May 27, 2020: Community Conversations Transcript

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Joseph Helble:

Good afternoon. Welcome, everyone, to our fifth community conversation addressing planning, response and operations at Dartmouth College in the time of COVID-19. I’m Joe Helble, Dartmouth College provost. I’m joining you as I do every Wednesday afternoon from the Starr Instructional Studio in Berry Library on the Dartmouth College campus on what is a warm and sunny 91-degree Fahrenheit day in Hanover, N.H.

I’m joined today by Justin Anderson, our vice president for communications who’s with us from another studio. We’ll field and moderate your questions during the discussion that follows as part of this conversation. I’m also joined by two leaders of the Dartmouth community, Hanlon, Dartmouth class of 1977 and the 18th president of Dartmouth College, who has been Dartmouth president since 2013. And Laurel Richie, a member of the Dartmouth class of 1981, a member of the board of trustees since 2012 and the chair of Dartmouth’s board since 2017.

As we do every week, I’ll provide a brief update on some of the operational decision-making that’s happening on campus to address the challenge imposed on us by COVID-19, take some questions moderated by Justin and then today we will spend the bulk of our time in conversation with President Hanlon and board Chair Richie.

This afternoon, there are three topics I’d like to cover briefly before we turn to Laurel and Phil. First is an update on phase one of the reopening of our research operations on campus, which began this week. I’d like to speak briefly on the end of term conferral of degrees ceremonies that were announced late last week. Then finally, end with a brief update on both our fall term and budgetary planning as we turn the page on the calendar to June and move toward decisions in each of those areas over the course of the next several weeks to a month.

First, let me start with an update on the return to campus research operations. Last week, vice provost for research, Dean Madden, announced Dartmouth’s plans to begin an incremental, gradual and controlled ramp-up of on-campus research activity with activity scheduled to resume yesterday, Tuesday, May 26 at 8 in the morning. Now let me just state for emphasis at this point in time, this ramp-up only applies to on-campus research operations. Individual office areas have not yet been given permission to open at this point in time. This is specifically a step-up in laboratory-based on-campus research activity coordinated by Environmental Health and Safety on the Dartmouth College campus as the first step in a phased reopening over the course of the summer.

I think it’s worth emphasizing again, the question that I’ve been asked several times, why research laboratories as the first area to open? Research laboratories, of course, are not just about the people who inhabit the space, but about the space and the equipment in the space itself. We all know that our on-campus laboratory-based research requires facilities, reagents and equipment to get specialized work done, work that is simply impossible to do when operating remotely in a home environment. By reopening our research laboratories, by beginning this phased reopening, we can begin to give our research community, our students, faculty and staff, starting with graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, access to the facilities that they need to conduct their sponsored research work and make progress in their scholarly activities.

By yesterday, the first day of the phased reopening, more than 100 laboratories had already met the necessary conditions to support the health and safety of the community, including very specifically completing training, completing scheduling documentation, asserting that they would adhere to safety protocols that they identified and developed in concert with EH&S and submitting to a daily health screening questionnaire.

In addition, over 15 core research analytical facilities and open concept laboratories have developed more complex operational plans, again with the advice, input and approval of Environmental Health and Safety. All of this happening with substantial effort and input from our facilities community, from the offices of procurement, human resources, IT and our custodial teams all working late last week to get us ready for the first step in the reopening yesterday.

Each lab yesterday that was allowed to reopen launched with just a single person. The update I received this morning indicated that everything went smoothly and according to plan, which is a wonderful thing to be able to report. Starting today, Wednesday, research groups that have fulfilled all the EH&S criteria, will be able to begin scheduling one person at a time in the laboratory rather than one person per day, one person at a time in shifts with gaps in between to permit disinfection before and after each shift daily. Again, as a reminder to all of those who are participating in this, you are able to do so with the expectation that there will be a daily check in at the monitoring site to report on individual health, a measure that is important in helping us track and protect community health and safety.

With phase one reopening underway, we continue to plan and anticipate and develop the conditions that will be necessary to begin phase two of our research ramp-up sometime later this summer. That will enable us with all appropriate caution and precaution in place to further expand on-campus research opportunities. That work is being overseen and led by the working group that is overseeing this as part of the task force.

Other working groups are also working to permit again on campus access to the libraries, to define conditions for field work and begin to define the needs of other academic research areas. We will endeavor to keep you updated on this activity through these conversations, which will continue most Wednesdays at least through the end of June, through emails to principal investigators, through additional details that’ll be provided by the school deans and through announcements including either from the taskforce or the vice provost for research as we move towards phase two of our research ramp-up.

The second item I wanted to comment on was the announced plans last week for our ceremonies in a little over a week’s time to mark the conferral of degrees at the end of this academic year. As President Hanlon announced late last week, plans for a virtual conferral ceremony on Sunday, June 14 were announced. Our activities associated with year end and the conferral of degrees begin with Geisel Class Day on Saturday, June 6, follow with the Thayer School, Tuck School and Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies virtual investiture ceremonies on Saturday, June 13. Then on Sunday, the 14th, of course, culminating in the conferral ceremony when Dartmouth will award all of its degrees to graduating students. Details are on the commencement 2020 webpage. We’ll have a chance to ask President Hanlon some questions about it later this afternoon.

Let me turn now to two topics that I know are on the minds of everyone, fall term academic planning, and of course, in some ways associated with fall term academic planning, budgetary planning for the upcoming fiscal year, FY21, that begins on July 1st of 2020. Now today let me state up front, I am not announcing or relaying any decisions. This is simply an update on the conversations that have been taking place largely by Zoom, in fact, entirely by Zoom over the past week, week and a half on these subjects. It’s a process update rather than an announcement of any specific decisions. Again, this is something we’re doing in an effort just to keep as many members of the community informed and aware as we possibly can of our progress towards making some important decisions and announcements in mid to late June.

Now on the subject of fall term, President Hanlon and I have said repeatedly that we are determined to bring students back, but that number will be the maximum number we can bring back safely and support this fall giving careful attention to community health. Some have asked why we aren’t bringing everyone back at once as a few other campuses have announced they plan to do. Some have also had a very different, and in fact, opposite view and asked why anyone is thinking about bringing students back for residential education at this point in time.

Well, let me state what I think to many of us may be apparent, but it certainly bears noting. What is it about residential education that is important to the Dartmouth educational experience? Certainly, we know our students in the presence of one another and in the presence of dedicated faculty and staff learn from one another. They learn from one another in casual conversation. They learn from one another through the spontaneity of interaction that happens, that only happens in a committed and dedicated way when they are questioning one another together in one space. They learn through the random encounters that lead to new intellectual questions.

As I’ve said in the past, for many of us who are faculty, it’s very much like the conversations we have in the hallways of a professional society meeting. We may go to hear the presentations, but it’s the conversations with colleagues in between sessions where some of the best ideas originate. That is certainly true for the interactions our students have with one another and with us. The place itself inspires all of us who’ve spent time here in Hanover know and appreciate that. And our facilities themselves, the buildings, but the labs, the studios, machine shops, performance spaces, as I’ve said in the past, it is these spaces that help make a different kind of learning available.

As we think about reopening for the fall and the upcoming academic year, while we learn from the steps that other institutions are taking, as I’ve said repeatedly, we share information openly with one another, but each of us is making our own decision based on what is best for our individual campus and our individual community, our individual geography, our individual student, faculty, and staff community of teachers and scholars and students.

As we think about this at Dartmouth, one of the things I have been reminding myself of and I ask all of us to think about, is our position and what I sometimes refer to as our natural resource advantages as we move towards making this very important decision. Those are our calendar and our location. When you think about our calendar and we look at the decisions that other universities have been announcing in just the past week alone, we see universities that are considering moving their schedule to finish classes by Thanksgiving and send students home early to avoid there being on campus during the month of December when flu season is expected to begin. We at Dartmouth already do that with our fall term ending in November and exams completed by Thanksgiving.

We see universities exploring utilization of summer 2021 as a potential third semester to be able to enable all of their students to study during the academic year. We already do that. We see universities thinking of shortening their 14-week semesters. We operate with 10-week terms reducing the time that any one group of students is physically present on campus and thereby reducing the potential exposure if the COVID-19 virus was to infect some of the members of our community when they’re here on campus.

As I’ve said in the past, we will also have at the end of this summer two full terms of remote learning to our credit when most campuses across this country will just be starting their first term of partially remote operations. This doesn’t mean by any stretch that we have it all figured out, but it does mean that we can be deliberate in our planning, proceed thoughtfully and we also have the opportunity to learn from other campuses even after we make a decision as we see how their operations begin to develop when they return to operation in mid-August. Our fall term, as I’ve said, remains one where we are committed to making a decision by June 29. I will have much more to say on this in the coming weeks.

Let me just close with a few comments on budget and then we’ll turn to your questions and turn to President Hanlon and board Chair Richie. Over the past 10 days, I’ve been meeting fairly frequently with arts and sciences faculty committees and with pan-institutional committees to address both the subject of the FY21 and longer-term budget challenge that is in front of us and also the challenge associated with making decisions about operations for the upcoming academic year.

I’ve met in the past 10 days along with the arts and sciences Committee on Priorities, the Pan-University Council on Priorities, the Campus-Wide Budget Committee, the President’s Senior Leadership Group, which includes the deans and many of the senior VPs from across the campus. The Academic Working Group, that’s a pan-institutional group of faculty and staff that look at academic operations and academic issues. The arts and sciences Committee of the Faculty, the arts and sciences Faculty Coordinating Committee that is comprised of the chairs of the major arts and sciences standing committees, the Academic Planning Council, the Committee of Chairs earlier in May and also the full arts and sciences faculty last week and again next week.

Now in these conversations, as the president has mentioned, Dartmouth is facing a long-term budgetary challenge as we seek to take steps to address some of the necessary maintenance and operational improvements across campus and to support some of the new programs that have been developed over the past several years. We were working on these budgetary questions when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but the COVID-19 pandemic has, as I’ve said in many of these committees, essentially eliminated the time we had, eliminated the runway we had to work up towards long-term budgetary solutions in a way that was thoughtful and measured and considerate. This is why we have had to take steps to freeze wages, freeze hiring and reduce fourth quarter non-compensation spending.

As we look ahead to the upcoming fiscal year, uncertainty over enrollments. Our residential capacity, the investment markets, philanthropic giving, and the expectation that we will see increased expenses, including an increase to commitment to supporting student financial aid because of an unexpected increase in the financial need of our student community makes next year financially challenging, and means that we will and do need to make operating budget adjustments to address both the immediate COVID-19 challenge and to help us begin to address the longer term challenge.

I’ve gotten input, and we have gotten input, questions, advice, and suggestions from these committees and councils as we’ve moved forward towards decisions. I recognize that these are challenging conversations and challenging decisions for all. The uncertainty, particularly around our long-term financial picture and around employment is very much on everyone’s minds. As we think about budgets and think about the decisions ahead, we and I are mindful of the importance of supporting the core mission of teaching and research, but I’ve also been extraordinarily encouraged by the recognition of so many in each of these conversations that the core mission is carried out and supported, yes, by the core academic units, but by so many other areas of this campus as well.

We will continue to work towards finalizing FY21 budget targets with deans and division leaders in early June, and we will have more to say on that over the course of the next two years.

Let me just conclude then with a few final thoughts about where we go from here. In the midst of everything challenging about COVID-19 that we have been wrestling with and discussing in many of these meetings and Zoom calls over the past month. I’ve said here before, I found it not just exciting but inspiring to see that we have found a way in this educational and research community to continue to be creative. To continue to support teaching and scholarship in interesting and innovative ways.

None of this has been easy and frankly, nothing about responding to COVID-19 and the challenges that we and all of higher education face has been easy. Every conversation we’ve been having focuses on, for many, the immediate sense of loss and anxiety about an uncertain future on so many different levels, whether it’s gatherings with friends, whether it’s post-graduation plans for our students, whether it’s research plans, career plans, even job loss.

But even in those conversations, over the past few weeks, I’ve increasingly been asked, “And what happens next? How do we look beyond COVID-19 and think about this institution and what we would like this institution to be as we think about Dartmouth in the coming, not just years, but five years in decade and decades ahead?”

The president and the board are asking these questions. The president asked these questions of the arts and sciences faculty just a few weeks ago himself. “How do we learn from this? How do we think about the change that’s coming to higher education? Think about our place in that world in who we want to be in five to 10 years. What might we do differently? What does it mean to be one of the world’s leading institutions of liberal arts education, and yet at the same time, a member of this nation’s leading research universities, a member of the AAU?

What does it mean for us to be a global institution at this moment in time? What does it mean to have a focus on close faculty student interactions and on experiential learning? And shouldn’t we be asking these questions now, exactly now even as we wrestle with the challenges of COVID-19 in academic year 2021 planning and the budgetary challenges associated with those uncertainties?”

The president has asked the senior leadership group to consider all of this to have these conversations over the course of the coming year, and to think about what Dartmouth might become, what Dartmouth can be, what we can learn from this and take with us from this challenge and build beyond this to make Dartmouth and even more exciting, vibrant, and dynamic place for teaching and education.

This conversation will continue over time. For the next month, my comments here will focus on the operational and budgetary challenges, but I ask as we think about the year ahead that we not lose sight of this. So, let me stop here. Thank you again for tuning in and your interest and attention. I’ll take just a few questions from Justin, and then we’re going to turn to our president, Hanlon, and board chair, Richie. Justin?

Justin Anderson:
Thanks, Joe and good afternoon. I want to start with fall term. Lot of questions about fall term. In the course of your remarks, you mentioned a lot of the factors that are under consideration when thinking about how to handle fall term. But a question are asks sort of a different question, which is, can you talk about the different scenarios that might take place this fall? And how you and the task force are thinking about the various scenarios that could allow us to come back in some form or not in the fall?

Sure. Thanks, Justin. I’ll try and be brief because that’s an important question, and the answer is it is complicated. At a high level, there are three different scenarios that the taskforce is considering. One is a return to full residential operations.

And while we continue to look at what would be required to do that, as I’ve said openly in the past, we do not think that is a high probability outcome. We have also looked at what it would take to have another term as we enter the next academic year of remote learning. And then we looked at those scenarios that are in between what I have referred to as hybrid scenarios.

And in that context, in this context, what I mean very specifically is some fraction of the student body present on campus and learning residentially and some fraction of the student body engaged in remote learning.

If you look at some of the announcements from across the campus, even those campuses that have announced that they are bringing students back in the fall acknowledge the uncertainty in all of this and anticipate the likelihood that some students will be learning remotely or that students may be present on campus but learning remotely or the professor may not be physically present with them in the classroom.

These are the range of scenarios that we too are considering. We’re being guided by guidance from the Centers for Disease Control on university reopening scenarios. We are being guided by state health authorities. We are looking at the progression of the disease. We are collaborating with Dartmouth-Hitchcock and asking what steps we need to put in place to enable us to return the maximum number of students to campus.

What is the most likely outcome? That there will be residential learning on campus this fall. Is it likely that we will have 100% of the student body back and learning without constraint, without personal protective equipment, the same way they would have been a year ago? No, that’s not a high probability outcome.

Joe, a viewer asks regarding the high possibility that a portion of fall classes will be online. Will international students be given preference or the time difference that they’re experiencing be factored into any final decision about who will be on campus and who will not be on campus? Should that be the decision that is made?

There are a lot of factors that we’ll go into that, Justin. The ability of students to get to campus, the ability of students to secure visas and be here physically present will, of course, be a factor that many colleges are considering. The ability of students to travel from overseas and get here is a factor in this. I don’t have a specific answer to that question at this point in time other than to say that’s one of many things that the task force and the various working groups are considering. We are looking for a way to make sure that all students will have the opportunity to experience at least part of the academic year here on campus next year. But I can’t say more than that at this point in time, because we’re still working through a range of scenarios as we figure out what will be needed to enable us to bring back the maximum number of students that we can to campus at any one point in time.

We’ll just do one more question right now, Joe so we can get to President Phil Hanlon and board Chair Laurel Richie. This last question is again about the fall but coming at the issue from a sort of a different perspective than the way in which we’ve been discussing it. That is what if faculty do not want to enter classrooms for safety and health concerns?

Yeah. Thank you, Justin. I’ve spoken with the deans about this. We are committed to working with members of the faculty and staff individually as needed to make sure that we’re taking their concerns and interests into account.

We have no interest in forcing people to be in a classroom, physically present with a large number of students if it’s something they’re extraordinarily uncomfortable doing. What I will say and would ask is that to members of the faculty and staff who would be in a classroom environment with students, please give us the time over the course of the next month or two to work through the plans that can show how we will be taking steps in the classroom to provide protection to faculty and staff and the steps we will be asking students to take as they enter a classroom environment and the steps we will be taken to, for example, clean classrooms in between classes.

Once we have that in place, and we think about the courses that will be offered in person, then I think it’s appropriate for us to have conversations with individual faculty members. Some of whom may look at this and say, “OK, I’m now very comfortable teaching in person.” Others of whom may well say, “I don’t know that I would be comfortable being in the classroom with students in that scenario.”

One thing we will ask is that the meetings and in the office meetings that we normally have, we are certainly going to be asking faculty to think about doing those by remote learning. Other small gatherings where we might have numbers of people in a small space outside of the classroom environment, we’re going to be asking people to do those by Zoom. And so, we are going to be looking to keep some social distancing protocols in place as we watch the evolution of the disease. And again, I’d asked the community to please give us a month or two to work through the details and then share with the faculty and staff. We’ll be teaching the plan for putting these protections in place, and then we’ll figure out how to best address any concerns that arise.

So, thank you, Justin. Why don’t we turn now to our two guests who are joining us today? President Phil Hanlon and board Chair Laurel Richie. Phil, Laurel, good to have you both with us for the conversation this afternoon.

I’d like to ask each of you just a few questions to get us started, and then I’m going to turn it back to Justin because I suspect those who are with us today and viewing the conversation remotely have a lot that they’d like to ask the two of you. Good to see you both.

Philip Hanlon:

Great to be here.

Laurel Richie:
Nice to be here. Thanks, Joe. Hello, Phil.

Hello, Laurel.

Phil, if you don’t mind, let me start with you and I’d like to start with a question about students. One of the things, Phil, I know that you’ve done throughout your presidency is hold open office hours with students. I understand that you’ve continued to do that through this virtual term. Have you continued to hold office hours for students and are they continuing to show up? What are you hearing? What’s on their mind?

Joe, thanks. And thanks everyone who’s tuned in here. Office hours are jammed just this faculty across the institution have reported. I’ve seen a significant uptick in direct interaction with students, especially undergraduates this term.

Last week was a typical week. I responded to dozens of emails from students. I had four Zoom calls with groups of students, and I sat in on a couple of classes. That in addition to a number of Zoom calls with faculty, staff, trustees, and others.

Student concerns last week were mostly about return of possessions, how we’re going to handle the fall term and visas have applied of international students. In turn, I was able to collect their ideas on questions like how we might return in the fall. Ideas that I have subsequently shared and discussed with the provost.

For me, I think these calls are a great opportunity to let students know that I do feel for them. To give them an honest appraisal of the complex and uncertain situation that we find ourselves in. But also, my confidence that our Dartmouth community with all that’s creativity and resolve will help us come through these turbulent times a stronger place.

I take great pride in Dartmouth being a place where the campus leadership has an open door to every member of the community, not just myself, but I know Joe and the dean of the College. It’s a place where students can reach out and they can schedule a Zoom call with the president, and that doesn’t happen on very many campuses. Thanks for your question, Joe.

Yeah, thanks, Phil. If I may ask a follow-up. Are you hearing from graduate students as well? Or is it mostly undergraduate students who are taking advantage of your office hours? I realized by asking that, I may have just invited a whole new audience to it.

It’s a good question, and it’s a mix of both. I would say there are more undergraduates than graduate students, but I do hear from both. To your point, those of you who are out there tuning in, please knock on my virtual door if you want to talk.

All right. Thanks, Phil. Laurel, I’d like to turn to you now with a question about commencement or the virtual conferral of degrees. As you and I both know well, and the president certainly knows the board plays an important ceremonial role in the ceremony that so many of us enjoy the commencement ceremony each June.

For me certainly, and you and I have discussed this, it’s just wonderful to see the students and their families at the culmination of their Dartmouth educational career at that moment.

This year, things are going to be a little bit different. We’re having a virtual conferral of degrees with the actual ceremony to follow a year from now. How do you think about that? How do you think about the virtual conferral ceremony and the board’s role and your role in this moment?

Yeah. I too would like to thank everybody who’s joined in. I’ve been watching all of these, Joe, so thank you too for leading the charge here. I will say that commencement is hands down my favorite part of being a trustee. It’s the moment where the work of the institution becomes live and real, and there is such joy in celebrating the class as they graduate and all they’ve accomplished to get to that point. It’s also a really nice moment to welcome a whole new class into the alumni body. And while I acknowledge that many, many, many things are different this year, one thing that will be the same is that the trustees will all be tuning in. Now, we’re going to be in different locations and from different places. And I don’t know that we’ll all be in caps and gown, but we’ll be there, and we’ll be participating, cheering the class on.

I look forward to being inspired by the community being together, to being inspired by the remarks by President Hanlon. I know we have one of the valedictorians speaking, we’ve got Sal Khan speaking. So, I always find nuggets within those remarks that I can take and put into practice in my daily life.

And I’m also attending the baccalaureates service as well. That is one of my favorite traditions around commencement, and I know we are streaming that online this year. For those who don’t know, it’s a multi-faith service for graduates and their parents. And I find it’s a really nice moment to pause and reflect before all the celebrations begin. And this year we’ve got an ’06 speaking and I checked in the title of his talk is “The Benefits of Existing in a Time of Uncertainty.” So, I’m looking forward to that being the start of my day as we all then move on to celebrate the graduates.

Thanks, Laurel, that sounds great. And actually, you mentioned Sal Khan, so I actually wanted to just ask a question based on that. And let me put this to Phil. The president often selects the speaker with the support, of course, of the board of trustees. So, Sal Khan, that seems like a pretty timely choice. Is that something that came about when our plans changed, or did you have him in mind all along and why?

Thanks Joe. And we actually, I invited Sal last November, and so he was already lined up and it turned out to be a very timely choice for sure. I think there is so much about Sal’s remarkable story that gives us all inspiration, especially at this moment. His belief in the power of education, his commitment to delivering education literally across the world. And importantly, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the example he sets in his innovative and can-do spirit.

From a modest start using technology tools to help his young cousin with her math, saw the vision and the drive to carry this idea to literally hundreds of millions of people across the world right now. And that should inspire us all at this moment.

Late last fall, just after I invited Sal to be our 2020 commencement speaker, I did happen to ask one of our graduating seniors if she felt her classmates would be excited by this choice. And she said, “Yes, totally. Sal Khan seems like a friend because we all get help from time to time from Khan Academy.”

Thanks. Do you know if he’s done this kind of thing before, Phil? Are we his first virtual commencement or is he an experienced virtual conferral speaker?

He did say that he had planned to do a virtual commencement more broadly, a generic virtual commencement, but of course he was putting special efforts into ours. So, we look forward to hearing from him on June 14.

Right, great. Thanks Phil. So, I’m conscious of time. Let me just ask each of you one final question because I want to touch on another announcement that was made last week. And that was our rededication of the current effort of the Call to Lead Campaign, to the increasingly important need to raise funds for financial aid. And so, Phil, we and you announced this quite publicly last week, an increasing emphasis on financial aid. Why and why at this particular moment in time?

Right. So, it’s a great question because I think we all know that financial aid is a timeless priority for the College. And for a simple reason. As an alum I know that my Dartmouth education was a gift, a gift that has profoundly shaped my life. And so, we must make sure that that gift is available to every student regardless of their financial circumstances. And so that’s why in giving back 20% of my salary this year, Gail and I dedicated those funds to financial aid.

But as timeless as it is with the COVID pandemic, it’s taken on even greater urgency. We are seeing an enormous spike in our students’ financial needs as the economic circumstances of their families change. And early estimates suggest that financial aid expenditures will exceed budget by a minimum of $8 million in the upcoming fiscal year. And we feel for all the Dartmouth parents who lost jobs, and we recognize students too, they’re losing income that they typically earn through work study jobs or off term employment.

And so, Dartmouth will and must step up to meet the additional financial need of our students. And the Call to Lead Campaign, that’s one mechanism that can galvanize alumni and parent support to help us meet that end. So that’s why we made that announcement last week.


Great. Well, thank you, Phil. And certainly, thank you from all of us for your support of the students in a financial aid to support this financial need. So, Laurel, let me give you the last word and turn to you before we turn back to Justin for the questions of others.

You’ve been tireless in being on the road for Dartmouth in support of the Call to Lead effort the past several years. I expect that whether by Zoom or in person when travel is possible and permissible again, you’ll be supporting this effort. What does this rededication mean to you as an alum and as board chair?

I echo all that Phil said and more. As we were going around the country and even beyond the U.S. borders last year, one of the refrains in all of our conversations was that a family’s ability to pay should never ever get in the way of a student’s ability to enjoy the full Dartmouth experience. And that is true to our core. It is part of our history. The first financial aid endowment happened in 1789. So, it’s just part of who we are. It’s part of our belief system. It’s part of how we operate.

And so, in this moment of urgent and growing need it just feels like it is the right thing to do. It’s the right thing for this moment. It’s the right thing for this crisis. And it is absolutely the right thing for Dartmouth. So, we are all in and doing this to make sure that we can continue to support students and their families and offer access to this incredible experience during this really challenging time for many.

Great, and thank you both for that and to you as well, of course, for all the incredible work you do on behalf of the institution and our students.

So, Justin, I’m sure we’re hearing questions from outside. So, let me turn it over to you. Thanks to you both.

Thanks, Joe. Phil, I think we can start with you. As you heard from the questions that I posed to Joe, and as I’m sure you can imagine there are a lot of additional questions coming in about fall term. Lots of different issues related to fall term. Will it be remote? Will it be a hybrid? Will there be athletic events? But just more broadly, how are you thinking about the fall term and whether and how the Dartmouth community can return to Hanover?

Yeah, thanks Justin. And it is important to have some principles as we work through these daunting operational challenges. And to me, the three words I think about to guide my thinking are courage, caution, and caring. Three Cs.

First, courage. We need to have the courage to carry on the important work of Dartmouth College, preparing our students to lead lives of leadership and impact and advancing the frontiers of knowledge.

Second, caution. Although physicians and scientists have learned much about the disease, there is still so much unknown. And I think you can say uncertainty reigns at this point. Nobody can predict the trajectory of the contagion over the summer or into the next year. We don’t know when or if an effective vaccine will be widely deployed. Will there be a second wave? Will it combine with the flu? Given all of this uncertainty, we must plan cautiously to put in place testing, physical distancing, isolation protocols for the coming terms, as well as the ability to nimbly embrace alternative directions should the situation require as it did in March.

And finally, caring. One of the very distinctive features of the Dartmouth community is how much we care for each other and look out for each other, especially the most vulnerable. And so that means taking responsible measures to protect those on our campus and in our local community who are at high risk due to age or other health conditions.

It means assisting those who must engage in virtual learning but don’t have the technology capabilities to do so. It means digging deep to help the College provide financial aid to those whose family circumstances have changed.

And most importantly, it means empathy and understanding for those who are struggling with the broad impacts of the pandemic. Those whose children or siblings need help with homeschooling. Those who have illness in their families. Those are dealing with job loss and financial challenges.

So indeed, there are a whole lot of daunting, complex challenges to work through as we figure out how to ramp up our activities next fall, and Joe discussed some of those earlier. But I can only assure you that we will do so with thought and care and guided by the principles of courage, caution, and care.

Laurel, I’m going to turn to you now, if you don’t mind. A questioner asks, how is the board staying in touch with one another as well as administrators during the pandemic?

Yeah, so I think we, like, it seems, everybody around the world has increased our use of Zoom. So, we had, as a board, our first virtual meeting very recently where we all came together to conduct the business of the board. We’ve had a couple of additional conversations, whether they were committee assignment committee work, or some one-on-one time with President Hanlon. I know I’ve been in touch with Joe and with the dean.

So, I think we’re all making sure that in this time when we can’t be physically together, all making the extra effort to stay connected, to stay in conversation. In many ways I think we feel the same way everybody else does, like the sand beneath our feet is constantly shifting.

And so, staying in touch and feeling actively engaged in the community. And offering our support to the team in Hanover that is working so hard to sort through a myriad of issues, we’ve been, I hope they would say, that we’ve been doing a good job of staying in touch and supporting and being a source of advice and input as needed.

Yes, totally. And not just because you’re my boss.

Phil, you referenced that you and Gail are giving a portion of your salary to the Dartmouth College Fund and in support of financial aid. Over the course of the last couple of weeks during these community conversations, questions have come up about whether or not senior administrators will be asked to take a pay cut or similar to what you have done. Are senior leaders giving anything back to Dartmouth in the form of philanthropy.

Yeah. So, Justin, thank you. And the answer is yes. Different members of the senior leadership team have voluntarily given back between 5% and 20% of their salary, including myself as you noted, but also Provost Helble and EVP (Rick) Mills who have each given back 20%.

Laurel, I’m going to go back to you. It’s a similar question about the board staying in touch. But a viewer asks, how are the experiences of board members who work outside higher education, how are those experiences informing board decision making and board activities during the pandemic? So, I guess, what are you learning from board members who are working outside higher ed and what are they bringing to the conversation?

Yeah, so many of us are serving on other boards, running companies. And the one thing about a global pandemic is we are all in this together and we’re all making tough decisions, learning as we go, tapping into experts and research. So, we have been, all of us, doing that during our day jobs and bringing that to bear during the discussions that we have with Phil and team, when we’re meeting.

We’ve had a series of, as you would imagine, COVID-19 discussions. And I think in those discussions as the administration team is updating us, we’re providing insights, learning, pieces of research that we have encountered outside of Dartmouth and bringing that to the team on campus. And I would add that extends to many of our former trustee, trustee emerita, as well as just some members of our broader Dartmouth alumni community who have been very, very helpful in sharing perspective and information with us. So, I think the community has absolutely risen to the challenge.

Yeah. And some parents as well.


Phil, similar question for you. A viewer asks or notes that you and Joe and Laurel and frankly leaders throughout higher education are talking a lot about all of the change that is happening so quickly in higher ed and thinking about doing things differently. And a viewer asks whether or not you, we are consulting with futurists, innovators, non-educators to perhaps glean some ideas about new ways of doing things on campus.

Yeah. So, as Joe mentioned earlier, I think I and the trustees, we feel the time is right. The time, it’s urgent that we really take on, not just how are we going to get through the next academic year. But what do we want Dartmouth to be in five to 10 years? And what has this pandemic taught us about all of higher ed and Dartmouth in particular and the business model we have right now? So, it is a moment when we’re doing a lot of thinking.

So, I would say that this is kind of uncharted territory for every leader in higher education. And so yes, the degree to which I’m consulting, not just with my presidential peers, but as Laurel noted, parents, alumni and trustees, of course, leaders in business, media, entertainment and government. It’s unprecedented. And so, it’s especially interesting when all the consultation that’s going on between presidents of different institution, different universities. Because it is a remarkable time of shared interest and cooperation in what is usually a highly competitive higher ed landscape.

Phil, if I could stay with you for one more question, sort of a follow up. Is Dartmouth considering developing new programs or revenue sources to make up for the income shortfall it is currently experiencing?

Yeah. So, I think that this is a moment ... And I said this to the arts and sciences faculty, we need to be thinking about what are the lines of business we could add to what we do all the time. The just remarkable undergraduate and graduate degrees that we offer. What are the other things we could do? And first and foremost, they would have to add value to whoever we’re offering these courses to or these certificates or whatever. But now is the time to be thinking about how we can add value in a broader, more comprehensive way. And yes, a positive side benefit hopefully would be additional revenue.

Thank you for that, Phil. Laurel, there’s some questions here that sort of speak to a high level of interest in what the board is doing. Not just during the pandemic, but sort of generally, and sort of getting a closer look at the board. And rather than it being the board, it being actual people that make up the board. And so, the questions are about sort of ... I don’t know if it’s transparency or really just sort of interaction with the board. And I know that you and other board members interact a lot when you’re on campus, but it just seems that there’s a yearning for even more of that. And so just wondering how you think about that, and if you have ideas about doing more of it.

Yeah. So, I don’t have office hours the way Phil does. But I would say that my door is always open, and you can get in touch with me through the president’s office. And I know that I and my fellow trustees very much value discussions with the Dartmouth community. I think that we’re all feeling, in the midst of this pandemic, a great desire for staying in closer touch with the communities that matter in our lives.

And I know that I speak for the board when saying we have great passion for Dartmouth. We are very proud to be serving Dartmouth in this capacity, and we want to rise to the occasion required by this moment. So, sort of I’ve been participating in Zoom calls and conversations with different groups of constituents as have my fellow trustees. Five of us spent some time with the alumni council last week. This morning, a group of us were on the phone with the newly elected president and vice president of the student assembly. So, we are working really hard to stay connected with all facets of the Dartmouth community, particularly in these times that we’re all finding so challenging.

Phil, in your earlier remarks, you mentioned Sal Khan and the fact that he will be speaking during the virtual event in a couple of weeks. A viewer asks whether or not there will be two commencement speakers next year, or two commencement speakers for the two different graduating classes?

Yes. My assumption, my expectation, my wish is that Sal Kahn is the speaker for the class of 2020. And that there will be a speaker for the class of 2021, someone equally distinguished. And there will also be honorary degree recipients for the class of 2020. And we will reveal those next year at the rescheduled event. There’ll be another set of honorary degree recipients for the class of 2021. And it is important to remember why do we have a speaker? Why do we have honorary degree recipients? And really most importantly, they show our graduating seniors ... As they go out the door, our graduating seniors, what a life of leadership and impact can look like.

Do you care to make any news Phil, about who the speakers will be next year?

No, it’s top secret.

On a more serious note, seeing a number of questions about tuition and whether or not we are thinking about making adjustments to tuition. Not just because of the virtual classroom experience, which is something that I’ve seen a lot of and heard a lot of. But just also because of the effects that the pandemic is having on the economy and a family’s ability to pay. And so, you brought up financial aid and its importance, but then there’s also a question about not just financial aid, but tuition itself.

Thanks, Justin. And I do understand why people ask this question. And let me first say that we all look forward to the day when all of our students will be back on campus. Through lived experience, I understand the power and magic of the things Joe was discussing earlier. The residential, in-person Dartmouth experience of the classes of course taught by our amazing Dartmouth faculty. But classes supplemented by undergraduate research and student organizations and engagement with the outdoors, athletics, performance, art performances, and the many serendipitous interactions that come with being in a community of learners. So, we all want to get back to that. I above everybody recognized the real importance of that.

But it’s also important to understand what tuition pays for. And the most fundamental component of delivering students Dartmouth education is the faculty who teach the courses and the frontline department staff who support them. And undergraduate tuition, identified financial aid, it’s a lot of money that will amount to $154 million this year. But the compensation for the undergraduate faculty and the frontline administrator staff in the arts and sciences department exceeds that, exceeds $170 million. So, tuition at its current rate, its necessary just to pay for the courses students are taking, whether those courses are amounted in person or virtually.

So related Phil, to College finances and Dartmouth’s ability to pay faculty and provide for financial aid. A number of people have asked just quite simply whether or not Dartmouth is going to apply for the CARES Act money.

Yeah. So, the first tranche of CARES Act money is by law, goes right to students. And we certainly have students that have these needs. And we want to be able to take advantage of this source of funding to deliver it to our students. Our students have needs like students from every institution. So, yes, I’m certain we are going to apply for the first tranche of the CARES Act 20.

Thanks for that, Phil. We have time for one more question. And Laurel, I think we’ll end with you. You’ve heard both Phil and Joe address the fall in various ways. One questioner wants to know how the board is thinking about the fall and whether or not it intends to meet on campus in the fall.

That’s a great question. And I will admit, I have been focused on our June meeting, which is coming very shortly, and have not gotten to the point of thinking about September. Mostly because our priority right now is students and faculty and sorting out what is right for Dartmouth as we think about fall term and beyond. With all of the good work being done by the task force that is led by Joe and Phil and all the work that he is doing. So, I don’t know whether we will be meeting on campus in September.

I do know that we will be meeting. I do know that we will be grappling with really complex issues related to COVID-19 and navigating our way through that. We are in close contact with Phil and team as they lead this work. And all of our conversations right now have two parts. The one is, what choices and tough decisions do we need to make right now? But also keeping our eyes on the longer term and thinking about where Dartmouth is headed when we are beyond COVID-19. Because as difficult as it may seem to imagine right now, I am a hundred percent sure we will be thriving as an institution in a post COVID-19 world. And we are all committed to being the very best Dartmouth we can be in that world.

Thank you very much for that, Laurel. And thank you, Phil. Thank you both for your time and your thoughts and your willingness to answer all these questions.

A couple of notes before I go back to Joe. Somebody has posted a question asking how they can get more of their questions answered if they’re not answered during community conversation. So, I encourage you to go to the COVID-19 website, which you can get to off the Dartmouth homepage. There is an opportunity there through email to submit questions. And we promise that we will get back to you.

Joe, I’m going to throw it back to you and I’m going to do so with one question for you to handle. This is sort of a surprise or bonus question for you. A ton of interest in a decision about trips. So, I don’t know if you want to just say a word about the timing of that to satisfy the curiosity of a number of viewers.

Thanks, Justin. Quick answer is last week I had promised we’d have that decision announced by end of this week. We will have that decision announced by the end of this week. Task force is putting final touches on the recommendation, and we’ll be announcing that either tomorrow or Friday. So, it will be before the weekend.

So, thanks, Justin. Thanks, Phil and Laurel for joining us for the conversation this afternoon. And thanks all of you for tuning in once more. We will be back next Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. for the next community conversation. Next week, we will focus on operational issues and some of the decisions that we need to make, as I said earlier, as we move into June around budget. And as we move towards the end of June around fall term operations.

We will take a one-week hiatus on Wednesday, June 10. There will not be a community conversation given all that’s happening around investiture and conferral of degrees, ceremonies that week. We will be back on June 3 and then again on June 17. And as I said earlier, we’ll continue through the end of June at a minimum to provide these weekly updates. So, thanks, everyone. And we’ll see you soon.