Good afternoon everyone and welcome to our 29th Community Conversation, addressing planning, response, and operations in the time of COVID-19. I’m Joe Helble, the provost of Dartmouth College, joining you as always from the Star Instructional Studio in Berry Library on what today is a very warm and summer-like Wednesday afternoon, May 26, 2021.
I’m joined today as always by Justin Anderson, our vice-president (of) communications, from another studio here on campus. And Justin and I are joined today by three guests, two of whom are familiar and frequent visitors to Community Conversations and one who is with us for the first time. Our guests are Dr. Lisa Adams MD, a professor in the Geisel School of Medicine, the co-chair of Dartmouth’s COVID-19 task force, and a specialist in the care and treatment of infectious disease. Lisa is also a 1990 graduate of Dartmouth’s school of medicine. Kathryn Lively, the dean of the College and a professor of sociology, who is in her 19th year as a member of the Dartmouth faculty, and a frequent contributor to Community Conversations.
And finally, with us for the first time today is Janice McCabe, an associate professor of sociology, who is in her ninth year on the Dartmouth faculty, and since July of 2017, the house professor for Dartmouth’s Allen House community. Today we’ll follow our regular format, brief campus update, live Q&A moderated by Justin, a conversation with Lisa, Kathryn, and Janice on a range of topics as we look ahead to summer and fall, and then ending with an opportunity for them to hear from you and answer your questions directly. Let me begin as we often have these past few months with our regular update on surveillance testing and on vaccination progress before I provide some updates regarding the months ahead. First at Dartmouth on the testing front, we continue to have very good news to report. We have had zero positive student tests in the past nine days and a total of only two in the past two weeks.
Overall, these past two weeks we have conducted 15,104 tests, a level that remained steady this term at approximately 7,500 tests per week, and we have had a total of five positives. This gives us an overall positivity of 0.03% for that period, our lowest level of 2021. And one of the lowest we have seen in fact since the very beginning of surveillance testing last July. For calendar year 2021, our overall positivity for students and employees combined, meaning for all of our testing is now down to 0.20%. And since the start of testing on July 1, 2020, we have as of yesterday conducted 231,915 tests with a total of 405 positives and an overall positivity of 0.17%. Each of these percentages that I cited overall since the start of testing, overall since the start of 2021, and overall for the past two-week period reflects a decrease as compared to their levels two weeks ago. Vaccination progress, good weather and the ability to spend more time outdoors. And yes, of course continuing to be attentive to masking and distancing and the measures that remain in place.
All of these are no doubt contributing to this continuing downward trend. This is a trend that I hope will continue, a trend that I am optimistic will continue and a trend that if it does continue will enable us to remove some additional restrictions as we head into the summer. And so that’s my way of saying please be patient as we roll back restrictions in a stepwise fashion. We are doing this in such a way that is I acknowledge a little bit on the conservative side, but it has enabled us to continue to weather the storm fairly effectively, keep case counts low and with confidence begin to release some of our restrictions around operations as we head into the summer. We’re also seeing declining case counts nationally, regionally, and locally.
And after more than a year of this global pandemic, that is very welcome news for our area. For our Ivy peers who are reporting data, their own downward trends continue. For the year 2021, all of our Ivy peers now lie between 0.10 and 0.58% positivity. With the upper bound on that range down from 0.61% two weeks ago, five of the eight institutions lie in a narrow band between 0.10 and 0.20% for 2021 based on data reported and compiled earlier this week. Similarly our NESCAC peers are currently reporting positivity ranges from 0.03 to 0.25% for calendar 2021. Each value again a slight decrease from two weeks ago. And finally, our local state university peers, the University of Vermont and the University of New Hampshire are at 0.28 and 0.46% respectively for all of 2021, also down from their levels two weeks ago. Locally the news also remains positive.
Case counts in New Hampshire and Vermont continue to fall and the two states remain among the national leaders in the percentage of the population receiving at least one dose of the vaccine to date. According to today’s New York Times, 70%—7-0 % of all residents of Vermont and 65% of all residents of New Hampshire have received at least one dose putting Vermont first nationally and New Hampshire in the top 10 nationally. And both states include over 99% of the residents aged 65 and over having been vaccinated in each of those states with at least one dose. At Dartmouth, our on campus second-dose vaccination clinic for those who received the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine is scheduled for tomorrow, May 27. Everyone who is eligible should already have their appointment made at the time their first dose was given. A reminder, please that we ask all of you students and employees alike to upload your vaccination information as soon as you receive your second dose.
So, we can keep track of progress and use that as one gauge of moving towards more flexible campus operating conditions. Students as a reminder are asked to submit proof of vaccination via Dick’s house. And employees are asked to submit proof to Dartmouth’s occupational medicine provider Axiom https://dartgo.org/vax, all of which is on our Dartmouth COVID dashboard. Now although our dashboard does not designate someone as fully vaccinated until two weeks past their final dose, your information can be uploaded as soon as you receive your final dose. I would therefore encourage every one of you who is getting dose number two tomorrow to please use that 15-minute post vaccination waiting period as the ideal time to scan and upload the information from your vaccination card. Here at Dartmouth we are in fact continuing to make steady progress on the vaccination front. Two weeks ago the percentages of students and employees who are on or accessing campus and who had been fully vaccinated were in the 20 and 30% range.
We are now over 50% for both groups. Our rate of progress over the past two weeks that I hope will continue as we push towards 70% and beyond. Geisel remains leader among graduate and professional programs and Tuck remains a leader in our non-medical student community with over 69% of Tuck students who are enrolled on campus this term having been vaccinated. So, I’ll say again what I said before, kudos to those in the Tuck and Geisel community for getting vaccinated and uploading their information and undergraduate student communities I know you can do this and catch up to them quickly. Please get vaccinated and upload that information as soon as possible. It helps us remove restrictions and make operating decisions that benefit the entire campus.
All undergraduate, graduate, and professional school students planning to enroll for the 2021 and 2022 academic year, please remember that as per the email you received yesterday from Dr. Mark Reid, the director of Dartmouth College Health Service, the deadline to submit evidence of at least a first dose or to complete a medical or religious exemption waiver is June 30, 2021, not that far down the road. Documentation showing that you are fully vaccinated meaning all doses plus a 14-day subsequent-to-vaccination period will be required two weeks before you arrive on campus in July, August, or September, depending upon the start date of your particular fall term. And if you have already submitted documentation to the Dartmouth College Health Service, there is no need to resubmit your documents.
For all members of our community, employees, and students alike, this is a reminder that those who have gotten vaccinated and uploaded their confirmation will benefit from a reduced surveillance testing regimen of only one time per week. And starting July 1, those of you who have been vaccinated will be required to undergo surveillance testing at a further reduced frequency of just once per month.
Weekly testing will remain an option for any vaccinated individuals who choose to be tested more frequently. But to be clear, the required frequency will be reduced to once per month for vaccinated individuals. Unvaccinated individuals will continue to be tested twice per week or eight times per month. In addition, Dartmouth’s temperature and self-assessment or TSA, which has been used to guide the frequency of required testing since last summer will sunset on July 1. Please continue to complete your TSA through June 30 but on July 1 on that date that practice is expected to end. Details will be provided in subsequent emails and on our testing website over the course of June. But this is again a reduced restriction, a relaxation of process and protocol that we are comfortable putting in place given the progression of vaccination on our campus. Please let’s continue the momentum and ensure that we can in fact reduce the TSA requirement or eliminate the TSA requirement on July 1.
Now, turning to current campus operations before we end, I have a few brief updates to announce. First, I have what I hope will be some welcome news as we approach the end of undergraduate term and look ahead to final exams. Based on input and questions and requests we’ve gotten from many students, I’m pleased to announce that beginning tomorrow, Thursday, May 27, the Novak Café and the 1902 Room will again be available for 24-hour study. In addition, we will also be opening effective tomorrow Baker Library’s Reiss Hall for 24-hour study with after-hours access granted from the 1902 Room.
Both the library and the dining service’s staff are eager to welcome students back to those spaces. But we ask, of course, that all of those using the spaces continue to comply with Dartmouth’s COVID practices and policies, including masking and social distancing. We’re able to do this earlier than planned because of our continuing low case counts and because of continuing progress in vaccination. As I said just a moment ago, please, please keep it up so we can keep these freedoms in place and so we can continue to remove additional operating restrictions in the weeks and months ahead as we enter summer term and look ahead to fall.
In addition, in terms of additional changes beginning June 1, we’ll be removing some additional restrictions related to research access. Specifically undergraduate researchers who have registered or otherwise approved for access to campus buildings will be able to arrange research projects directly with their proposed supervisors and this will continue throughout summer term. Thayer and Arts and Sciences students have been offered limited in person research opportunities this full year, beginning June 1, expanded access will apply to the entire campus meaning Geisel and Tuck in-person restrictions that were in place because of capacity limits this past year will be lifted.
More information will be posted on the UGAR website by next Tuesday, June 1. Within laboratories themselves, graduate and postdoctoral research laboratories we will be advancing to phase four of our research operating protocol in which campus wide requirements will apply, including the specific need to maintain 3 feet of spacing and ideally 6 feet wherever possible, but more flexibility in other areas.
There’s the usual but important caveat that all research activities must continue to comport with campus wide health and safety protocols and lab specific requirements. And we ask simply that students consult with their PI and remain mindful of changes and stay up to date. All principal investigators will receive details in an email outlining phase four conditions within the next week. Putting all of this information together sequentially with information announced two weeks ago, campus operations these next few will progress as follows.
First, effective last Friday, indoor distancing requirements were reduced to 3 feet for some activities. Eating, exercising and performance still require 6 feet. But as we said in the supporting our community email message that President Hanlon and campus leadership sent to the Dartmouth community Friday afternoon, a reduction of the indoor separation distance to 3 feet for some activities mean specifically that students living on campus can comfortably host two guests who also reside on campus in their dorm rooms.
Effective tomorrow as I just announced Novak Café, Reiss Hall, and the 1902 Room will be open 24 hours per day. And that will persist through the balance of spring term. Effective June 1, undergraduate students who are approved to be on campus will be able to arrange on campus research projects with all of Dartmouth faculties. Restrictions that have been in place in some areas as I said because of capacity limits are being removed. Also, effective June 1 laboratory protocols will move to more flexible phase four of operations also effective June 1. Overall, we anticipate moving to the less limited or dark green access level in our five-phase plan that is posted on our COVID website. This will begin to increase the number of employees on campus, and I expect you will start to see and feel a difference by mid to late June.
Students, as a reminder are asked to submit vaccination information by June 30. And on July 1, the required frequency of surveillance testing for vaccinated individuals will be reduced once again to one time per month. And beginning July 1, for all, we anticipate that the daily TSA will not be required for anyone. Unvaccinated individuals will, as I announced, continue to participate in twice per week surveillance testing even after July 1.
And as announced two weeks ago, we expect that starting on Aug. 1, a transition to the full access or blue colored phase of campus operations will occur with details to be posted on the on-campus dash life page of covid.dartmouth.edu. On the travel front, the task force working group that oversees travel has been working on policy and language that will allow greater ability for international travel to select destinations to begin starting fall term and will begin to permit group travel, including alumni program travel under some conditions, also starting fall term. Details of these revised travel policies will be announced within the coming few weeks. And again, these changes will take effect beginning fall term.
I’m sharing this with you now in the spirit of letting the community know the direction we’re heading and what the task force is working on. Please be patient as they work through important details. But the bottom line is that more flexibility lies ahead in our near future and as we look ahead to fall term in residential education, once more. This is a very encouraging sign.
Next, several members of our faculty have asked whether there are additional ways they can gather in small groups with their students, particularly with those who are about to graduate this spring. The answer is yes, but town and campus policies need to be followed. The simplified guidelines from Dartmouth are, for all events, whether indoors or outdoors, for gatherings of nine people or less, no permission is needed. But indoors gatherings need to be in a space approved for a group of that size. For gatherings of between 10 to 25, these need to be scheduled and approved, but approval is fairly straight-forward so long as inappropriate space is being used.
So, what you can infer from this is for both of these categories, outdoor gatherings are preferred and are much easier to manage and seek approval for where approval is needed. For all gatherings, everyone is asked to remain masked and 3 feet apart unless eating and everyone is asked to remain 6 feet apart if eating or drinking, and outdoors is strongly recommended for any locations where food or drink is served.
And finally, Tuesdays Together, now on Thursdays, will be held tomorrow the final time for the current spring term. Specifically, tomorrow, Thursday, May 27 we will host our third opportunity for the Dartmouth campus community to stop by tables outdoors, grab a snack, this time from Umpleby’s, and say hello to other staff other faculty and other students. Locations are the same on the Collis porch, Anonymous Hall lawn on or at the Gold Coast. And the hours are 1 to 2 p.m., and the weather forecast suggests it’s going to be a beautiful afternoon.
Please stop by and say hello. I will again be at one of the tables or floating between the three locations. Several of my colleagues will also be out on campus and we would greatly enjoy the chance to see you in person, even for just a few minutes. It is that sense of connection, even if we’re together just for a few words or a few moments, that for me does so much to define this incredible Dartmouth community.
It’s that sense of connection that I saw, and I also felt so strongly last night on the Green, as I looked around me at the candles silently and beautifully lit in remembrance of those we have lost. And I listened to the moving words of students who were vividly portraying four vibrant members of our community who left us this year, far, far, too soon.
This has been a year that none of us wished for, a year that none of us imagined, and a year that none of us will forget. Yet you have all inspired me and inspired all of us in leadership positions with how all of you, students, staff, faculty, community members, and alumni have been here for one another and that was so vividly on display last night.
Thank you for encouraging, supporting, and being there for one another. It matters and it’s what sustains this community through good times and challenging times alike. Thank you. Justin, over to you for any questions.
Thank you, Joe. And thank you for those thoughtful remarks about the vigil last night. I too was there and I went there to support our students. I felt like I wanted to be there for them. And as I was listening to the remarks that you referred to, I found myself totally overwhelmed and just so glad to have had the chance to be there and be a part of the community. As, as you said, I encourage folks when they can, when you can, to get and be with one another safely.
Joe, you mentioned Thursdays Together later this week. If you are in town, if you are on campus and you can, and you can find the time to do so, I encourage you to do so. Being together on this campus matters. It means something and it helps all of us. It helps people that you don’t even know it’s helping. So I really encourage you all, if you can, if you feel comfortable to take Joe’s words to heart and come out to campus and be together. It was a moving experience last night and I look forward to being able to do that with increasing frequency.
I’m going to dive into questions now. Joe, I would say that today, the most popular question is about housing in the fall. There is a lot of concern being expressed about housing for the ’23s in the fall. I guess what I would ask, to sort of sum up all of the questions which are all slightly different, what is the housing situation this fall? It seems like there’s a shortage based on all of the questions that are coming in. So what is the housing situation for the fall? Is this a COVID related problem and how are we, Dartmouth, addressing it?
Justin, that’s actually one of the questions I’ve been getting in my email inbox most frequently over the course of the past month. And the short answer is, in many ways, this is a COVID challenge. And it’s, as an engineer, what I would call a mass balance challenge. We have many students who want to be in residence this fall. We do not have a sufficient number of on-campus beds to support all of them. We have many, many on campus beds, but we don’t have a sufficient number to support all of them.
What’s different this year? What’s different is that we don’t have extensive off-campus programs running, so students who would normally be off in the fall or winter or spring are seeking to be here on campus. What’s different is we had students who took gap years or took part of this past year off because of the pandemic, wanting to be here on campus this fall.
And what’s different is, we strongly feel that it is very important that some of our classes, the incoming first year class, the ’25s, and also the ’24s, who have not had any terms of a true on-campus experience, be given opportunity to the extent possible to begin to form connections as a class and begin to be able to experience what we consider a true Dartmouth residential experience.
So, what does that all mean? It means that we are working through the problem right now, we have put queries out to our student community to try and get a response and learn how many are intending to, hoping to, live on campus this fall. We will know more about that in the coming weeks. And then we will begin to make difficult decisions and convey availability of housing to members of different classes accordingly. Here, I’m going to ask for students and their parents to be patient. Here, I’m going to ask for students and their parents to be understanding.
This has been, I’ve said this so often and it almost feels cliche but it’s absolutely true, this has been such an extraordinarily difficult year and challenge for every member of our community. And I know that every class can rightly say this was harder for us than it was for others. What I’m asking is that everyone come together and think about the entire Dartmouth student community, and recognize that our staff here who were working on this are going to extraordinary lengths to try and come up with a system that is fairest for the largest number and to meet the needs of the greatest number of students and enable them to live on campus. It is not going to be perfect. We are doing what we can, and we will have more to say on this in the coming weeks and month.
Joe, over the course of the last couple of community conversations and emails from the task force that have been shared with the community, we’ve talked a lot about vaccinating students and mandatory vaccination for students in the fall. We’ve also talked about, it’s not yet mandatory for employees, for faculty and staff. Questions coming in about that, particularly as it relates to resuming regular operations sooner than the fall. So I guess I would ask the status of a mandatory vaccination for employees and how we’re thinking about that and what it could enable?
All right. So, Justin, that’s a question I get frequently as well. And in the spirit of how I’ve tried to approach these conversations throughout the course of the year, I hope I’ve been open about policies that are in progress and in process even before we get to the finish line, and this is one of those. I will say directly that I fully anticipate we are moving towards requiring vaccination for all employees. The details are being worked out. Details of policy for employees are very different than details of policy for students.
But it is our expectation, and in many ways intention, to be moving forward with a policy that requires vaccination with the same exemptions for that are the students, exemptions for medical and religious reasons, available to faculty. And to have that policy in place and an articulation of how that policy will be applied soon, certainly before the start of summer term. So, more to come on that, but all employees please should anticipate that that is the direction we are heading and is quite likely where we are going to land with final details work through and announced within the next month.
Joe, I have one more question before we get to our panelists. And I think it certainly could be a related question to the previous one, and that is about work from home. Rick Mills addressed the issue of working from home and that we are thinking about how we might do that moving forward. So how are we, if you can say, where does the thinking on that stand at the moment and would that be related to everyone being vaccinated? Or, is it separate? I mean, now that we’ve done remote working, is remote working going to be with us now forever in some fashion because we’ve proven, at least in some cases, it can work and work very well.
So, there are several questions embedded in that, Justin, and I’m going to be both an academic and an administrator at the same time. And say, for all of them, it depends. And so what does that mean? It means that ... So you asked, will remote working remain a part of our culture going forward? The answer is yes. But to what extent, to what degree? It is not going to be anywhere near as pervasive as it has been this past year when the vast majority of the campus was operating remotely.
In the fall, we expect that faculty will be in the laboratories, in the seminar rooms and in the classrooms with students. We are a residential educational institution, and we will be teaching and meeting our students in three dimensions here on campus and in-person.
Are there staff support functions that could be done remotely? Well, yes, there are and there are some where individual managers have been asked to think about whether there are elements of their office and their work that could continue to be done remotely, could be done equally efficiently by being done remotely and it enables us to start to think about our campus physical footprint in a different way. But are there many staff functions, particularly those that are interfacing with students in the student community or visitors or faculty in the classroom directly that need to be present on campus? Yes.
Now, even within that, there are variations, which is why I said it depends. Might some of those individuals need to be on campus three days a week, but not five days a week? It depends. And so we’re going to be going through an exercise over the course of the summer working with managers, surveying the campus, trying to get a sense of what can be done effectively and efficiently working from home, how frequently, what absolutely needs to be on campus part of the time, what absolutely needs to be on campus all the time.
So, I’d say this next year is going to be a year of experimentation and learning as we move back from complete remote operation to what I would say, largely residential operation, but with some hybridized functions. So I think it’s an exciting chance actually for the campus to learn and figure out a slightly different operating model going forward, but in the short term, and certainly for faculty who are engaging with our students in the lab and in the classroom, we will be back in person and on the campus.
Thank you for that question. It’s a question we should continue to ask over the course of the summer as this exercise goes forward, but that’s how we’re thinking about it right now and where we’re likely to land for the fall.
So, thank you, Justin. Why don’t I turn now and ask our guests to join us today. As I said, we have Dr. Lisa Adams MD, a professor in the Geisel School of Medicine, and of course the co-chair, for the past year plus, of our COVID-19 task force. Lisa, good to have you with us as always. Kathryn Lively, a professor of sociology, in her 19th year on the Dartmouth faculty and our dean of the College. Kathryn, great to see you again as always. And Janice McCabe, an associate professor of sociology, in her ninth year on the Dartmouth faculty and since July of 2017, the house professor for Dartmouth Allen House community. Happens to be the faculty or the student community that I’m associated with as a faculty member. Great to have you with us Janice for the first time. So welcome to all of you and thanks for taking your time.
So, Lisa, I’d like to start with you, actually. Given the questions Justin was just asking me about vaccination, it’s now my turn to put several of them to you. And as you and I have discussed, I’m getting questions fairly frequently on vaccination information that’s on the dashboard, specifically around what the denominator is and how we are counting numbers and percentages. The dashboard shows the absolute number of students and employees who’ve been vaccinated and then combined percentages in two categories, total Dartmouth and on-campus Dartmouth. Could you just tease that apart and help all of us understand what’s specifically in each category and what the denominator reflects in each area?
Absolutely. Thank you, Joe. It’s always nice to be back on all the Community Conversations as well. So let me see if I can try to explain these data. And I know we’ve had a lot of questions about how to interpret them correctly. So the vaccination table reflects the number of students, and that’s all students, so that’s undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, and the number of our faculty and staff who are both two weeks from their last dose of vaccine and have shared their vaccine documentation with us as you mentioned, either with Dartmouth College Health Services for student, or with Axiom Medical, our occupational medicine provider for employees.
Now, regarding the total versus the on campus community distinction, for students the total community consists of those that are enrolled as active students and the on-campus community consists of students who are either living in on-campus residence or living somewhere in the Upper Valley and have informed us of their local address. And that’s regardless of their registration status. The total faculty and staff category includes those that are employed full or part-time by Dartmouth and contracted staff who are onsite and in contact with our other employees and/or our students. So not included might be categories like emeriti faculty, or the Geisel faculty who are actually Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center employees. So the on campus faculty and staff category includes people that are in that Dartmouth employee group, but those who have been on campus in the past 30 days.
So, we recently made some edits to the dashboard so that the definitions are more clearly stated to help viewers interpret these data. And I just want to say too, I share your excitement that rates of vaccination coverage in both New Hampshire and Vermont and in our community, it’s great to see those rates increasing every day. I remind everyone we are getting so close.
Great. Thank you. Thank you, Lisa. That’s really helpful. So just if I can encapsulate it in summary really quickly, the student count reflects all students. So, it’s not just undergraduates, it’s undergraduates, Tuck, Thayer, Geisel, and Guarini combined. And those local are not just those living on campus, it’s all students who are in the area and able to access the campus. Perfect. Thank you for that clarification.
Kathryn, I’d like to turn to you now with another health-related question, but it’s a topic that you know well is top of mind for students and parents here, and frankly on most campuses, and that’s mental health support. Before I ask you about some of the next steps that were announced last week, can you talk about where we are with mental health and other support services for students?
Yeah, absolutely, Joe. And so first of all, thanks for having me back. And I think as we head into the last two weeks of the term, it’s particularly important because these things are ... it’s stressful in a normal year. And as we’ve talked about, this has been a very difficult and challenging year all along. And so it’s really important that we all take care of ourselves, particularly as we head into finals. So first of all, I just want to underscore that as it has been the case all year, students who need support either for themselves or who are concerned about a friend, and this also goes for parents who might be concerned about their own student, whether they’re enrolled on campus or remotely, have 24/7 access to counseling, health services, and dean-on-call services. And as we move into the final days of the term, the health service and undergraduate dean’s office are standing by to assist for a variety of reasons.
For those of you who are in the audience who received the communication from President Hanlon on Friday, the information for all of those services can be found in that email. We put them out on our Speaking of Dartmouth publications. And so if you need that information, that’s where you can find it. Where we are in terms of actually getting people in the door, urgent issues that are presented by students are seen on the same day. So, it’s single day service and so maybe if you’re having an issue that is not urgent, but you still want to see someone, there may be a one to four day wait for those types of things, which is still significantly better or shorter than you would find in the community. And so if it’s urgent, it’s day of. If it’s slightly problematic but could wait, maybe a one to four day wait.
As has been announced previously on Community Conversations and elsewhere, we were able to add five clinical staff over last 12 months, and we’ll be moving quickly to hire the three new positions, two of which will be counselors and the outreach coordinator that President Hanlon announced on Friday. And as of today, our staff includes 12 mental health counselors, a counseling case manager, which will allow us to work with students who have more significant challenges for a longer period of time than we’ve been able to do prior, as well as two prescribing psychiatrists. And I just want to end on the idea, on the fact, that our counseling office is actually the most diverse ... one of the most diverse offices on campus. We have counselors who are African American, Asian, Asian American, from several international backgrounds, and a number who identify as gay, lesbian, LGBT. So it’s a great office and we’ve been doing our best to make sure that we get the community introduced to them through our social media campaigns, as well as other types of outreach.
And Kathryn if I could just ask ... so that’s really helpful and comprehensive overview. If I could just ask you a quick follow-up question. You mentioned the additional positions we are going to be adding and searching for that were part of the announcement to campus that went out on Friday. Do you have any sense of timing? Is that sort of three months you anticipate to fill those so we’ll be ready for fall term? Is that the ideal? Or what’s your sense of how long it’ll take?
Well, that will definitely be the ideal. But actually the idea would be to have them before the fall term. So we’re in the midst of finalizing job descriptions and making sure that, again, trying to build on the deep expertise we have and to maximize areas of coverage, which has been a very effective strategy for us. And we’re hoping to get those job searches underway. So as soon as they cross your desk and you sign the dotted line we’ll be on our way.
I have been warned and I will sign quickly. Thank you, Kathryn. You have my commitment. Thank you, Kathryn. So, Janice, let me, and please, don’t any of you use that as a model to get resources approved. So Janice, let me turn to you now with a question just about your role as a house professor. But before I ask specific questions, you are, I believe, the first house professor that we’ve had as a guest with Community Conversations this year. So if you don’t mind, tell us a little bit about why you sought out this role, how you see it, and whether there’s anything that surprised you in your first four years as an Allen House professor.
Yeah. I’m happy to, and thanks for having me on today. Well, my interest in this is certainly related to the areas that I teach and research on. So I’m a sociology professor and a social psychologist, and I study any qualities and identities, particularly college students’ friendship networks. So I’m interested in how students create community on college campuses, on how their friendships support them academically and socially, how their friends get in the way academically and socially, and how it matters whether most of your friends know each other, whether they’re connected in multiple clusters or whether they’re mostly unconnected to each other. So in other words, how network structure impacts students’ social and academic success.
So, I was thinking a lot sociologically about the creation of community and friendship ties and what that means for students’ identities, particularly for students who experienced culture shock at the elite environment here, who weren’t finding their place on campus. And I also really enjoyed the interactions I was having with students in my classes and outside of my classes. It was really a highlight of my early years here. So when the house communities started, I really enjoyed my involvement as just a normal faculty affiliate. At the time I was in West House with the engagement there. And so when this opening came up, I saw this as an opportunity to be part of the creation of something really exciting and essential to the mission and aspirations of the College.
And about the surprise. I mean, there are lots of surprises along the way. I mean, one I think is just how quickly students have forgotten that this is a relatively new thing. So, the Class of 2020 was the first class to enter and graduate and enter into an existing house community. And last year when I was talking to ’22s or ’23s on campus, it was interesting how talking to them it seems like this had been around for a really long time. So it’s become really part of the fabric here.
All right. That’s great. Thanks. If you don’t mind, let me ask you a follow-up question before I turn back to Lisa and Kathryn. So that’s the background. This has been a pandemic year, not what you anticipated doing when you signed on as a house professor. How have you worked with students in your house community this year and helped them remain engaged and build community, particularly given that on so many different levels the pandemic’s been constraining what we’re able to do?
Yeah, it really shifted things because as a residential community, or I should say as six residential communities for the six houses, what we did before was actually only in person activities, often involving food and being in close physical community. So there’s really been a mix of things this past year in terms of in-person events and even in the fall canoeing. So it was smaller groups, that was working with outdoor programs or arts and crafts events, sometimes working with the Hood or more recently with the Hop. Of course small, masked, socially distanced events.
And then a mix of things that involved remote learning too, which involved other opportunities to bring students who were off campus in and to kind of, one of the challenges with the D-Plan is the change from term to term, particularly in terms of leadership of the house communities, the student executive boards. And so we’ve had some time to do more reflection and strategic planning that I think can get sidelined in a normal term. So in the fall, the house professors, all six of the house professors, met with IHC, which is the Inner House Council, a group of student leaders, to do some strategic thinking and to draft the joint statement on things. We’ve also been doing a lot more wellness related programming and social justice related programming to respond to student concerns and much of it’s student led too.
Right. Great. Thank you. Sounds like a very, very busy slate, made more challenging by students being scattered among many, many different locations. But it sounds like quite an, as I say, an engaging and extensive slate. So let me turn quickly to Lisa and then back to Kathryn. Two short questions I’m going to ask each of you to answer concisely if you can, so that we can then allow plenty of time for questions from our viewers.
So, Lisa, if you could just work with me and turn back to the vaccine topic. Vaccines are going to be required as we’ve announced, required for all new and returning students. And as I mentioned, we’d like to receive documentation by June 30. Not every student is presently in this country and has access to one of the U.S. vaccines. So what vaccinations are on the list of acceptable vaccines? Where can a student or employee for that matter find that information? And do you anticipate anything changing over the course of the next couple of months?
Yeah. So great question. So we’re following the CDC guidance on this point and we’ll accept the vaccines that have been assessed for quality, safety, and efficacy by the US FDA and/or the WHO. So as everyone knows, the FDA has issued emergency use authorization to the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. And then the WHO, the World Health Organization, has it’s equivalent, which is when it lists vaccines on what’s called their emergency use listing, or EUL. And so currently, in addition to the three EUA vaccines, there’s two versions of the AstraZeneca vaccines, and one vaccine produced in China, the Sinopharm vaccine, that are on the WHO list. So, we will accept the vaccines, again, approved for emergency use by FDA or the WHO and those, the WHO, in particular, is updating their list quite frequently.
And then I just want to mention too, that we will work with students who are not able to get vaccinated as quickly as possible to have them vaccinated, start their vaccination once they arrive. And the good news now is that vaccine availability is no longer a barrier. So there’s vaccines available in pharmacies, at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, soon in primary care offices, and we hope soon at Dick’s House as well. Dick’s House medical team is working on their application to be able to provide vaccine on site. And for information about, particularly about what Dick’s House is doing for its students, there’s the ... on the Dick’s House website, there’s the vax FAQ page that I would certainly direct students to.
But I just want to finish with some good news too. Thanks to Dr. Ginny Brack at Dick’s House, we just learned today that CVS in Hanover is offering COVID vaccines. That’s a great location. It’s about as close to being on campus as one can get. And I went online and looked, and they have ample open appointments for as soon as tomorrow. Just again, great news that vaccine availability is really here. It’s such welcome news.
It’s really great to hear, Lisa. And there’s no citizenship or residency requirement with that, right? If you’re in the area, you can make an appointment, walk in and get vaccinated immediately. Fabulous. Thanks very much.
Kathryn, let me turn to you quickly for the last question. Just thinking about the social and outdoor activities on campus this summer. We embraced winter during the winter term and put skating rinks on the Green. We’ve got all sorts of things happening now, including movies and a disc golf course and music. What’s in store for the summer? What can the students who are going to be here on summer term think about?
Well, you just told me not to make a resource grab, so I’m not going to make any promises I can’t keep.
But as always, we will continue to leverage summer, which is one of the most spectacular times of the year. I know we keep saying that we’re just blessed with four really beautiful times of the year here. Lots of outdoor activities. We will continue with the games. Canoeing, which Janice mentioned earlier. Lots of hiking’s trips to the lodge. Outdoor movies will continue. Outdoor student performances will continue. I believe The Hop may have some things in store already for their summer. We’ll be continuing to work with our students and our student organizations to support student generated events and ideas and plans. We’ll do that in student life. We’ll continue to do that within the house communities as well.
And for those who are enrolled remotely, we’ll continue to offer hybrid programming, virtual programming, club meetings, and other types of activities to maintain connections. Luckily, the majority of students taking classes will be here, but we want to make sure that no one falls through the cracks.
That’s great. Well, thank you, Kathryn. Sounds like a very busy and outdoor oriented summer as it should be. I look forward to it. Justin, why don’t we turn to you and see what we’re hearing from our viewers?
Thanks, Joe. And Kathryn, I think I’ll just start with you because there’s a lot of questions that are somewhat related to the response that you just gave about leveraging summer and about creating lots of outdoor activities and opportunities for students to gather and do things outside.
A question comes in about how is your staff creating opportunities to interact with students in person face to face? Interaction with student affairs staff, Dick’s House staff to interact with students individually, particularly students who may be suffering emotionally. Basically ensuring that there are ways to actually see people in person and make sure that they’re doing OK.
There’s always been someone available at Dick’s House. Part of the reason we weren’t able to necessarily see students face-to-face there is because we had to sort of keep that space sort of clear. And that’s why we moved to remote, and the offices are small and tiny and things like that. As we reach again, closer to herd immunity and the numbers keep going up, there’ll be more opportunities to do that.
Going back to the question that you had asked Joe earlier about remote work, the student affairs staff, we’re beginning to work with all of our teams to think about, when and how are we going to be coming on campus? Because obviously the HR deadline provided by Rick Mills for the majority of the campus, it’s not going to work for student affairs staff as we begin into gear up. And so many of our staff have already been on campus, some 24/7, which the office of residential life staff live on campus. And our student life staff, there have been multiple opportunities and they’re mostly here every day and gauging in-person. Office of outdoor programming, same thing.
And I’m happy to say that all of the student affairs professionals who recently completed the Dartmouth Cares, which is a suicide prevention training over the last 10 weeks. And so all of us are now well-equipped to recognize, to ask the right questions, to have those conversations.
Lisa, if I could jump over to you. A lot of questions about how we are following or whether we are following the science at this period when we’re getting lots of seemingly contradictory or at times contradictory information from the CDC and others. And one person asks specifically and rather pointedly, what is the science that justifies masking and distancing with a vaccinated person or people? How are we thinking about those various measures that we have been deploying over the course of the last couple of years? Well, the last year and few months. Seems like a couple of years, but it’s a year plus.
Indeed. No. And actually this, this is sort of a tension of how to take national, state, local guidance and see how it applies to our residential congregate living setting of a college campus. This is something that we have been working around these issues for really yes, for the last 15, 16 months.
Specifically, around the question around vaccinated individuals needing to mask or distance, we are doing our transition period, of course. We’re going from 6 foot distancing to 3 foot distancing. We expect them to follow to have no distancing. And that’s really trying to track with what percent of our population is vaccinated. It’s great that we’re just over 50% now. Is it going to be 80% by the end of June or July? Great. Maybe we’ll be able to accelerate that. But it’s been complicated by the fact that having a congregate living setting and seeing our vaccination rate coverage rate just starting to slowly creep up has been the part of it some of the issues we’ve had to balance out.
As well as I think everyone knows there’s local guidance, a local mask mandate that’s still persists in Hanover. Trying to, again, balance out how we’re going to be able to make our own policies and also obviously abide by the policies that exists for local and state guidance. We are constantly working that issue. And I really do think everything’s moving in the right direction. I think we’re going to be getting there very soon. And again, get vaccinated and submit your documentation.
Janice, if I could go over to you for a question. Over the course of Community Conversations, I’ve frequently gotten the question, what are you going to do? You being Dartmouth. What is Dartmouth going to do to really build a community at the start of next year when some degree of normalcy or normalcy returns? As a house professor, how do you think about the challenge or the opportunity I suppose, of building community with a group of Dartmouth students who are, in many cases coming back to Dartmouth to be together for the first time? We’re certainly coming back to Dartmouth for the first time in a while, and part of a new group of students. How are you thinking about building community within your house community?
That’s a great question. And I think one thing that’s really special about the house communities is that they’re a place for students to return to no matter what. It’s your community, regardless of whether you’ve participated very actively in the past, if you regularly attend events or go to the executive board meetings or whether you don’t do anything. It’s a home base, a place to return to in terms of both the physical spaces, if you’re living on campus and just the community events. It’s a place where you’re always welcome. And it’s also a really fantastic cross section of campus too, because students are randomly assigned to it before they come here. And it’s a great cross section, not just of the undergraduate students, but house communities have graduate and professional student members, staff members, faculty members. And so there are opportunities to cultivate and have all of those ties.
And I know, and I hear again and again from students, one reason that they choose Dartmouth over the other options, many options of where to go are those close connections with faculty and with more advanced students to and the house communities naturally have that embedded in them. And so, although, the ’24s have had a very unique introduction to campus, even those who have lived here, they’re still living with other members of their house community.
And so, I think, I was struck last night at the, you all had mentioned the vigil earlier about what strong ties students had been able to develop in this very difficult year too. And I think there’s real opportunities to recognize those strong ties and work on broadening them out, connecting them to other students because of the house communities and the way they’re set up with that residential continuity, they’ll come back in the fall and know some people in their residence hall. And that’s a really different experience than the Class of 2016 had, for example.
Kathryn, I’m looking at the clock and we are quickly running out of show. I’m going to go to you for one last question. A couple of weeks ago, we had Mike Wooten on, and I asked him about trips, which is a topic that comes up with great frequency and it continued to come up with great frequency today. I’m going to paraphrase Mike at the time. He stressed how important trips is as a Dartmouth institution and was committed to doing everything that he could to make it happen this year but couldn’t say for sure one way or the other what was going to happen with trips. I guess I’ll take the last question today to ask you whether or not you can give us an update on where things stand with trips?
Yes, I can say that there will be trips. I can’t tell you what they’re going to look like, but there’ll be more information to come. And so I want to, even though it’s a Dartmouth institution and it’s also a student led and student organized thing, and that’s one of the things that makes it so special and so magical among the community and why it’s partly so important.
And unfortunately, the pass off between one class of trips leaders because of COVID got disrupted. There was a year where we didn’t have them. And so there was a bubble in handing off the baton between one group to the next. I’m happy to report that we were able to hire the last trip directorate, which is something we normally wouldn’t do to come back and to help this leadership moment that we’re currently rebuilding from ground zero. And we’ve already started to accept applications to become trip leaders.
That said, we have a lot of work to do, including looking at a lot of our facilities that have been closed all year. No one’s been in any of them all year because of COVID. The planning hasn’t begun because we don’t have the students who are going to be doing the planning, but there will be trips in the fall. And there’ll be more information about that coming soon, I promise.
Well, thank you for that answer, Kathryn. That’s great to hear. And Janice and Lisa, thank you also for joining us today. Very interesting conversation as usual. Joe, I’m going to go back to you and I just want to make sure you heard Kathryn, yes, there will be trips. That’s what she said.
I’m going to repeat that actually. Thank you, Justin. Janice, thank you for joining us for the first time. Wonderful to hear what’s happening in the house communities and exciting to see how you’re beginning to think about the year ahead. Lisa, always helpful to have your insights on vaccination and student health. And Kathryn, the student experience and opportunities we’re providing for them hugely of interest to our community. Thank you.
And so, I think what I heard Justin is the take-away message from Kathryn is that yes, there will be trips. There are going to look different if you think about what trips looked like in their most recent incarnation the past few years. But they will have the elements of getting our students together and getting them out on trips of some form. Let’s be flexible. The exciting thing is we’re going to be able to have them this year when we didn’t a year ago. Students are working with Kathryn on planning, and we’ll have a lot more to say about that in a month. I think that’s great news for the incoming students.
Let me just end there and say, thank you. It’s actually nice to end on a note of optimism and hope. The increasing vaccination rates continue to give me great hope. The reduction in case counts continue to give me great hope. I continue to encourage all of you students and employees, upload that vaccination information so we can continue to move forward in reducing restrictions.
And in the spirit of conducting experiments and trying to do things a little bit more flexibly, I’m pleased to say that at our next Community Conversation in two weeks, weather permitting and technology permitting, we’re going to hope to, or attempt to broadcast to you from outdoors from Memorial Field, the site of the commencement exercises a few days later. Stay tuned. See if we’ll be able to pull that off. If not, we’ll be back from this studio. But regardless I look forward to seeing you again in two weeks. Stay healthy, stay well, everyone. And we’ll see you soon. Have a good afternoon.