“We’re not going back to the way we did things last year”: Dartmouth continues his in-person classes and moves in
The College has separated itself from its peer institutions with its relatively relaxed COVID-19 policies.
On December 29, the College’s COVID-19 leadership team, led by Acting President David Kotz and Executive Vice President Rick Mills, announcement that Dartmouth will move forward with in-person classes and move in despite the increase in COVID-19 cases across the country due to the omicron variant.
In a Q&A video recorded Jan. 5, Kotz and Mills said Dartmouth’s high vaccination rate, along with the recall requirement, mask warrant and weekly testing, should work together to reduce the spread of COVID- 19 and help enable in-person learning.
“We are beginning to recognize [COVID-19] is not going to go away, ”Mills explained in an interview with The Dartmouth on Jan.6. able to operate with COVID being endemic rather than pandemic. “
According to Kotz, planning for residential operations and in-person learning while “maintaining people’s physical and mental health” required “a careful balance.” Kotz added that he hopes the students take the agency and use their best judgment to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“We’re not going back to the way we did things last year, where we had very strict rules and we kind of monitored social gatherings,” Kotz said. “What we do instead is ask students to be responsible, to make good choices, to socialize outside or in very small groups to avoid creating those situations where there could be a spread. important. ”
College pressure to maintain in-person teaching contrasts with the approaches of some peer institutions. Yale University delayed move to January 25, a week later than originally planned, and moved the first two weeks of spring semester classes online. Cornell University opted not to delay the move in but to push online courses for the first two weeks.
Kotz and Mills noted in an interview that even though they “kept a close eye” on what peer establishments were doing, they decided that due to Dartmouth’s unique schedule, it would not make sense to delay the due date. start of classes and move in or resume online education.
“The winter term is the shortest of terms in Dartmouth – it’s really a nine week term, not a 10 week term, which has already limited things in terms of content compression,” Mills said. . “And the other element was that we weren’t sure that a delay of a week or two would get us through whatever we were going to run into.” [the omicron variant]. “
Still, some peer institutions on quarter systems have chosen to modify the winter quarter plans due to the omicron variant. On December 23, the University of Chicago announcement that they would delay the arrival of students by one week until January 10 and offer distance education only for the first two weeks. December 20, Northwestern University also sent a message to students that all classes and extracurriculars will switch to a distance model for the first two weeks.
Kotz explained that mental health was a primary factor in the college’s decision to prioritize in-person learning.
“Being in person, both for learning and for experiences outside of the classroom, is so important to the learning experience and the mental health of students – and frankly, to the mental health of all. “, did he declare.
Kotz added that professors are fully prepared to switch to online education in case many students contract COVID-19 and need to self-isolate.
“In a few cases, especially if there are a large number of students leaving, [professors] can decide, with so many people sick, let’s just go online for a week until people get better, ”Kotz said. “I’m just asking everyone – students and faculty – to be flexible and adaptable at this time.”
Samantha Palermo ’24 said she was grateful for Dartmouth’s decision to continue the in-person classes, although she noted that one of her classes, PSYC 37, “Behavioral Neuroscience”, has been fully implemented. line.
“I thought it was going to be a two hour Zoom conference, but I realized that the format was actually going to be group work, discussion, problem solving, and I think [the professor] really does a good job of turning the classroom into Zoom, ”said Palermo.
According to the email sent to campus on December 29, Dartmouth would offer take-out meals for “at least the first two weeks of January” and ban college-sponsored indoor social gatherings to combat the spread of the virus on return. students on campus. The email said “limited social gatherings” would be allowed.
Palermo said she had a mixed reaction when she learned of the college’s take-out policy.
“Obviously it’s disappointing, especially living in McLaughlin –– it’s about a 15 minute walk to the nearest restaurant and then a 15 minute walk back, which adds time to having to go back. back compared to just being able to have a meal in the dining room, ”she said. “I understand why they did it, and if closing meals is what it takes to have classes in person, I totally agree, but I also really look forward to being able to eat with it again. my friends.”
Mills said the college’s main intention with the policy was to encourage students to spread out in different places on campus while eating.
“We just really wanted to encourage people to spread out across campus and not cluster in a room or area,” Mills said.
As to what constitutes a “limited social gathering,” Kotz explained that data from Dartmouth and other institutions has shown that the virus “tends to spread in social settings” more than in the classroom. However, he said students can get together for academic or outside purposes and stressed that the goal is not to “impose size constraints”.
“What I don’t want people to think is that you can’t get together with a friend, play your favorite video game, or watch a movie – you can hang out,” Kotz said. “What we don’t want is for it to turn out to be 30, 40, 50, a hundred people hanging out and drinking close up because it’s obviously a risky context.”
On December 31, Kotz and Mills sent an email follow-up announcement detailing the COVID-19 isolation protocol for the winter quarter. According to the email, the isolation period after a positive test result can be reduced from 10 days to five days if the person receives a negative rapid antigen test result on the fifth day of isolation and symptoms occur. ‘improve. The protocol also stated that students would self-isolate in their dormitories if they contracted COVID-19, whether or not they had a roommate.
Nicolás Macri ’24 said the college’s plan to isolate students who contract COVID-19 in their dorms is particularly “unfortunate” for these students’ roommates “because they are a bit like sacrificial lambs.”
Macri added that he believes isolation housing should have been an option, if not for the housing shortage on campus.
“I wouldn’t want to isolate myself in a room with another person who has [COVID-19] because I wouldn’t want to make myself sick, ”he said. “I think it comes back to a recurring problem – the college doesn’t have enough housing to quarantine all of these people in a separate place without resorting to dormitories.”
During the Jan. 5 question-and-answer session, Mills said he recognized that the college’s new isolation policy could cause discomfort for students and their families, the symptoms of COVID-19 for the group of Students’ ages typically involve upper respiratory tract infections similar to a “bad cold” or the flu –– illnesses that haven’t stopped students from coming to campus in the past. He added that students with health problems will still be able to move to isolation accommodation in case their roommate contracts the virus.
Kristine Suritis ’25 said when she arrived on campus on January 3, her roommates in her two-room triple informed her that they had already been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Suritis said she immediately isolated herself from her roommates, who both ended up contracting the virus and were staying with a friend in the meantime.
“Since I arrived on campus, I have hardly been exposed to [my roommates], and so I didn’t want to risk contracting COVID by living in the same room where I would probably be sure to get it –– just because it’s so contagious, ”Suritis said.
The College announced in an email on December 13 that it would require a negative PCR test result before the arrival of its COVID-19 testing partner, Vault Health. The announcement said students were to get tested and send in their sputum samples no later than December 27.
Suritis said she felt pre-arrival testing was done too early and should have been done closer to student arrival dates to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“The set of arrival testing was long before people actually came to campus, and right before New Years – people come out for New Years,” she said. “It was right after Christmas or something that you were supposed to send the arrival test in, but I feel like a lot of people have the possibility of getting infected. [between] the time they send the arrival tests [and] when they actually get [to campus]. ”
Palermo said that while she thinks the guidelines for social gatherings are a bit hazy, she appreciated the College’s increased communication and transparency this quarter compared to the past.
“I feel like we have more reasons behind the decision,” she said. “It’s less of a decision made and more of, like ‘this is our decision, and this is why we made this decision.'”