Dartmouth reviews interim housing applications, approves many initially denied

by The Dartmouth Senior Staff | 3/15/20 10:01am

After days of uncertainty, Dartmouth has approved interim housing for many eligible low-income and international students, some of whose applications were initially denied. The College has mandated that all students — with few exceptions — vacate campus by March 16 as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The nine-member interim care team has finished reviewing the hundreds of interim housing applications submitted before 10 a.m. on Saturday, according to associate dean for student life and interim care team member Eric Ramsey. He said the only exceptions are those that require special follow-up from another office, such as the Dean of the College or Dick’s House. 

Students who have been determined by the team to have financial constraints or “precarious” home situations will be able to stay on campus, Ramsey said. International students can also remain on campus, provost Joseph Helble wrote in an email statement to The Dartmouth on Friday. 

Many international students, like Ines Tanoh ’21, have been granted interim housing only after their applications were initially rejected. During the initial application reviews, Ramsey said applications had been automatically sorted by financial need and international status.

Tanoh — a U.S. citizen living in Côte d’Ivoire — said she was initially denied interim housing because she does not need a student visa to attend Dartmouth.

After receiving the email denying her interim request on Thursday, Tanoh started an online petition stating that many international students had not received interim housing, despite the College’s email statement that it would allow students with “medical, visa status, and other” reasons to remain on campus. The petition, which calls for the College to grant international students interim and spring term housing, has received over 1000 signatures as of this morning.

The petition drew attention from deputy Title IX coordinator for training Sophia Brelvi and assistant dean of pluralism and leadership Danielle Hussey, Tanoh said. She added that Brelvi and Hussey reached out to her and explained why her application had been initially denied.

If students were denied interim housing after filling out an application, Ramsey said they would receive a web form where they can clarify their circumstances. He added that students can contact the interim care team if they believe their application has been wrongly denied.

Tanoh said that when the College failed to examine each case, students like herself were affected.  Ramsey said each case is now being considered individually by the interim care team. 

“We care deeply,” Ramsey said of the team. He stressed that they are reading through applications as quickly as they can.

Amid confusion over Dartmouth’s housing policies for the spring interim, students frustrated by the College’s response created their own resources and support mechanisms.

Olivia Audsley ’21 started a spreadsheet to help students find extra bedrooms and storage space for the spring interim. After the College announced its move to remote learning for at least the first five weeks of spring term, the spreadsheet has shifted to help locate housing for students throughout the term.

“We shouldn't have to crowdsource and crowd-fund for this,” Audsley said. “Dartmouth is a very wealthy institution that is very capable of taking care of their students.”

Maleah Wenzel ’20, who was denied interim housing herself, created a GroupMe chat titled “Housing Support,” in which over 200 students have shared resources and organized efforts to reach out to administrators. Messages sent to the GroupMe include screenshots of emails from the Financial Aid office and the Office of Residential Life and links asking for donations to help students purchase plane tickets home.

Wenzel said she was frustrated that the College had “lightly dropped …. tiny, tiny bits of information,” leaving students “scrambling to put together the puzzle pieces.”

On March 10, two days prior to the College’s decision to transition to online classes for the first part of spring term, Student Assembly leadership sent a letter to Dartmouth administrators asking that they keep housing open for students hoping to come back to campus for the spring term. SA president Luke Cuomo ’20 said that he believes the College’s decision to close campus housing to most students over the spring interim and spring term was reasonable, given the evolving nature of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Tanoh said that she would have preferred a response from the College that was similar to what SA had suggested. She added that the College’s treatment of international students during the interim housing review was indicative of the challenges international students often face.

“I’m tired,” Tanoh said. “International students have always had to beg and advocate for themselves.”