Students alter D-Plans amid College coronavirus changes

by Lauren Adler | 4/2/20 2:55am

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by Olympia Nagel-Caland / The Dartmouth

Though many students will still take classes this term despite the move to remote learning, the COVID-19 crisis has abruptly changed both short and long-term academic plans for many in the Dartmouth community.

After the cancellation of spring off-campus programs and the subsequent announcement that classes would be moved online, students had to adapt quickly to the changes. While many opted to take online classes through Dartmouth, some students have decided to take the term off. Others have elected to take transfer terms at other schools, made easier by the waived transfer fee for this term.

Many students have voiced concerns about paying full tuition for a remote term, with thousands signing an online petition urging the Dartmouth administration not to charge the full amount. The College, however, has chosen not to reduce tuition for the spring term. Once Ian McGrory ’22 learned that the fee to transfer credits would be waived, he opted to take three classes at the University of California, Los Angeles and one at DePaul University in order to save on tuition.

“It’s half the price that Dartmouth is charging for online classes for effectively the same education,” he said. “There are also more options for classes … If I’m taking classes online, anywhere, I might as well take classes at places that offer unlimited enrollment for any class so I can take whatever I want.”

Others, like Makena Thomas ’20, have decided to take the term off and delay graduation. She said that she had been planning to take online classes until the College announced the spring’s credit/no-credit grading system, at which point she decided to take the term off so that she could later take courses that would count toward her grade point average.

“The one main factor that had me make that decision [to defer graduation] was the pass/fail policy,” Thomas said. “A lot of people are going to benefit from pass/fail, but just not me. I want my grades. It would just majorly disincentivize me from doing more than just the pass.”

Thomas will take her last term of classes during the summer. She said that she would be enrolling even if summer classes are online, as the College has announced that letter grades will be awarded regardless of whether or not the term is virtual.

For some students, spring term changes will affect their long-term academic plans.

Izzy Kocher ’22, for example, who is on the pre-health track and studying to become a veterinarian, had also hoped to pursue an art history minor. After the cancellation of the art history foreign study program in Rome, she said she will no longer be able to do so.

She said that the pre-health track’s “very strict and laborious” course requirements already make it difficult for pre-health students to study abroad, so she was “really excited” when she found a way to do so.

While Kocher said she understood that the program was impossible due to the pandemic, she noted that the situation was still “frustrating.”

Parker Pickett ’22, like Thomas, decided to take the spring term off. He said that because his brother is involved in efforts to help the homeless amid the COVID-19 pandemic, his family is at a higher risk of infection. His elderly grandmother has thus been kept apart from the rest of his family, and he has been caring for her at her home, where there is no reliable internet connection.

He said that the process of changing his D-Plan was difficult, adding that at times he had trouble contacting the Dartmouth registrar. He said that he sent an email to the office “a while” before tuition was due, but hadn’t heard back by the time payments were due.

“I think they were just so busy, but [one] of the personal things I wish they could have done is [decide] that the term was going to be remote earlier so I would’ve had more time to make a decision and prepare for what I wanted to do,” Thomas said.

Students formerly enrolled in off-campus programs also faced communication issues amid the COVID-19 turmoil. According to Paul Hager ’22, an intended Spanish minor who expected to spend this spring on the Spanish FSP in Buenos Aires, students impacted by program cancellations were not informed that they would be able to enroll in Dartmouth classes until March 23 — only a week before the start of spring term.

He added that this made the process of academic planning in the midst of the pandemic very difficult.

“They really weren’t going out of their way to make it easy on us,” he said.

Scotty Tamkin ’22, an art history and government double major who intended to go on the art history FSP with Kocher, faced similar issues after the program cancellations.

“I’ve spent a lot of the last week looking at the ORC catalog and trying to do degree planning,” Tamkin said. “I’m going to try to take at least one course [this term] to get a little bit further with my major requirements, but it’s having a negative impact on how much I can get done.”

Edel Galgon ’22 noted that when she contacted the registrar about D-Plan changes for the spring term, it “didn’t really feel like someone read [her] emails.”

Galgon said that she requested to withdraw from the spring term in December, but the registrar’s office did not grant that request until March 23. When she attempted to switch back on for the term three days later, she said her request was denied. She said that she explained to the registrar that she had been “on” until only a few days earlier, but that the office informed her that priority was given to students who had planned to be on off-campus programs.

Galgon is now trying to take a transfer term at an in-state college, but she said that the registrar has still been unresponsive.

“I think that they’re definitely tasked with a really difficult problem, but it was really frustrating to have these really long response times from the registrar’s office,” she said. “Dartmouth seems to be kind of dragging their feet on how they’re making decisions, and that’s kind of frustrating.”

Katie Smith ’22, who expected to go on the geography FSP in Prague, agreed that the College could have been “a little bit more clear on certain things,” though she added that the current situation is not one in which she would want to be a school administrator.

“I think that they need to be more proactive and effective and [provide] support to low-income and first-gen[eration] students and international students who have been affected more by this crisis than most of us,” she said. “I’m not sure that they’ve done as much as they could have, but I’m hopeful they’ll clarify things soon.”