Griffin: Selfish Students

Dartmouth students are putting Hanover residents at risk.

by Julia Griffin | 7/24/20 2:45am

As Dartmouth prepares to welcome back a portion of the student body to campus in September, the rate of COVID-19 infections around the nation continues to skyrocket. This latest spike in the spread of COVID is marked by one particular difference: young adults are getting infected at much higher rates than they were during the spring. Why is this the case? As The Hill reports, many young adults have a misguided impression that the virus cannot cause them harm, consequentially risking their health and that of their family and friends.  

Throughout the southern and south-western United States, COVID-19 is steadily marching through the population, filling hospitals to capacity and resulting in a state-by-state rush to stem the tide. Around the U.S. and, in our case, here in Hanover, we need everyone, and particularly local young adults, to modify their behavior immediately to help stop the spread of COVID-19. That includes local Dartmouth students.

Sadly, locally we are observing irresponsible behavior among young adults every day and the majority of these young adults are Dartmouth students. Whether it is in backyards, on riverfront beaches and docks or in large student gatherings in downtown Hanover — Dartmouth students are not social distancing, are not wearing masks and are gathering in large groups. Just this weekend, both Kendal Riverfront Park and Wilson’s Landing were jammed with Dartmouth students with no masks or social distancing in sight. Residents who live next to off-campus student rentals are growing increasingly concerned as students disregard public health advice and refuse to abide by the recommendations emphasized by both the WHO and the CDC along with state, local and Dartmouth officials. Pong tables are prevalent, large gatherings are occurring regularly and social distancing is not.

In other college communities across the nation, the behavior of students now in residence for the summer has resulted in super spreader fraternity parties which are beginning to worry local College leaders. Recent coronavirus outbreaks have been linked to fraternities at universities in Washington, California and Mississippi, and experts say it’s an example of what’s to come as many colleges reopen for in-person classes beginning in August.

A recent “Greek Row” COVID-19 outbreak at the University of Washington, where at least 136 fraternity members tested positive, should serve as a cautionary tale. The university is currently planning to open for limited in-person learning, bringing up to 6,500 students back to on-campus housing in August. But this outbreak could change that. University officials shared that it’s “becoming harder to imagine bringing our campus community back in the way we are envisioning.” 

A potential result of this irresponsible behavior nationwide is that colleges and universities may well have to abandon their plans to bring students back to campus for the fall term. This could very well prove the case for Dartmouth. Local Hanover residents are increasingly alarmed at the prospect of students returning to campus from all over the world and this fear is reinforced by the current irresponsible behavior local residents are observing.

Hanover wants you back, but not given the way students are currently conducting themselves which could well lead to a COVID outbreak. Smarten up, folks. It is vital that Dartmouth students social distance, wear a mask and refrain from groups of more than 10 people. The behavior of Dartmouth students currently residing in the Upper Valley may very well determine whether any of you will be able to return to campus in September.

Julia Griffin is the Hanover town manager. 

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