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Dartmouth to reopen campus to half its students in September

  • Usually bustling with students, the Dartmouth College campus is mostly empty on Tuesday, May 5, 2020, in Hanover, N.H.(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/29/2020 1:41:55 PM
Modified: 6/29/2020 9:06:39 PM

HANOVER — Dartmouth College plans to reopen its campus to roughly half of its 4,400 students in September, with first-year students attending in the fall and spring and studying remotely in the winter.

Seniors slated to graduate in June 2021 will be given priority in the spring, their final term on campus.

Most classes will continue to be taught via online instruction as a safety precaution during the COVID-19 pandemic, and students will have to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Hanover and undergo mandatory testing for the novel coronavirus.

Dartmouth made the announcement of its plans for the upcoming school year, running through next summer term, on Monday in an email from college President Phil Hanlon and Provost Joseph Helble.

“The reality of COVID-19 means that the campus environment will be very different this fall. There will be strict limitations on gatherings, social activities, and lectures,” they said in the email, noting that face masks will be required in all but private spaces and there will be limited access to buildings, though the college library will be open to students, faculty and staff.

Tuition will be as planned — $57,796 — and all students are likely to be on campus for two of the four terms next academic year, although enrolled students who prefer to spend the entire year studying remotely as a health precaution will be allowed to do so.

Classes are to start on Sept. 14, with final exams to be held remotely the week after Thanksgiving, meaning most students will leave before the holiday and not return until 2021.

Dartmouth suspended its in-person classes for spring term as the pandemic hit the Upper Valley, sending most students home in March. Summer term courses also are being taught online.

The college plans a rigorous testing program for its students. Along with the mandatory self-quarantine, daily health pus screenings via an app or website also will be put in place, and contact tracing will be implemented where needed.

All undergraduates living on campus will have either individual rooms or two-room doubles, reducing the risk of transmission and also giving students a “quiet study space,” the email said.

Some dormitories are being reserved to serve as quarantine locations to house students who test positive for COVID-19. Major changes are not expected for graduate students, as many live off-campus or in college housing with single bedrooms already.

College officials say they expect juniors who are enrolled will be able to live in fraternities and sororities, but with the reduced occupancy levels also required in dormitories.

In addition, no Greek Life “in-person recruitment activities” — such as parties for prospective pledges — will be allowed in the 2020-21 school year.

Raymond Hsu, an incoming senior who has been at home in Seattle, studying to take the national exam for medical schools, said in a phone interview that he was, “of course, pretty sad” at the disruption in his senior year but also understands the precautions.

“It is what it is. I’m also just happy to play my part in reducing the effects of the pandemic,” said Hsu, who is a member of a fraternity and also plays in the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra, an activity that may also be curtailed.

Still, Hsu said, he is glad the college is trying to find a balance in allowing classmates to return for both an education and the intangibles of college life.

“Whether it’s hiking or socially distanced meals, I think that for Dartmouth, in particular, of course education is important, but the experience and connecting with such amazing people is just as important, if not more important, than what we learn in the classroom,” he said.

The return of some 2,200 undergraduates to campus is also being welcomed by downtown merchants in Hanover, such as Etna resident Jim Rubens, owner of the Hanover Park retail and office building on Lebanon Street.

“It’s better than having no students (or) very few students on campus, so it’s an improvement and helpful,” said Rubens, a member of Dartmouth’s class of 1972. But he said the college should use the disruption caused by the pandemic to reassess some of its practices to “foster prosperity” downtown, such as dialing back on on-campus cafes that compete with Hanover restaurants and allowing students to use their meal card at eateries in town.

Another big question is whether football and other fall sports which draw fans to Hanover will be played. The Dartmouth announcement said that will depend on a final decision from the Ivy League expected in July.

Dean of the College Kathryn Lively sent a follow-up email to students saying anyone who fails to follow the new policies and “the College’s health and safety expectations,” including contact tracing and physical distancing from others, will be required to leave campus within 24 hours.

And though the prevalence of COVID-19 in the Upper Valley is currently low, Dartmouth also told students to be prepared to be sent home if the outbreak spreads.

“Students should be prepared for the possibility that they will need to leave campus in the event of an outbreak that leads to a decision to close, similar to the decision reached in March 2020. Students will be asked to bring to campus only those items that they can take with them if required to leave on short notice,” Dartmouth said on its website.

The pandemic has cut into Dartmouth’s revenues. The college has instituted a hiring freeze and has said staffers will continue to be paid their base salaries through July, but have made no guarantees beyond then.

Meanwhile, Vermont Law School said it will hold all of its classes virtually in the fall, with no on-campus, residential courses offered that semester. And first-year students will be offered a “January start,” the South Royalton law school said in a news release on Monday.

Additional details about VLS’s fall semester, including access to the camlibrary and VLS legal clinics, are pending, the release said.

John P. Gregg can be reached at jgregg@vnews.com or 603-727-3217.




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