciate how your actions affect others and to put up with a little inconvenience now so we can keep the libraries open, keep the gyms open, and keep up the in-person activities we all so enjoy. By the way, wearing a mask has other benefits. It will help you and your friends avoid other common illnesses like the cold going around campus right now. Student health services tell me their phones have been ringing off the hook from students reporting cold-like symptoms and who want to get a quick test before they return to class or other in-person activities. To those students, I say, “Thank you.” I’m sure everyone on campus appreciates you for keeping the health of the community in mind, as well as your own.”
If you are sick, please stay home. If you’re a student, contact your professor to ensure you can get the class materials and keep up with class activities. Instructors know how to support students who are in quarantine or isolation and the student deans are there to help as well. Call Dick’s House if you have COVID like symptoms and need to be tested. Employees who are sick or symptomatic should also stay home and contact their supervisor to make alternate work arrangements. For employees who have COVID-like symptoms, call Axiom Medical to arrange for testing. The phone number is listed on COVID.dartmouth.edu. Overall, I want to send a huge “thank you” to our whole community as positivity rates remain low since the beginning of the term and we’ve experienced no known transmission of COVID-19 between students and staff or faculty or vice versa.
Now moving on to testing. All Dartmouth students, faculty, and staff who are on campus must test at least once a week, but some persons are required to test twice a week. We are monitoring testing compliance closely. For employees, supervisors are notified of their non-compliant staff and are asked to remind them when they have forgotten a test. Supervisors should alert HR to any employees who persistently remain non-compliant. For students who are behind on their testing, they will soon receive an email message reminding them to get tested immediately and notifying them that there will be consequences if they do not test on time. For the first two weeks of the term, we actually saw pretty good testing compliance among students. More than two-thirds were tested last week, but I’d like to see great compliance, and soon. If you’ve not already done your testing for this week, please get yourself tested in the next two days. Why? Because testing, along with masking and vaccination, are the best ways to prevent an outbreak at Dartmouth. Every single member of this campus has a responsibility to collectively protect each other, and in particular, the most vulnerable members of our community, those who are at a higher risk of an infection or who may be ineligible to get a vaccine.
If we see a consistent lack of compliance around our testing and masking policies, we may be forced to seriously consider stricter requirements. On the other hand, if we have high compliance with our surveillance testing program and we see very few positive cases, we can conclude that there is a low prevalence of the virus on campus and consider relaxing some of our policies. While I expect we will continue to require masking in the classroom for the remainder of the term, we may get to a point where we have sufficient confidence in this situation to relax masking in certain other contexts. Fortunately, testing is becoming more convenient as we deploy take-home test kits. Most employees have already been invited to participate.
We’ve rolled out test kits to certain student groups over the past few weeks and we expect to deploy take-home testing for the remainder shortly. When it’s your turn to begin, you’ll receive an email from occupational medicine. For your convenience, there are 11 dropboxes available across campus. For more information on the take home test kits and the specific dropbox locations, please visit covid.dartmouth.edu/testing-health. And now let me turn it over to Justin to see if there are any questions.
Thank you very much Dave and nice to be with you as always. I’m just going to dive right in with a question about masking because masking really is an issue that it seems like everyone is talking about. Not only in the country but on campus. And when to mask, why to mask, do we have to mask? One thing that I’ve heard a lot and I believe you have too is why students can take their mask off in 53 Commons when they are eating but that they cannot do so in the library. While they’re eating, they’re in groups, no mask. While they’re in the library, they’re frequently in groups or even just alone but they have to wear masks. So why the seeming inconsistency there?
Yeah, that’s a great question. I do get asked that a lot. The students’ logic goes like this. If it’s safe enough for us to take off our masks in FoCo, why isn’t it also safe enough for us to take off our masks in the library? Actually I think that logic is a little bit backward. The reason why we wear masks indoors when we’re around other people is to reduce the possibility of transmission of the virus. And if possible, we would all wear masks all the time because that would give us the lowest possibility of that transmission. But there are some places where we make compromises. For example, when you’re eating it’s kind of hard to eat with your mask on and so we take the compromise to actually slightly increase the risk during that period by taking off masks to eat. And we make other compromises such as sharing a room with roommates. We decided, okay, it’s fine to take off your mask in that context as well.
And so that’s really the reason we generally want people to wear masks. And then we have a few circumstances where we think we’re going to compromise on that protective measure and take off the masks or allow the masks to come down.
Dave, masking’s obviously a big issue nationally and locally. So is testing. And in your opening remarks you said that about two-thirds of students were tested last week and yet there were only six positive test results. And I think you said that as of yesterday, the number was even lower with the positivity rate last week of 0.09%. And if I heard you right 0.06% as of yesterday. What does this tell you? What do you conclude by looking at these numbers?
Yeah, let’s see, that’s great. First of all, just to clarify, and I had to take some time to figure this out myself, if you look at last week’s test results, we had six positives and I think it was a 0.09% positivity rate. But the other numbers you mentioned were the last seven days as of yesterday. So it’s not quite the same period. So the good news is that it’s a lower number on the more recent seven-day period. Maybe that’s a good sign of a trend. What I can conclude from that—the fact that we had two-thirds of the students complying with testing even though we have no reminders, even though some of them tell me the lines are really long and they just don’t have time, they go to get tested and just have to leave. And even though we have not instituted the take-home tests to make it more convenient for them to do so, I think that’s actually pretty good.
And the fact that we only have four positives in that very large population is a sign that we probably have very low prevalence. However, the statistician in me wants to recognize that the fraction of people who did not test, may be correlated with positivity in some way. And so that’s why I would really like to see our surveillance testing move to a structure where we can have more confidence in the positivity rate being representative of the whole campus. And I think we’re going to get there in the next week or so. We have new email reminders and consequences to encourage testing and also the new deployment of take-home tests to make it easier for people to test. So I think we’ll get there very soon in another week or so is my hope.
Dave, another question that I get all the time is sort of the natural follow-up question. When people look at the dashboard and they see the number of active cases, and thankfully it’s low, but the follow-up question is frequently, are any of these folks particularly ill? Do they have severe cases? So I guess the question is what do we know about when students and community members are getting sick with COVID, how sick they are. And then this I think was just the last question we’ll have time for—it’s a related one. You mentioned that we know of no transmission between students and faculty and staff. And I guess the question is how have we determined that? How do we know that to be the case?
Yeah, those are great questions. First of all, to my knowledge, everyone who has tested positive has either had no symptoms or mild symptoms. I’m not aware of anyone in the Dartmouth community who has had a serious COVID illness. To your second point, we do contact tracing on every positive case, whether it’s a student or an employee. And we are usually able to get some sense of where that infection may have occurred. And we have yet to see any infection that occurs in the classroom or between a faculty and student or staff and student in either direction, which is great. Most of the cases that we’re seeing among employees occur off-site, outside the campus context. And there’s been so few among students, I don’t have a clear sense of exactly where that may be occurring, but it’s not in the classroom. Okay, I think we’ll now turn to our guests. And let me start with introducing Peter Roby who has been a guest on Community Conversations before and who is the interim director of athletics and recreation. Good to see you Peter.
Thanks Dave. Nice to be with you again.
Yeah and it’s especially exciting now that we have athletic competition resuming this fall even as we continue to operate those athletics under some important pandemic-related policies. How have these policies changed the way that student athletes practice and compete?
Well it is great that we have them back doing the thing that they love to do. I think it helps everybody’s morale and their outlook to be back doing the things that they’ve worked hard on for so long. And to be with their teammates and their coaches. Some of the subtle changes are that we’re trying to make sure that when they’re in the locker rooms, they’re still masking, that they’re being highly vigilant around that. The student athletes are really the only students right now on campus that are testing twice a week. And so we’ve already been able to get them take-home tests. The college was nice enough to allow us to do that.
And part of that is because when we travel, many of the campuses we travel to have an expectation that anybody that’s going to come to their campus would have tested negative for COVID within 72 hours. And if we only instituted the one test a week, someone could test on a Monday but then be traveling on the weekend and not fall within that expectation. So the students for the most part have been great about making sure that they stay in compliance with our testing protocols. And that helps us to catch anything that might pop up and keep everybody safe, both on campus and where we might travel to.
Yeah, that’s great. No, it’s been so wonderful to see all that activity again. In my opening remarks I mentioned the West Gym. And this is something I’ve been hearing from your staff and from others who use the gym that that space and some of the other athletic spaces are used by recreational people, people coming for recreation, not your athletes, and that some of them are not wearing masks. What are you hearing and what can we do to improve that?
Well yeah, I mean it is hard in a lot of the unsupervised spaces for people to stay vigilant. You’re exerting yourselves, breathing is harder when you’re exercising and to have a mask on. So it’s not the optimum situation for you to want to be playing basketball for example and having a mask on. You’re sweating, it’s hard to breathe, all the things that we would know and expect. But right now we’re asking people to consider this as, look, getting the use of the facilities is a privilege because we want people to be able to exercise, to relieve stress, to be able to socialize. But if we can’t keep the mask wearing going at a high rate, it may force us to try to get everybody’s attention about the fact that it’s a privilege and close the facility maybe for 24 hours—make some people angry.
Hopefully everybody will understand that we have a collective responsibility and that they will get back to it and be more vigilant about mask wearing. We’re asking our athletes indoors to mask, and coaching staff when they’re on the sidelines are masking. And our athletes can take their masks off when they participate on the court. But off the court, we’re asking them to stay vigilant around that. The issue is that our athletes are testing twice a week so we have more surveillance for them than the general public which is another reason why we want everybody to mask as much as possible when they’re in the facilities here.
Yeah, that makes sense. That’s the sort of trade-off there, great. Well thanks Peter. Let me move on now to Scott. Scott Brown is the new interim dean of the College. Welcome Scott. And actually welcome back. I recall that you worked in the Residential Life Office at Dartmouth back in the nineties I think it was. What’s it like to be back?
Oh it’s incredibly wonderful. As you know Dave, I basically started my career here at Dartmouth 30 years ago and it’s always been a dream to be able to come back. And all the things that I fell in love with way back when are still completely present here today. And I’m also really excited to see just how dynamic and evolved it’s been since then as well. It’s great to be back.
Yeah, well we’re happy to have you. It’s been great working with you so far. What do you see as some of the most important initiatives or efforts for you and the student affairs team this year?
Well, first and foremost, it’s been really to help launch the fall term in the most normal possible way as we possibly can. I’ve been incredibly impressed and appreciative of working with all my staff in student affairs. They’ve been incredibly nimble, and imaginative, and dogged to really provide this incredible student experience for our students, and doing so in a safe way. So I think that’s been probably the biggest primary thing, is getting us up and going. I think part of that too is also rebuilding community. It’s an incredibly beautiful campus situated in New Hampshire, in the wilderness out here, but it’s the people that make the place and in finding ways to not just welcome the ’25s, but the ’22s and the ’23s and the ’24s and have an ability to restore that community. That’s been very, very important. Other things have just been just making sure that our campus is well and that they’re ready to prepare for this new year in a new way.
Great. Now I’d like to turn to Marianne, who’s the new interim associate dean for Student Affairs. Welcome Marianne. Welcome to Dartmouth. It’s great to have you here. You’ve been in similar roles at several other universities, most recently at Syracuse University. What do you find as distinctive about Dartmouth and what’s similar?
Yeah. I think what really stands out to me about Dartmouth’s students, and I’ve loved being here and working with them, is the leadership role they take about their own student experience. Dartmouth students have stepped up to play critical roles in how we welcome the newest students, how we set and maintain our community standards, and then we maintain so many important campus traditions. And so, I’ve seen Dartmouth students be leaders in all senses of the word and I’m looking forward to meeting more of them.
Yeah, that’s great. It’s great to have you here and it’s been good working with you so far. As I noted in the opening, students seem to be excited and happy to be back on campus, in the classroom, in the lab, in the studio, on the athletic fields, et cetera. And yet we’re hearing some concerns from faculty and staff about students not wearing masks in public spaces, which could potentially risk our ability to stay in the classroom, in the lab, in the studio, et cetera. What are your thoughts and in particular, how can students help?
Yeah, thanks for asking. I appreciate how we’ve addressed this already, but I do want to bring up another thought in that when I’ve talked to faculty and staff about this, they really are on the front lines of keeping us in person and are committed to that. But there is a tension there in that so many of us, me included, have little kids or others in our family and in our life that can’t be vaccinated. So I will say this is very personal to me and I know it’s personal to the faculty and staff that I’ve talked to. So I’d like to ask students to really think about that, that faculty and staff are here on campus to keep this experience in person but they often go home to unvaccinated people.
And so when you mask up, you’re showing signs of respect. You’re showing that you care about something bigger than yourself. This is in some ways a gigantic group project and we need to be in this together. And same goes for testing. So make a plan to test. I know it’s hard because your lives are spontaneous and that’s wonderful, but make an appointment with yourself to do the testing so that it actually happens. And then when you pull your mask up, I know it’s inconvenient, especially for long periods of time when you’re in the library, for example, but that inconvenience, believe me, is worth it for how it feels for those who see you.
Yeah. That’s a good point really. Totally with you on that. Thank you. I’ll turn it back to Justin now to see if we have questions from others.
We do, Dave, and I’m going to start with Scott. One question that I ... It’s a question and it’s also sort of a comment. Sometimes it comes in the form of constructive criticism and it’s about communications. Given my role, I hear a lot about communications and how we can communicate more effectively, how we can communicate better. And so Scott, a question for you. How do you think about communications as being a part of your role as interim dean of the College? How have you thought about that in your first couple of weeks and what is your sort of communications plan or vision as you really get rolling in this position?
Thanks, Justin. I think just as a leader, and certainly representing the rest of the division, I want to be as transparent and consistent and inclusive and as approachable as I possibly can be. I look at all the concerns about communication as a community that really cares a lot about what’s happening here. And so doing all I can to provide sort of timely, helpful information as often as I can with all of our major stakeholders. I think what really informs that communication is also making sure that we really have a great sense of what’s going on within the community. We want to make sure, particularly with students, that they’re hardwired into everything that we’re doing—major decisions, programming, perhaps searches—so that we have that really sort of built in so that we’re doing things with students and not just at students. I think that also facilitates a lot more communication about what’s happening and also more importantly why. And then we have those important student voices in helping us think about what we’re doing going to the future, of which communication is just a part.
I think it’s also really important to be available to students to really have a better understanding about what they’re seeing and hearing. As you know, I have a weekly office hour. I do everything I can to be available and approachable on campus. I want students to be able to know who their dean is and all the folks in student affairs. And I think all those kind of formal and informal ways really help us understand, what are students thinking and saying? And also hearing from parents and families and alums to be able to communicate to them what’s really happening here on campus in ways that they understand and that they value.
Marianne, if I could go over to you. Another question that I’ve been getting a lot, which also sometimes comes in the form of constructive criticism, is about how we are supporting our students. What I frequently hear is that starting college is daunting and intimidating in the best of times, but with a pandemic as the backdrop, it becomes and has become even more challenging. And this has repercussions both on the academic as well as on the co-curricular side and the social side. So, what academic and other support services are available to our students, and especially the first-years who are really just getting started?
Yeah. Justin, thank you for the question. I would say that first of all, I just want to acknowledge that it’s absolutely true that college is an incredible time of growth and also of challenge. So part of it is normalizing that that’s part of the point and some level of challenge is very normal and actually what we want. But we also need to support students through that challenge. And so I would say I want to kind of plug two things here, and Scott mentioned the undergraduate deans, but I would say to our new students and returning students, get to know your undergraduate dean on a personal level. They’re really going to be kind of your person. Dartmouth has an amazing model of mixing the kind of co-curricular and the co-curricular in that undergraduate-dean model.
In addition, the Academic Skills Center would be another place I would recommend. They have lots of workshops, tips, and resources geared especially towards first-year students. And finally, think about your student network. Your trip leader, your UGA, older students in your clubs and organizations. They have lessons learned and would be happy to share them with you. And sometimes hearing from a student voice can be the most helpful.
Peter, if I could go to you now, this past weekend was really an amazing weekend on campus. First of all, the weather was beautiful. And so that just brought lots of people out. While I was on campus, it was just like it was humming. And part of that was because of the football game on Saturday. Great to have football back in Memorial field and great to see a positive outcome. So, now that Ivy League sports are back, what about club sports? When can we expect club sports to be back up and running to get even more people involved in athletic competition?
Yeah, it’s a great point, Justin, and it was fabulous to see everybody back on campus and enjoying what is special about Dartmouth, and Hanover, and the Upper Valley. It’s a situation where right now the clubs are kind of at an individual basis. There are clubs that are getting themselves organized and trying to find opportunities to participate. They’re coming together and kind of seeing where they are with respect to membership and interest. So, we’re trying to be back to normal as best we can. We’ve had an inquiry from one of our teams to want to travel and participate in an upcoming tournament. And so part of all of that is like with intercollegiate athletics, we have to know from the institutional side that there are certain protocols that are going on for those students that we might visit so that we can ensure that everybody can be safe and understand what the guidelines and expectations are.
Another reason why the testing is so important, because if you’re looking to travel on official Dartmouth programming, if you will, that you can do so because you’ve been tested regularly and those folks that would welcome you would feel comfortable and that when you come back, because it’s Dartmouth sponsored programming, you wouldn’t have to quarantine, which is important as well. So staying vigilant with the testing, communicating with administrative staff and reporting any symptoms, trying to stay home and isolate if you do have symptoms, all those things are going to help us get back to normal. But we are excited about the fact that our clubs are starting to organize now and getting back to it.
Scott, I’d like to go back to you for one final question before we go back to Dave to see if he himself has one or two more questions before we wrap. To you, I will ask two weeks ago, we were joined by Mark Reed, director of health services, and he described some current efforts to improve our mental health infrastructure. As someone who is new to Dartmouth, albeit it in your sort of second tour of duty, how would you characterize the state of our mental health support system and how would you like to see it improve during your tenure? You have the benefit of having worked at a number of different institutions. I think you can really bring to bear the experiences that you’ve had elsewhere and what you’ve seen elsewhere. What’s your impression so far in terms of how we are providing mental health services?
Thanks, Justin. As I said, when I first got here, the biggest question I heard was about how do we get back into the community? The second biggest question is that, how do we make sure of that for the mental health and wellbeing of our community? It’s not just talking to student leaders this comes from, but every faculty and staff, and even just recently at the board, it is top of mind and a commitment. That’s the thing that really struck me most is the commitment of care for the community and how that’s been expressed in a lot of very significant ways. First, is that it’s important to note that our partnership with the JED Foundation has been very important. That is the strategic state-of-the-art bench marketing approach. What’s important about that is that it doesn’t make sort of mental health something dependent on a person or a small department, but it’s really an institutional commitment, and that’s very exciting.
In fact, we were one of the very few institutions in the United States that are not just focusing on undergraduates, but our graduate and professional students as well. I think that there’s been a great investment in terms of our mental health capacity. As you probably saw, we increased our number of clinicians by 50%, have done a variety of things to sort of meet students who are in some kind of crisis. Even more importantly, I think is that Dartmouth as a great caring community has really leveraged its relationships. We’re seeing faculty be much more involved in being trained. I think just general community structure that we have with the house systems and our student organizations and working with student groups are helping people thinking about, are we sourcing and evaluating and getting the care for any student of concern on campus? I think that’s really just a strategic, comprehensive top-down approach.
Then lastly, is just that I really think of well-being as a crucial leadership skill for our students who are going to go on to impact their future careers in communities. There’s a great deal of work and imaginative work from our Student Wellness Center, about how to help people thinking about how they kind of manage what it means to be a leader on this campus. I think all those together from really meeting the needs of urgent issues, but also kind of widen the circle to make sure that it is a community of care has been exactly what I’d hope to see. As you said, I’ve done this a lot for a lot of different campuses, and I think that approach is really the best one we could possibly do for our community.
Great, so thanks Justin. Thanks everyone. I think I have one more question for each of the guests. I’ll stick with Scott first, and I recall that you yourself are a first-generation student and that ... Can you tell us a little bit about how that has affected your career and also how you bring that background to bear on your role here now?
Sure. Thanks, Dave. I think that a college education can be transformative to a person in their life and it certainly was for me, and I think that a Dartmouth education is not just important to a person, but can really change the trajectory of a family. One of the things that really drew me back to Dartmouth was really the deep, deep commitment of finding the best and brightest, not just nationally, but internationally in finding the ways to really bring them on to campus. I thank my colleagues in admissions and advancement and financial aid for making that really happen. I know that the students who come from first-generation backgrounds are not just widely read, but widely lived. There’s so many ways in which we really enriched our campus, making sure that those students are with us. One important thing that’s been important is to think about, does every person think Dartmouth was designed, especially for me, no matter who you are?
I think that we’ve really met that challenge in a lot of important and strategic ways. For example, the First Year Student Enrichment Program just had its first residential opportunity with almost 150 scholars and connecting them with mentors, our faculty, and they interact with 30 different kinds of campus offices. That’s just one example of how we think about whoever comes to Dartmouth, they’re going to be put in position where they’re going to really thrive. I think my role as a first-generation student, the background is I was delighted to see that commitment already in place when I got here, and we’ll absolutely amplify that during my tenure.
Yeah, that’s great. Thanks. Thanks, Scott. That sort of gives me a segue to Marianne, given that one component of remote learning has been sort of the lack of meaningful in-person connections between students, between students and faculty, between staff and students. Now that we’re fully back on campus and in the classroom and so forth, how do you envision fostering some of those connections—rebuilding some of those connections, maybe especially for the Class of ’24, which really never had that opportunity last year?
Right, so one of the things that I’ve loved seeing when I walk to work and walk around during the day is just the natural connections that are happening both between students and then between students and their faculty. I think that’s quite defining of the Dartmouth experience and why our faculty are so motivated to be here on campus is because they also find that to be defining. One thing I think our students should consider is our Take a Faculty Member to Lunch program. If you have questions about that, it’s on the web, but it also, you can ask your undergraduate dean about it, but basically provides funding and very good funding to go to a nice lunch with some friends and a faculty member to get to know them outside of the classroom. This can be a real barrier breaker for students who might be intimidated to talk in office hours, but I think anything can be solved over a good sandwich. I would recommend students think about that.
Yeah, that’s a great suggestion, thank you. It’s an awesome program and I’m glad that it’s back now as well. Peter, one topic that’s been in the news in the last few months has been the NCAA’s adoption of an interim policy that suspends name, image and likeness rules for incoming and current student athletes, regardless of the sport. I’m wondering how that applies to Dartmouth and how you’re seeing that evolve now that athletes are back?
Yeah, it’s kind of one of the things that’s changing the landscape of college athletics and it’s ever evolving and for much of it, I thought it was the right thing to do, to allow students to take full advantage of their name, image and likeness, and learn what that means and appreciate intellectual property issues and contract negotiation and branding, if you will. Because their colleagues on campus, their peers have already been able to do that, that weren’t athletes. That’s very consistent with the Ivy model that we want the student athletes to be treated in a similar fashion to the rest of the student body. Where it gets to be an issue is where people take advantage—the third party folks—try to manipulate and take advantage to gain an unfair advantage with respect to recruiting.
That’s always been an issue with the NCAA and it continues to be right now. There’s a reason why the NCAA manual, the rules book is that thick. It’s because people continue to cheat to try to get an advantage, because they can’t help themselves. How it impacts us is we’ve had a number of athletes who have had some opportunities to have third-party relationships, and what we’ve tried to do from an administrative standpoint is to educate our students about what the College’s policies are around intellectual property and the use of the Dartmouth marks—make sure that they’re asking the right questions with respect to any kind of contracts. We can’t advise them as a lawyer, but we encourage them to find somebody in their circle who has a law background, who could look at an arrangement so that they’re not signing away their likeness in perpetuity, for example.
Another issue is the impact that it could have on financial aid, depending on the size of the agreement. It might impact financial aid agreements, and so just wanting them to make sure before they enter into any agreement that they contact their financial aid liaison to ask questions.
Then finally, if you’re an international student where your visa might be impacted, depending on what goes on outside of the classroom and earning a wage, making money, having a job. If it’s construed as having a job, you might be in violation of your visa status, and so again, we’re not telling the students to do it or not to do it. What we’re trying to advise them with the documents that we’ve created and provided to them is just make sure you’re asking the right questions or the right people before you do. I think as we live with this a little longer, we’ll likely see more activity. It’s been fairly modest right now—lots of questions and we have a mechanism for them to indicate whether they have entered into an arrangement, but mostly it’s been about information.
Yeah. Good. Well, it’s going to be interesting to see how that evolves over time and thank you for helping the students recognize some of the issues that they would want to look at—they look before they leap, basically, is the short form. Well, great. Thank you, Peter, Marianne and Scott for joining us today, and thanks to Justin for organizing. Let me conclude now with an appreciation for those of you who have taken the time to write to me. Some just to recognize the joy that we’re all feeling by being back on campus and some to comment about COVID policy. A student sent me a thoughtful argument this week complete with data and citations about why we should be able to relax our masking and testing requirements at this time. Another student wrote to advocate for continued masking and testing in recognition that the coronavirus will be with us for the long term.
They’re both right. We need to learn to live with this virus much as we do for all other viruses. Our challenge is to navigate through the next few months, finding the right balance to maintain a reasonably open campus with a reasonably low risk of serious illness. I’ve also heard from faculty members about students who are not complying with current policies, concerned that these behaviors put them and the community at greater risk, and I’ve heard from faculty members who feel our current approach is too restrictive. That now is the time to relax some of these policies. Again, they’re both right. Everyone brings to this discussion a different sense of the balancing point. For now, the COVID leadership team feels we should stay the course and asks for your patience and your continued cooperation.
That’s it for today’s Community Conversations, and I look forward to seeing you again in two weeks.