What’s up, DOC? Outing club adapts to COVID-19 restrictions
This article is featured in the 2020 Freshman special issue.
As Dartmouth students return to campus in the fall, many are looking forward to getting outside through the Dartmouth Outing Club. To abide by public health guidelines, club officers have developed plans for online and limited in-person activities.
Although the DOC normally runs trips throughout New England in the fall, trips this term will likely be limited to areas within walking distance, according to fall DOC president David Vonderheide ’21. He added that it is “unlikely” the club will get approval for van usage for trips further away from campus.
“We’re really pushing to have outdoor trips, because having an outing club that doesn’t go outside defeats its purpose,” Vonderheide said. “This will give us a really good opportunity to explore the woods and rivers around Hanover, which are areas we haven’t really explored that much before”
Working under COVID-19 restrictions
With regard to other health measures for in-person activities, Vonderheide said that the DOC is currently working with the Outdoor Programs Office and the College to make DOC trips safer. According to a procedure document developed by DOC leaders, this includes mandatory masks, six feet of social distancing “where possible” and limits of nine participants, including two student leaders.
Additionally, the document mentioned that DOC subclub leaders (note: subclubs include the Ledyard Canoe Club, Cabin & Trail, Dartmouth Mountaineering Club, Alpine Ski Racing Club, Archery Team, Bait and Bullet, Climbing Team, Club Skiing, Club Snowboarding Team, Dartmouth Ski Patrol, Environmental Studies Division, Mountain Biking Club, Nordic Ski Club, People of Color Outdoors Club, Surfing Club, Winter Sports Club, Women in the Wilderness and Woodsmen’s Team) will be trained in COVID-19 protocols by the DOC student risk management team prior to leading trips, and leaders will take “extra time” after trips to disinfect gear.
In accordance with these guidelines, some DOC subclubs have adapted their normal activities. Ledyard president Coby Gibson ’21 said that Ledyard is focusing on doing paddling trips on the Connecticut River. Ledyard trip participants will wipe down all gear after trips and social distance on the water, he added.
“While a lot of things are still unclear to us right now, it’s pretty easy to be socially distanced and wears masks while paddling,” Gibson said. “We’re also looking at what outdoor companies are doing to keep participants safe.”
Similarly, Cabin & Trail co-chair Kevin Donohue ’21 said that his club plans on running “as many local trips as possible” in the fall to “better explore the local area.” While he said that he wished the club could use vans for trips, he noted that he was still “especially excited” to “help students get outside.”
“We’re hoping to get outside as much as we can and help the ’24s who might be cooped up,” Donohue said.
Donohue also said that Cabin & Trail is working on developing a new “local leader” position for students who want to lead short local hiking trips. He added that he hoped this will make it easier for students to “hop into leadership” and “stay engaged” with the club.
DOC members maintain community online
Throughout the spring and summer terms, DOC subclubs conducted meetings and activities over Zoom to adapt to remote learning. According to summer DOC president Lauren Dorsey ’22, a “wide variety of people from across campus” have attended virtual DOC events.
A particular area on which the DOC focused on this summer was anti-racism. According to Dorsey, the DOC held weekly discussion sessions focusing on topics ranging from mass incarceration to inclusivity in the outdoors. She also said the DOC, in collaboration with club sports, raised over $9,500 for a racial justice matching fund.
“The fundraiser and anti-racism discussions were extraordinarily successful,” Dorsey said. “I really hope we can keep this momentum for racial justice going into the fall and beyond.”
Dorsey also said that there was a club-wide scavenger hunt in the summer to “foster competition between subclubs.” In addition, some subclubs held special events; for example, Women in the Wilderness partnered with the Hopkins Center for the Arts to show films from the Women’s Adventure Film Festival.
According to Vonderheide, the club is hoping to “expand upon” these online activities in order to help students, especially ’24s, get to know one another. He mentioned that the club is planning on continuing its anti-racism discussions, as well as facilitating “smaller meetings” to help students get to know one another.
“We’re working really hard to make it easy for ’24s to meet one another and upperclassmen,” Vonderheide said. “We really want new students to feel welcome and appreciated here.”
Subclub leaders are also developing their own plans for online meetings and social activities. Gibson said that Ledyard is improving virtual meetings and will have “virtual Ledyard dates” to help new students get to know upperclassmen involved within the club. Additionally, he said that the club plans to use its Instagram account and email to reach out to ’24s.
“We’re going to be really active in reaching out to people,” Gibson said.
Likewise, Donohue said that Cabin & Trail is looking to “make a welcoming social space” through online meetings. He added that he hopes to run some “in-person introductory events” later in the fall to better connect with ’24s.
“Because no one will be doing [First-Year] Trips, it’s really important we bring the energy to create a community online, just like what we would do in person,” Donohue said.
Incoming students look ahead
Some incoming freshmen have expressed hope that they will be able to participate in DOC activities this year.
Will Reason ’24 said that the DOC was one of the “biggest features that attracted” him to Dartmouth and that he would “love to participate” in any kind of activity this fall. He added that in light of Trips’ cancellation, he hopes the Class of 2024 will have some “outdoorsy” event in the future.
“Being outside with your classmates is a great way to bond,” Reason said. “Even the chance to do some small-scale DOC events would be fantastic.”
Similarly, Ericka Asmus ’24 said that she had been “really looking forward to” Trips and that she hopes she will be able to “use outdoor space for working out and trying different clubs.” She also said that the shorter duration of trips will make it easier to “dabble” in different DOC subclubs.
“As someone who often bites off more than I can chew, it’s a good thing to have shorter trips while I’m getting settled into college life,” Asmus said.