Students assigned between one and three on-campus terms

by Andrew Sasser | 8/14/20 5:00am

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by Michael Lin / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

Though many students expected to receive two terms of on-campus enrollment for the upcoming academic year, only around 60 percent of undergraduate students received two terms, according to an email sent to campus by Dean of the College Kathryn Lively on Aug. 3.

37 percent of the undergraduate student body received only one term on campus. Lively said in an interview with The Dartmouth that the one-term assignments were partly due to the “constantly changing” COVID-19 case numbers and the volatility of enrollment capacity for future terms,  and partly because some students only chose one in-residence term. Conversely, some international students, who would have otherwise had trouble leaving the country, received three terms. 

In an email sent to all undergraduate students on July 31, the same day students received their term assignments, Lively wrote that all students who had accepted their classes’ priority term were approved for on-campus enrollment. Lively also wrote that all students who had chosen fall, winter or summer as their first priority term were approved, but added that only priority-term students — ’21s and ’24s — were approved for spring due to high demand. 

According to Lively, nearly 1,500 students ranked spring term as their first choice.

Lively added that the College would reevaluate term capacity and finalize enrollments for winter term in Oct., for spring term in Jan. and for summer term in April. In addition, she wrote that the College expects to have 2,300 undergraduate students on campus this fall.

With regard to the results of the preference form, Lively said that she was “pleasantly surprised” that 96 percent of undergraduate students, amounting to more than 4,600 people, completed the form on time. She added that the College may open a waitlist for on-campus fall enrollment, depending on the number of students who may “change their minds” about returning to campus.

Lively also noted that the College “prioritized” giving all students who wished to return one term before assigning second terms. 

“I totally understand the pain and frustration of some students who only got one term, but we can’t commit to future terms just yet,” Lively said. “We could need to reduce capacity further in winter, or we could have a vaccine by spring, and things like that could change our capacity.”

Some students have expressed dissatisfaction with the results of the term preferences form. According to Lively, much of the feedback has been from ’22s and ’23s who “feel that they’re more negatively impacted” than the ’21s and ’24s. She added that some ’23s specifically have expressed “frustration” that they have only been granted summer term, a term which is “over a year away from when they would have last been on campus.” 

Jonah Weinbaum ’23 said that he felt “very frustrated” by the fact that he only received summer term. He also mentioned that, as a transfer student, he had declined his priority for fall term and instead chose spring as his first choice, followed by winter.

“I really didn’t want to be at home in the Midwest in winter to quarantine, and I wanted to try to get as much of a normal experience as possible, so that’s why I preferred spring,” Weinbaum said. “I’m a little bit disappointed that I have to wait to find out my second term, especially when the emails implied we would learn about both now.”

David Millman ’23 said that although he received winter and summer, “many of his friends” received only one term. He added that he felt communication from the College was “incredibly murky” about why some students only got one term.

“In all of the emails we got, they never said that they would need to assign the second term at a later date,” Millman said. “I had to email Dean Lively directly to figure out why some of us got one term.”

With regard to the term preferences results for international students, Lively said that assigning terms was “complicated” by different visa requirements and travel restrictions for students coming from different countries. She added that the College offered three terms of on-campus enrollment for some international students who may not be able to leave the country.

“We prioritized giving three terms to students who may lose their visa or otherwise have their academic continuity severely disrupted,” Lively said. “We’re still working closely with OVIS, as the visa situation is always changing for international students.”

Elliot Ng ’21 said that he was “somewhat dissatisfied” about only receiving on-campus enrollment for the fall and spring because of the ongoing travel ban from the United States back to his home country of Malaysia. He added that he was planning to email the College to see if he could be on-campus in the winter.

“I really don’t know what the College expects me to do,” Ng said. “It’s going to be very difficult to find housing in the winter, so I might have to beg someone to stay in their basement.” 

According to Lively, the College is currently “focusing heavily” on finalizing the number of students who will be on campus in the fall. She also mentioned that any student who wishes to “swap” their terms can email the Dean of the College’s office, but added that these “swaps” will not be processed until a “later date.”

Additionally, Lively said that students who are interested in taking an extended time away from the College or who wish to enter into a five year D-plan should reach out to their respective undergraduate dean to “discuss their various options.” 

“Right now, we’re working really hard to meet everyone’s needs and preferences,” Lively said. “We really appreciate how students are able to live with the current uncertainty for the upcoming year.”

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