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Dartmouth College to study making some staff positions work-from-home

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/22/2021 9:52:28 PM
Modified: 4/22/2021 9:52:26 PM

HANOVER — Dartmouth College plans to survey employees about their experiences working from home and create a working group to make recommendations about the practice in the future.

After restricting access to its campus during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dartmouth has said it hopes to have its employees return for the fall term. But in a virtual town hall forum on Wednesday, Dartmouth Executive Vice President Rick Mills said the past year has shown the potential of having some employees working from home or other remote locations.

He said he and Provost Joseph Helble are forming the group to develop policies related to remote work and will survey Dartmouth employees for their suggestions. Recommended policies are expected by the end of the current academic year, Dartmouth said.

Emphasizing the experimental nature of the coming year, Mills walked through some potential opportunities for remote work, including reaching a more diverse workforce with needed skills.

“It offers new chances to employ the kinds of workers that we wouldn’t normally have access to in the Upper Valley or be able to recruit here,” he said.

Remote work also makes it possible to reduce and redistribute spaces on campus, he said.

Dartmouth has 3,961 employees and about 76% of them “are working entirely remotely or only coming onsite occasionally” because of the COVID-19 pandemic, college spokeswoman Diana Lawrence said by email on Thursday.

Mills anticipated a staggered return of faculty and staff in early September. With a significant portion of employees remote this past year, their return could mean changes in Hanover traffic, parking and business downtown.

Still, the challenges posed by remote work are complex, including potential tax and regulatory consequences for employees who live in other jurisdictions.

“Figuring out how we balance the interest of folks to be remote and the complexity and challenge of keeping registration and tax accounting in alignment is going to be one of the things we’ll be working on,” Mills said.

Mills also noted issues of equity, since not everyone employed by Dartmouth works a job that allows them to be remote. Maintaining community diversity also becomes a problem.

“If diversity is remote, what does that really mean for diversity at Dartmouth when you come to Hanover?” Mills asked.

Mills was joined by Dartmouth Chief Financial Officer Mike Wagner and the college’s interim Athletic Director Peter Roby.

The impact of the pandemic in fiscal year 2020 resulted in close to $26 million dollars in losses, the most significant being tuition and room and board, Wagner said. The college is expecting losses in the range of $80 million dollars in fiscal year 2021.

Wagner also noted that Dartmouth is budgeting for merit pay increases after some layoffs and early retirements last year.

Roby mentioned several ongoing internal reviews within Dartmouth athletics, one of which came as a result of a Title IX settlement after five varsity teams that had been dropped by Dartmouth last summer were reinstated. The others include a gender equity review as well as a review conducted by the Ivy League around Dartmouth’s compliance with NCAA rules.

Frances Mize can be reached at fmize@vnews.com.




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