Community Conversations: ‘All in This Together’

News subtitle

Interim Provost David Kotz and guests provide an update on COVID-19 policies.

Cheryl Bascomb
Vice President for Alumni Relations Cheryl Bascomb ’82 was a guest on this week’s Community Conversations webcast. (Photo by Robert Gill)

Watch the Oct. 13  Community Conversations webcast with Interim Provost David Kotz ’86 and Vice President for Communications Justin Anderson and guests Vice President for Alumni Relations Cheryl Bascomb ’82, Mike Wooten, associate dean of residential life and director of residential education, and Executive Vice President Rick Mills.

As part of ongoing efforts to make COVID-19 testing more convenient, take-home kits will be available for all undergraduate students starting on Oct. 20, Interim Provost David Kotz ’86 said during Wednesday’s Community Conversations webcast.

During the show, Kotz, Vice President for Communications Justin Anderson, and their guests—Vice President for Alumni Relations Cheryl Bascomb ’82Mike Wooten, associate dean of residential life and director of residential education, and Executive Vice President Rick Mills—shared their excitement about the Year of Connections, which kicked off with homecoming weekend.

The success of homecoming reflects the energy and enthusiasm that have returned to campus, they agreed.

“We’re all in this together,” said Kotz, expressing gratitude for the community’s persistence and patience this term. “It’s been a great fall so far, and it looks like a great year ahead.”

COVID-19 Update

Kotz thanked community members for their ongoing support for COVID-19 testing, vaccination, and masking policies, which are designed to allow in-person learning and activities to continue during the pandemic while maintaining a reasonably low probability of serious illness among those who are unable to be vaccinated.

Kotz outlined four criteria that would enable Dartmouth to relax some of those policies: comprehensive vaccination of the campus community, vaccines available to children under 12, consistently high compliance with regular testing, and a continued low positivity rate.

“Right now we’re doing well” in most of these areas, he said. He is hopeful the masking policy can be relaxed once young children in the Dartmouth community have had the opportunity to be vaccinated, assuming the other three criteria are met, though masking will likely need to resume for a few weeks at the beginning of each term, as students, faculty, and staff return to campus.

Kotz discussed the recent decision to close Alumni Gym for 24 hours, following several weeks in which some people—primarily students using the facility for recreational purposes—were not wearing masks, and responded rudely to polite requests to do so.

Many of those who use the gym are compliant with masking, “and we’re not happy” that they were unable to use it that day, said Kotz. However, if behavior does not improve, the gym could close for recreational use again.

Kotz also said that, due to a mandate issued last month by the federal government, all Dartmouth employees, regardless of where they work, will need to be fully vaccinated or be approved for a medical or religious waiver through the Office for Institutional Diversity and Equity. Employees must submit evidence of vaccination with a CDC-approved COVID-19 vaccine no later than Dec. 8.

Vaccinations are readily available from pharmacies, said Kotz, who encouraged those who are unvaccinated to start the process soon; the most common vaccines require two shots spaced three to four weeks apart.

Other Health News

With flu season approaching, Kotz reminded viewers of the importance of annual flu shots. Students can receive free flu vaccinations through the Dartmouth College Health Service’s movable Medi Quick stations at the Class of 1953 Commons on Tuesdays from noon to 1:30 p.m.; at Dick’s House pharmacy; and at pop-up flu clinics, which will be held periodically this fall.

Because Dick’s House is unable to offer large-scale flu clinics this year, employees are encouraged to obtain a flu shot from their health provider or from area pharmacies, many of which offer the shots for free, without an appointment, said Kotz.

He also urged students to take part in an upcoming survey, the results of which he called critical to Dartmouth’s effort to create the best possible culture and resources related to mental health. The 25-minute survey is part of Dartmouth’s partnership with the Jed Foundation, a nonprofit that works to protect emotional health and prevent suicide for teens and young adults. Administered through a program called “Healthy Minds,” the survey measures factors such as knowledge and attitudes about mental health and assesses campus climate regarding diversity and inclusion.

Students will receive an email from with a link to the survey, which will be launched on Oct. 20 and remain open for four weeks.

Keeping the Connections Going, in Person and Online

With the Year of Connections underway, Kotz and his guests reflected on this past homecoming weekend and discussed upcoming events, both hybrid and online.

Seeing community members, alumni, and students gathered at the first in-person homecoming in two years was surprisingly emotional, Bascomb said.

Watching the class of ’25 and ’24 participate in the iconic Dartmouth ritual was a highlight, said Bascomb, who noted that 800 people tuned in to the weekend’s online events. “It was fun for us as alumni and people in Alumni Relations to watch how happy the students were, and that made us happy.”

Next year marks the 50th anniversaries of co-education, the rededication to Native American education, and the founding of the Black Alumni of Dartmouth Association. Anniversary celebrations will begin Nov. 9 with a discussion commemorating Dartmouth Board of Trustees’ decision to become coeducational. The event will feature former trustee chairs Susan Dentzer ’77 and Laurel Richie ’81 and current chair Elizabeth Cahill Lempres ’83, Thayer ’84.

The webcast included a brief visit from Executive Vice President Rick Mills who, with Kotz, is co-leading COVID-19 planning this year.

Mills said it’s important to acknowledge how difficult the past 21 months have been for everyone—students, families, faculty, and staff—and to be as supportive as possible with one another.

“People need to take time to do what they need to do to stay healthy and be well,” he said. “We will get through this, and we are slowly working our way back to some new kind of normal, but it’s a tough journey. Let’s support each other as much as we can along the way.”

Also on this week’s Community Conversations, Kotz discussed Dartmouth’s strong endowment investment returns and the recently announced climate change-related policies.

Community Conversations is a production of Dartmouth’s Media Production Group and the Office of Communications that airs on selected Wednesdays at 3:30 p.m.

For the most recent information on Dartmouth’s response to the pandemic, visit the Dartmouth Together COVID-19 website.

Aimee Minbiole