Welcome everyone to our third Community Conversations during the fall term. I’m David Kotz, the interim provost. As always, I’m 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 Oct. 13. Justin and I will be joined today by Cheryl Bascomb, vice president for alumni relations, and Mike Wooten, associate dean of residential life and director of residential education.
Before I introduce our guests, I want to invite Rick Mills, executive vice president, to join me for a few minutes. Rick has been a frequent guest on community conversations and is my partner in leading the COVID planning this year. Rick, welcome to the program. I know you and your team have been busy of late.
Thanks, Dave. I was looking back this morning at when I got my first Dartmouth email about COVID and it was January of ’20, end of January, like the 28th, I think, of 2020. So we’ve been dealing with this for 21 months and I think you and I have both heard from faculty, staff and students how tired folks are, how exhausting this has been. And I think as we had the hope this summer of the vaccine freeing us from some of this and the recognition at the end of summer that wasn’t going to be the case, it’s been a hard slog.
And I think you and I have both talked together about the need to acknowledge that this has been difficult for everyone. And we know it, we hear it. You and I are often the ones making the rules that people find difficult or challenging, and we don’t do it lightly. And we both are looking for opportunities to provide some relief from this slog. And I just don’t think we’ve hit on anything perfect. But hopefully for staff and faculty, the extra time at the holiday break will help, the extra days off.
I just think it’s important for us to pause and say, we know this is hard and we know it’s hard for every element. Whether you’re at school or at work or at home, this has been tough.
Yeah. Yeah. I get it. I hear similar kinds of comments and concerns from all corners of campus and I share your thanks to the whole community for their hard work and dedication and patience as we all deal with this. And also I thank you, Rick, for being my partner in helping think through the best way to manage, help the community through this challenging time. So I appreciate it. Thank you.
Well, Dave, thank you. And it’s a pleasure to work with you. And I guess I would also recognize, because I do think parents tune in, this has been hard for families that have got kids off at school at Dartmouth and coping with challenges and hearing from their kids about what’s tough. So thanks to the entire community. And I guess I would end by saying we can’t fix everything, but being aware of how challenging this is for anyone you’re dealing with, being supportive as you can as we all try to take care of ourselves.
People need to take time, do what they need to do to stay healthy and be well. And just the most understanding we can provide, we will get through this and we are slowly working our way back to some new kind of normal, and it will get there. But it’s a tough journey and let’s support each other as much as we can along the way.
Yeah. Yeah. Very much in agreement. Thanks, Rick ...
... I appreciate you taking the time to join us. I know you have to step out for another meeting, so I’ll see you later.
I’ll watch the conversation a bit later today.
Now let me turn to a brief campus update. Those of us here in Hanover were able to celebrate homecoming on a beautiful fall weekend taking off on Friday night with thousands of spectators on the Green for the bonfire. Students from both the classes of ’24 and ’25 had the opportunity to build the bonfire and later to walk a circle around the fire while fireworks launched near Baker Tower and a band played from the steps of Collis. It was a fantastic event and a great start to the Year of Connections about which we’ll hear more in a few minutes.
Homecoming weekend was also a time for several important announcements. On Monday, Dartmouth announced that its endowment generated a return of 46.5% for fiscal year 2021, which ended on June 30. The endowment has produced annual returns of over 12.8% over the past 10 years and its total value is now $8.5 billion. The endowment and its annual income allows us to continue to invest in long-term initiatives that create a more welcoming and inclusive community, provide need-blind and full-need financial aid to our students, ensure the mental and physical health of students, faculty, and staff, and position the institution for continued success in a rapidly changing higher ed landscape.
The endowment also provides important funding for present-day priorities and activities. This year, these initiatives are supported by the approved endowment distribution of $335 million—almost one-third of our annual operating budget. In a related development, strong investment returns on our working-capital fund allowed us to make immediate investments in our community.
First, and effective immediately, as part of the undergraduate financial aid calculation, the expected parent contribution for families making up to $65,000 with typical assets will be eliminated. All undergraduates covered by the new policy received updated aid awards on Monday. This change affects more than a third of all students on financial aid.
Second, by the end of the calendar year, all eligible employees will receive a bonus equal to 3% of their fiscal year ’21 base earnings. More details will be provided by human resources next week. This action and President Hanlon’s other recent announcement of an extended winter break and an additional floating day off for staff in recognition and appreciation of the incredible dedication and hard work exhibited by our staff and faculty over the past 18 months during the pandemic.
Third, the hourly minimum wage for student workers will rise from $7.75 to $11.50 effective winter term.
Fourth, graduate students who receive stipends will be awarded a $1,000 bonus. More details will be provided by the dean in the coming weeks.
These expenditures come in addition to the previously announced infrastructure renewal fund approved by the board of trustees in March. The new fund from which $31 million is allocated for this year increases annual financing from the endowment for investment in areas such as housing and a green energy system. Over the coming decade, the IRF will allow for more than $500 million of additional renewal projects.
In related news, as part of a comprehensive plan to address the dangerous effects of climate change, that includes investment in our mission and reducing the campus’s carbon footprint, the Dartmouth Investment Office shared publicly its commitment to invest in the energy transition, recognizing that a zero-carbon future is an important and influential theme in the economy. This decision comes after two key decisions over the last four years.
The first came in 2017 when the investment office decided to no longer make new investments in private fossil fuel extraction, exploration, and production funds.
The second was a decision early last year when the investment office changed its mandate for its direct public portfolio to no longer hold investments in fossil fuel companies. Instead, we are shifting our energy investment strategy toward renewable alternatives. Not only does this make financial sense, but it also allows the college to support new technology developments that make a difference.
Next, a COVID update. As of the latest data, at midnight last night, we had only three active cases, one undergraduate student, one graduate student and one employee. All of them live off campus and are in isolation at home.
Speaking of testing, we’ve had much better turnout for testing since the last time I spoke with you. Nearly 80% of undergraduate students and almost 70% of graduate and professional students were tested last week. Of those 4,778 students testing last week, only one tested positive. That’s impressive.
Thank you to everyone who contributed a few minutes to support the health of the community and to take care of themselves. I’m looking to see us do even better this week. You can help by remembering to go to the test center in the next two days. Meanwhile, we’re ramping up our efforts to contact students who have forgotten to go get tested. Scott Brown, (interim) dean of the College, is emailing undergraduate students who have not been compliant with testing for a few weeks with the reminder and a warning that they need to get tested by Friday, or the community standards process will begin. Non-compliant graduate and professional students will be sent similar messages.
Next week, we can finally provide the take-home testing option to undergraduate students. Take-home test kits will be available for all undergraduate students next Wednesday. Heads up, though, because of this activity, there will be reduced hours for in-person testing at West Gym next week while the staff support the distribution of test kits.
With a new reminder system, with the real consequences for repeated failures to be tested and with the increased convenience of take-home test kits, we are anticipating another jump in compliance rates.
Students, we’re looking to you to keep it up and to help remind your friends to be tested regularly.
Of course, testing is only one of the three fundamental mechanisms that help keep our community safe and operating with in-person activities. Testing, vaccination, and masking are all important. Together, your support for these three core approaches have made it possible for us to enjoy the in-person learning and in-person activities this term. Keep it up.
That said, we all look forward to a day when we can relax some of these policies. Here’s how we’re currently thinking about it. We’re going to keep those masks on, with regular testing, until we can achieve four key criteria.
First, comprehensive vaccination of our campus community. More on that in a moment. Second, vaccines available to children under 12, who are an important part of the extended Dartmouth family here in the Upper Valley. Third, consistently high compliance with regular testing, so we have solid data about the virus prevalence on campus and an early warning system if cases start to rise. And fourth, a continued low positivity rate and thus a low virus prevalence.
Right now, we’re doing well. My hope is that once our community’s children have had the opportunity to be vaccinated, and if the other conditions still hold, we will be able to relax our masking policy. As always, the whole purpose of these policies is to maintain the in-person learning and activities everyone so enjoys while also retaining a reasonably low probability of serious illness among those among us who are unable to be vaccinated. Hang in there.
Although we will likely need to mask up for a couple of weeks at the beginning of each term as students and faculty return from their travels across the country and around the world, I’m hopeful that we will then be able to live more naturally after that. Meanwhile, please do your part, wear your mask, and remind others to wear their masks when indoors.
Let me now turn to the other pillar of protection, vaccination.
As you may recall, back in June, Dartmouth required everyone in our community, students, faculty and staff, to be vaccinated or to obtain an approved exemption.
For students enrolled this fall, we’ve achieved nearly universal vaccination with a few exemptions. Faculty and staff are required to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 1 in order to retain access to the Dartmouth campus. We are aware that some have not yet complied perhaps because they are working remotely.
We are about to strengthen our vaccine mandate. All employees, regardless of location or their need to access the Dartmouth campus, must complete their vaccination sequence or obtain an approved exemption by Dec. 8.
We make this change in response to a new executive order issued by the federal government last month as part of its ongoing response to the COVID pandemic. The executive order requires institutions that do business with the federal government ensure that their personnel are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. That includes us at Dartmouth. Again, this means that our vaccine mandate now applies to all Dartmouth employees including those who have been approved for fully remote work or who work in locations far from our Hanover campus.
Every Dartmouth employee must now submit evidence of vaccination with a CDC approved COVID-19 vaccine, or be approved for a medical or religious waiver of this requirement through the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity—IDE—no later than Dec. 8. If you’re already vaccinated, it’s easy to upload a photo of your vaccination card. Just visit covid.dartmouth.edu and click on Vaccination and Testing. It takes just a few minutes. If you’re not yet vaccinated, I encourage you to start soon.
Vaccinations are readily available from pharmacies in the area and across the country. Keep in mind that the most common vaccinations require two shots, spaced three to four weeks apart. We will soon be contacting employees who have yet to comply with detailed information on the process and required documentation. We’re grateful for everyone’s cooperation in ensuring that we are doing everything we can to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, as well as to ensure the College’s compliance with this important federal mandate.
Now let’s turn our attention to two other health-related topics.
First, as flu season approaches, let me remind you of the importance of getting your annual flu shot. The flu shot will help protect you, your family, and your Dartmouth friends and colleagues. I am pleased to say that Student Health Services will be administering free flu vaccinations on campus through its Medi Quick stations, which are movable stations offering various health services. Medi Quick will be stationed at FOCO every Tuesday from noon to 1:30 p.m.
Students can also receive flu shots at the Dick’s House pharmacy, as well as one of our pop-up flu clinics that we will periodically hold this fall. We’ve already administered 1,200 flu shots to students and staff this year and hope this number grows as we try to keep our campus as safe and healthy as possible. Because Dick’s House will not be able to offer large-scale flu clinics as it has in the past, employees are encouraged to obtain a flu shot from their regular health provider or from area pharmacies, many of which offer free flu shots without an appointment.
Next, we continue to improve our mental health infrastructure for our students and staff. Dartmouth has partnered with one of our nation’s leaders in mental health, The Jed Foundation. The first year of this partnership offers an in-depth review of all of our policies and procedures related to mental health, as well as a baseline survey of students. This survey, which will be admitted through a program called Healthy Minds, measures such things as knowledge and attitudes about mental health, and the climate around mental health, and assesses campus climate around diversity and inclusion.
The results of the Healthy Minds survey will be critical to our ability to build the most effective strategic plan to create the best possible culture and resources around mental health.
We will be launching the Healthy Minds survey next Wednesday, Oct. 20. Students will be receiving an email from firstname.lastname@example.org—that’s as in University of Michigan—with their individual invitation and link to the survey. Watch for it. The survey will be open for four weeks.
As our community continues to grieve the loss of four students last year, this work is more important than ever. By taking 25 minutes to complete this survey, each student will be making a meaningful contribution to the mental health of our community. Students, please complete the survey and encourage all your friends to do so as well.
At this point in community conversations, I usually turn it over to Justin Anderson, our vice president for communications, for questions from him and the community. Today however, I’m going to turn the tables and ask Justin a question.
Justin, I recall you are co-chairing the Year of Connections with Ann Root Keith from the Advancement Division. What are the goals of this year-long series of events?
That’s right, Dave. Along with Ann Root Keith, the two of us are chairs of the Year of Connections committee. And this past weekend, the homecoming bonfire was really the spark that lit the fuse for a year of celebrations that we are calling Year of Connections. Now, what is the Year of Connections? Basically, the idea here is that we are fortunate enough finally, to be able to do a lot of the things on campus that we were not able to do last year during the first year of the pandemic, and we really want to celebrate that.
We want to be able to come together and connect and reconnect with members of the community that we were unable to see and be with over the course of the last year or so. And so we think that this is cause for celebration.
We know that this is going to happen naturally as more people come back onto campus, but what we want to do is to try to create even more opportunity to bring people together on campus to be together safely, while also ensuring that we maintain Dartmouth’s ability to continue to have in-person instruction and in-person gatherings of faculty and staff.
We think we can do both of these things and homecoming was the first example of us being able to do that. I know we have Cheryl Bascomb the VP for alumni relations, and she’ll talk a little bit more about homecoming, but that was a great example of what this community feels like when it’s filled with community members, from first-year students, to alums, to parents of students, to faculty and staff. It was a great weekend and we want to see more weekends like that.
Just to give you an idea of what else is coming. So later this month, we have the Fall Family Weekend, which we know is going to be a great event and we’re expecting a lot of people to return. Cheryl’s also going to talk about some of the big anniversary celebrations that will be happening this year. We’re also going to be redoing some of the things that we did last year that were quite popular. The light installation at the Bema, the fire pits and skating on Occom Pond. And the reason we said connections is because it doesn’t have to be in person. We want it to be in person as much as it can, but it can also be virtual.
There’s a number of digital events that will be happening, many of which are run by Advancement. Great issues and New perspectives, Short Talks and Big Ideas. So there’s lots of ways to plug into the community and get connected, stay connected, be reconnected. So I think it’s going to be a great year and we’re looking forward to it.
Yeah, me too.
So now Dave, you flipped the script on me, I’m going to go right back at you. The first question today from a viewer is about health, but it’s really not so much about health when it comes to COVID.
I’m sure you’ve been hearing, I know, I’ve been hearing about wait times at Dick’s House for just regular checkups in addition to mental health check-ins. But one of the questions that came in from a viewer. Can you speak to the fact that students are sometimes waiting up to two weeks to be seen at Dick’s House. When Dick’s House is not able to see students in a timely fashion, does Dartmouth assist students to be seen elsewhere perhaps to D-H or another urgent care or convenience care facility?
Yeah. Thanks Justin. That is an issue that I’ve been hearing about as well. Dick’s House has been facing all the usual challenges of student health, as well as COVID this year and it’s been keeping them quite busy. My understanding is that students can book appointments online or over the phone and that it does sometimes take, at least for routine visits up to two weeks to get an appointment. They do reserve, I understand, same day slots for students who are sick and need to be seen more urgently.
They do, of course, refer students to outside providers when that’s appropriate. I’m told that the students can call 646-9401 to talk to the scheduling assistant. And if they receive a busy signal, or it goes to voicemail, they’re encouraged to leave a message and to leave a callback number. Apparently, what happens sometimes is that students call and then they don’t leave a callback, and so the office is unable to connect with the student. We’re trying to also grow the staff. We’ve hired some new nurses and other health professionals for Dick’s House. There’s one starting at the end of this month, and a couple of other searches underway.
I think the challenge is that students are starting to experience the annual sniffles and what they call the “campus crud.” And so some of them are coming in and asking for a rapid COVID test, for which I’m very thankful, it’s a good move on their part, but that does mean that Dick’s House is busier than it would normally be.
Campus crud. Thank you for sharing that term with me, Dave. It explains why I’m not feeling quite perfect these days. I think I have a slight case of that myself.
So moving on to another hot topic. Housing. What is the latest, a viewer writes in, on our approach to housing and how are we ensuring that the housing crunch that we experienced at the start of fall term, which obviously there were extraordinary circumstances that … that led to that crunch, but nevertheless, how are we ensuring that that kind of crunch will never happen again or certainly not in a way that was quite as acute as it did this year. I know that there was an announcement earlier in the fall about renovations to Andres and Zimmerman, can you talk a little bit about that and how it fits into the larger housing strategy at Dartmouth?
Yeah. Good question. This is something that we’re working on all the time, and we can hear more from Mike Wooten in a few minutes about housing. I look at it in three parts. The first is the immediate term, next term, winter and spring. How are we going to manage the current batch of students as they come and go over the next two terms—next fall, when we have the arrival of the ’26s and so forth, and then beyond into the future.
So for next term and spring term, we’re watching very closely the numbers of students that are planning to be here and how we can fit them into the current housing stock, all of which will remain in service throughout this year. And then for next fall, we’re opening a brand new, more than 600-bed facility for graduate students out on the edge of town over by the medical center. That will provide a space for graduate students to live and open up … free-up a lot of the in-town space that undergraduates depend on. There’ll be more details on that.
That also gives us the opportunity to start renovations. I think I mentioned in a previous Community Conversations that we have a 15-year plan or so to renovate all the older dorms starting this summer with Andres and then continuing with Zimmerman soon thereafter. And in a rotating series of dorm renovations over the next decade and a half or so, we will refresh and renew all of the dorms that have been aging.
Dave, as provost, I know you make your fair share of difficult decisions, and sometimes those difficult decisions are not entirely popular. I put a recent decision in that category, and that was the decision to close the gym because of a continued lack of compliance when it comes to wearing masks. Can you talk a little bit about that decision and whether or not something like that may happen again.
Yeah, that was one of those difficult decisions, certainly. And it was in very close consultation with athletics, of course, who manages the gym, and the staff who operate the gym and the gym facilities. And unfortunately, they were hearing and seeing, over many weeks, a serious problem with people, primarily students who were using the gym for recreational purposes, not wearing their masks.
And so despite repeated attempts to encourage and require those users to wear their masks while recreating in the gym, it just wasn’t working. And so we alerted to this possibility two weeks ago at Community Conversations, when Peter Roby, director of athletics, was a guest here on Community Conversations. He said, basically, “We’re looking for this to improve, and if it doesn’t, we’ll probably close the gym for the day.” And so we did, and it wasn’t popular. As you can imagine, there are a lot of people who use the gym. And a lot of them are actually compliant with masking, and were not happy that they were not able to use the gym that day.
We’re looking now to see if that message got through and people are now wearing their masks when they’re supposed to. I think there’s a possibility that the athletics may decide with our support to close the gym again if we don’t see better behavior.
One of the things that I found most frustrating about that circumstance were the staff who were quite frustrated by their experience in asking people politely to wear masks, and hearing responses that were quite rude, to the point where one student worker was fed up and quit. He said, “I just can’t deal with this anymore. It’s not worth it. This job is not worth it to put up with the rude people who won’t wear their masks.” And that’s not acceptable, and so I hope this message gets through. I’m sorry for those who found it inconvenient, but it is important to wear masks in the gym. It is required, and we expect people to comply.
Thanks for that, Dave. That’s all for me for right now, so why don’t we introduce our guests?
Sure. So why don’t we start with Cheryl Bascomb, the vice president for alumni relations, who is here today to talk about the Year of Connections, as you mentioned? But first, Cheryl, how did homecoming go? I was there for the bonfire. It was a really wonderful evening, and very exciting.
It was fabulous. I really was surprised at how emotional it felt. But there we were for the first time in two years, and we had thousands of people from the community, alumni, students, everybody, and looking out over that sea, and being able to actually have the class of ’25 and ’24 participate in this iconic Dartmouth ritual was just fabulous. And it was fun for us as alumni, and people in alumni relations too, to watch how happy the students were. And that made us happy, so it was just wonderful. And we were so fortunate to be able to do what we had planned to do all weekend long, outdoors in great weather. So the safety of the events and having that many people together was really at a high.
Yeah, it was fabulous. I understand also that the football team pulled out a win in overtime against Yale, and it remains undefeated to this day, which is fantastic.
And that’s true of the women’s rugby team as well. They won their game 70, that’s right, 7 0, to nothing.
Nice, very good. Awesome, that’s great. So you mentioned, or I should say Justin mentioned, early on that part of our goal with the Year of Connections is also to enable people who can’t come or don’t feel comfortable coming home, as it were, to the Dartmouth campus to still remain engaged through Zoom and other virtual mechanisms. How is your group thinking about that and hoping to engage alumni and others throughout the year?
Well, one of the things we learned in this past 21 months is that we are able to get and reach people who haven’t always been able to connect to Dartmouth, or come to Hanover, or participate in a live event that’s local to where they live. We have found that over 18,000, in this last year alone, 18,000 alumni joined us for a virtual event or program. And we don’t want to lose that. We want to make sure people have the opportunity to connect. So I think the name of this year, this Year of Connections, really covers that whole live and virtual option. And frankly, that’s what we’re finding in surveys. Our alumni are asking for things they can do in their own time zone. Our whole Dartmouth community wants to be able to participate, understand the Dartmouth of today, hear from the faculty in the presentations we often do, that have in the past been only live.
So not only do we have Green Key and winter carnival, and all other kinds of things happening live, but we’ll have a component that is virtual so people can participate in some way, or connect in some way, to many of the events we’ll be having on campus. A good example for homecoming was we had about 800 people join us for the two virtual events we held navigating college admissions, and a wonderful back-to-class talk by Professor Mary Coffey about the Orozco murals. So there’s an appetite for connection to Dartmouth with each other that live events can’t fully satisfy. And now that we know how to do things virtually.
That’s great. I appreciate that myself, as a parent, as a faculty member, as an alum. I was living in Europe in early 2020, and was able to participate in Dartmouth events that I could not possibly have joined in person, so I really appreciate that. It’s fantastic to see. There’s more to talk about, but let me switch over to Mike for a minute and resume our conversation about housing. As Justin mentioned, the housing situation this fall was challenging, shall we say, and I just want to thank you and your whole team for the creative solutions that enabled us to fit as many possible students as we could into campus housing. Given all that, how are things going this fall?
Yeah, thanks for that, Dave. And the summer, the spring, we know that there was a good amount of anxiety, a little anxiety related to what was the crunch for housing. Going from the previous year into a year in which all of our students were back certainly throttled many of our resources on campus, and we felt that in our housing stock. The good news was that by the end of the summer, we were in fact able to make our way entirely through the waitlist. It’s worth noting that there were students, though, that opted for opportunities to live in town and elsewhere that they probably would not have done otherwise. And so I don’t want to paint too rosy a picture there. We housed everyone. People that wanted a bed in the community or on campus got it, but it was a tough process.
I think with that said, we’re so glad to have everyone back. It is a full campus. I don’t think you can walk across campus and not feel that. That energy is amazing. That energy in the residence halls is fun, but it’s full. You can’t walk through ’53 Commons, FoCo. You can’t walk across the Green. It’s so wonderful to have people back, but it’s a full time. So people are here, we’re excited that they’re here, but it comes with ... It’s a new, fresh start after 18 months of having a bit of a different environment here, and so it’s stretching our resources. It’s stretching people’s capacity, but we’re glad that people are housed.
Yeah, I’m glad it worked out, and it’s good to hear that things are so enthusiastic and there’s such high energy. One of the questions I was wondering about was the house communities, and what role they are playing in helping reboot, if you will, the on-campus residential experience.
Yeah. So the house professors, the house teams, these are resident fellows, the UGAs, the assistant directors, and the house professors. They have been planning for the return of all of our students. They were planning all summer, and it was wonderful. It’s wonderful to have folks back. Really, the program is driven by students, and so the house teams have worked hard to create a pallet of opportunities of involvement. It started really with house dinners at President Hanlon’s house, which were wonderful. School House has an amazing year-long anti-racism program where they’re watching HBO’s Watchmen series. We think that’s just an amazing program, an example of many of the cool things happening in the houses. This time of year, we’re taking trips to the Cedar Circle Farms. We have 250 students signed up for a pumpkin-carving contest that happens this week.
Dave, I think as a member of, you’re an honorary member of all houses, but I know that you’re a member of West House. You may in fact need to carve a pumpkin for West House.
But Hop events, it goes on and on. There are lots of amazing hikes up Gile, dinners with Montgomery Fellows. It’s amazing, really, the amount of opportunities that the houses provide for our students to both meet each other, to meet faculty, to meet our amazing staff, and then the amazing resources already at the college. Hop events, Montgomery Fellows, trips around the region to do cool stuff, especially this time of the year, which is arguably maybe the most beautiful time to live in the Upper Valley.
Yeah, clearly. Absolutely. That’s great to hear. Thanks. Thanks, Mike. Now, Justin, back to you for a few more questions.
Yeah. I have a question for Cheryl, but I think Mike gave us a good idea for some future content. Last year, we got Joe Helble on skates. I think we need to get video of you carving a pumpkin, so I look forward to that. Cheryl, a question for you. I know that Alumni Council is happening this week, and I also know that it’s virtual. And so in sort of the context of some of your remarks to Dave earlier, how is it going, having Alumni Council meet virtually? And how do you approach these meetings? And how do they work better, and what do you lose, basically? What are the pros? What are the cons?
The council meetings actually begin today. Of course, it’s been quite a busy run-up working with the executive committee and my staff and everybody else to make sure that the meetings that we hold for the whole council come off smoothly for the rest of this week. But there are a lot of pros to meeting virtually. We did experience two council meetings virtually because of the fact that everyone was meeting virtually and doing only virtual things. We are disappointed not to see council members on campus, not to have them see how campus is looking and how it’s thriving, and as Mike pointed out, the amount of really positive energy and the vibe here right now. We hope to share that as best we can virtually. But one of the positives, certainly, is that we are able to be more flexible with our information with when the committees meet and how they meet, because it’s virtual and the schedules can be expanded a little bit.
So when we have the councilors here in the fall and the spring, we can only do things with them here in the fall and the spring. We’ve had a couple of meetings between, virtual meetings that allow us the opportunity to share information with the councilors that we would otherwise either have to do in written format in the past, or wait until it was here, but we can do it in a more timely way. We’ve also worked very hard to try and have some opportunities for the councilors to interact what we call socially on Zoom, so that they get to know each other and have a little bit of fun doing so, because we lose that without being able to be here and have the time, we lose that without being able to be here and have the time to walk around Occom Pond, or to interact over a meal, or to get together at the end of the day in Pine.
But certainly having that social piece is not just for the fun of it, although that’s wonderful, it’s also because we have a lot of business that we have to do as the group of alumni who really represent the classes, the clubs, and the affinity groups. And we want to make sure that that interaction and that exchange is helpful and respectful. And I think, I know, that having the ability to know and understand your colleagues allows people to have very good conversations and be able to disagree in ways that are productive.
Mike, if I could go over to you, you mentioned in your last response to the question from Dave that you were stretching resources, which I understand has been something that you’ve had to deal with throughout the course of this academic year for sure. In that context, I wonder if you could talk about the isolation space?
Last year, we set aside a lot of isolation space, we were able to do so. And we were never at capacity. This year, different circumstances, a lot of people on campus, we had much less isolation space, yet we were concerned that we might need more of it. So how has it been going this year with the space that we have devoted for isolation of COVID or COVID-suspected cases? How’s that going? And what does it look like moving forward?
Yeah. So Justin, I think you highlight well the trade-offs that a campus like ours faces during the year that we’ve had, the need to keep our community safe, to have places where they can isolate on campus if they contract the virus. And in fact, a year that was the fullest by all measures that we’ve ever had of returning students to our community.
So this trade-off is difficult, which leads well into what Dave, Provost Kotz, said earlier about the long-term strategies to renovate and to build new beds. I mean, this is all part of the same soup, if you will, in some ways. The good news is, as Provost Kotz said earlier, we’ve not had as many students as we could have had test positive for the virus. And so we have some opportunities for isolation that we’ve set aside on a grander scale that started really at the beginning of the fall that we’ve not had to use. For the students that have tested positive, we had set some spaces on campus that are not in the residence halls, but are on campus, more apartment-style spaces in which we’ve been able to isolate our students who have contracted the virus for their isolation routine with us.
So that’s worked for us up until now. I think this also feeds back into some things I already said, it’s just so critical that we continue to test, that students continue to wear their masks so that we can be together on campus and not have to activate some of the larger spaces that were in fact in preparation for the year set aside that we’ve not had to use yet, I’m talking about the Boss Tennis Center, and instead we’ve not used those spaces, but we have been able to isolate students in apartment-style living on campus, and that’s worked for us up until now.
Cheryl, I’m going to go back to you for one more question, and then I will throw it back to Dave. I mentioned earlier, when I was talking about Year of Connections, that we have three big anniversaries this year, which is incredible timing. We have 50 years of co-education, 50 years of BADA (Black Alumni at Dartmouth), and 50 years of Native American programs.
So each of those in its own right merits a celebration, and together, it just sort of consolidates the excitement about these three individual entities and their importance for the community. So how are you thinking about each of these anniversaries, and how does it fit into Year of Connections?
Sure. And just to be clear, the calendar year 2022, is really when these 50th anniversaries are, and they’re all very different. Our celebration of coeducation actually kicks off on Nov. 9 with a session that marks the trustees’ decision in November 50 years ago, that said Dartmouth will be a coeducational institution.
So we have our three female board of trustee leaders, Susan Dentzer, Laurel Ritchie, and Liz Lempres, talking about that decision and how that has affected them personally, as well as what it means to have been a leader over the span of that 50 years, right up through today. So we hope people will join us for that.
But the bulk of our celebration of these three anniversaries will be in 2022. And they are going to be, there are going to be events and programs associated with each one. But the most important thing from these anniversaries is that we in Alumni Relations are really going to be telling stories about alumni in each of these three communities, and how important they are to both the institution and to the fabric of Dartmouth and to the alumni body.
So we will be having programs for alumni, and we will be amplifying and making accessible many of the programs that are going to be happening both organically and through the Native American Program, and Native American and Indigenous Studies pieces, through the Hop, through the exhibits at the Hood and the library. So, so much will be happening, and it’s so important for us to celebrate these communities and their value and importance to the institution.
Thanks, Cheryl. And thanks for your time today, and taking your questions from me. And likewise, Mike, I really appreciate you being here and taking my questions. I’m going to go back to Dave for a final word, or allow him to ask a question or two before we say goodbye.
Well thanks, Justin. I just have one more question, and that’s for Cheryl. Cheryl, how can alumni be aware of all the cool events that are coming up this year? Is there a webpage they can check? Can they subscribe to some sort of mailing list of both the in-person and virtual events? How do they stay in touch?
Absolutely. Thank you for that softball. There is the Dartmouth Alumni Website with the alumni engagement calendar, which lists not only things that we in Alumni Relations or advancement are providing, but also many of the things that they can join on campus virtually from some of our campus partners, Rocky, Dickey, for example. So there’s some really rich programs and opportunities to engage and connect.
I would also encourage people to consider how they connect in their local area, whether it’s the club to re-engage with classes. And I know that my colleagues, and probably you and Justin, although I don’t know how often you’ve heard it Mike, but my directive, my challenge to all of us is to bring people off the sidelines.
There are a lot of alumni who haven’t had the opportunity to connect, either virtually or in person, and reach out to somebody. Reach out to somebody you remember, reach out to somebody who you know has a student going to Dartmouth and they may not know how to connect with the community.
I challenge all of us who are well-connected and well engaged to reach out and bring them in. We need all the alumni voices. We need our whole Dartmouth global community to participate and to stay connected with the college and each other. I mean, we’ve seen how hard it is to do it in these little boxes. So connect when you can.
That’s great. Thanks Cheryl, I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a great year. Well, many thanks to Mike and Cheryl for joining us today, and as always to Justin Anderson, for helping to organize Community Conversations.
I want to close by thanking everyone for their persistence and patience this fall. It has been so exciting to see everyone back in Hanover, in the classroom, in the labs, on the playing field; all of this has been possible and remains possible because of you, because you bring your energy and enthusiasm to the campus, because you bring your best efforts to everything you do, and because you appreciate the people who make up the extended Dartmouth community; we’re all in this together. It’s been a great fall so far, and it looks like a great year ahead.
Thank you for making Dartmouth Dartmouth, and for doing your part to keep the community safe and healthy. See you in a few weeks