Hanover officials irked as off-campus Dartmouth students return to town

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/10/2020 9:38:19 PM
Modified: 4/10/2020 9:38:03 PM

HANOVER — Despite requests from Dartmouth College and Hanover officials to not return to town after spring break, some Dartmouth students have come back to live off-campus.

Town Manager Julia Griffin said she believes between 60 and 80 students — compared with the 450 who normally live off-campus — are back in Hanover. Griffin last month had asked such students not to return because of the fear they might spread the new coronavirus, writing, “We do not want to add to our community’s challenges by reintroducing a large student population into our small community.”

Dartmouth effectively closed its campus to students — including dorms — and moved classes online following the outbreak last month. Shortly after the college’s decision, Gov. Chris Sununu issued a stay-at-home order.

Around 185 students, many of them from overseas, have received permission from the college to remain on campus during the pandemic, but Griffin said she is less worried about those students than the off-campus residents.

Many of the students who have returned in the weeks since their scheduled break are living in fraternity and sorority houses near the college, as well as apartments they rent in Hanover, Griffin said.

Messages seeking comment from members of several Dartmouth fraternity and sorority houses were not returned Friday.

The town can’t prevent students from returning to off-campus rental housing, but the issue does raise concerns for town officials, Griffin said.

“They’re returning from all over the country and the world. That’s a whole lot of potential vectors,” Griffin said.

Still, in the past few weeks, she said, Deputy Fire Chief Michael Hinsley has been responding to complaints about people neglecting to follow social distancing practices and has been “actively interacting” with students off-campus.

Earlier this week, police responded to a house on Maple Street where a group of Dartmouth students were playing beer pong, according to Griffin.

Hanover Police Chief Charlie Dennis said his department hasn’t responded to many complaints in the past few weeks, but when they do, they try to educate residents on best social distancing practices.

Police who see people disobeying the stay-at-home order can issue a civil fine or cite them for a misdemeanor violation of a governor’s order, according to the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, but Dennis said he hopes it won’t come to that.

“We are not looking to issue any citations,” he said.

Anna Merriman can be reached at amerriman@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.

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