What’s a ’23 To Do? Making Decisions About Winter Term

by Mia Seymour | 10/28/20 2:30am

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Baker Tower looks over the Green on a cold winter evening. 

by Michael Lin / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

I remember finishing my work shift in late July and pulling out my phone to see 235 unread messages. I braced myself for what I already knew: term assignments had come out. Everything I had speculated about sophomore year would change once I opened my email from the Registrar. Disbelief struck when I read that I had been approved for only one term, summer.  

As a ’23, I joined my peers in frustration at how the College’s plan particularly neglected our class. The inequitable division of terms gave us priority for summer and pigeon-holed us into winter, arguably the worst time to be on campus. Articulating our dissatisfaction with this plan fell on deaf ears, and what’s more relevant now is the choice that us ’23s are now forced to make: do we brave winter term or wait until summer to be back on campus? 

In the fall, many of us were left scrambling if we were not given on-campus housing. Living off campus with other ’23s stood out as the best choice; another term stuck in your bedroom, logging onto Zoom and coming downstairs for family dinner seemed unbearable. ’23s navigated the world of Airbnb, signing leases and planning grocery trips to cook for six people. 

But now winter is approaching. The College offered a waitlist for winter housing, prioritizing those who only received one term, and people who got off this waitlist or already had housing needed to confirm by Monday, Oct. 26, if they wanted a spot. It’s a decision that makes a lot of us consider: Is a COVID-19 winter in Hanover what we truly want? 

Some students have accepted their spots, deciding to embrace all that winter term may bring. Veronica Abreu ’23 is from Iowa and is currently living an hour away from campus. She said she plans to live on campus while taking classes this winter. She said that living in a learning environment helps keep her motivated while taking online classes. However, her biggest concern is the precariousness of her on-campus housing, which could change at any moment. 

“There are a lot of variables that I can’t control that might affect if i’m living on campus,” Abreu said. “And as someone who lives halfway across the country, it's a little bit stressful to think about leaving halfway during term.” 

Abreu also said she thinks that socializing on campus during the winter will be heavily dependent on Zoom. She believes that at the end of the day, no one is going to want to be sitting outside in five degree weather, six feet apart, having a club meeting. 

In addition to concerns over opportunities to socialize during the winter, there is also the looming fear of being sent home for violating COVID-19 guidelines. There are rumors about large numbers of students disappearing, leaving us to speculate that even the simplest error in following the rules could result in removal from Hanover overnight. For ’23s, this also translates to the loss of summer housing — the one term our entire class is supposedly guaranteed to be together again. And with the impending cold weather and its effect on social distancing, there is the likelihood that guidelines themselves will become even more intense. 

Vandana Venkatesh ’23, who is currently living off campus, echoed this concern.

“I don't know what the activities will be like in the winter or if the administration will even have any,” Venkatesh said. “There are lots of rumours that the administration isn’t addressing or being transparent about … I don't want to go back and be tiptoeing around rules.” 

The unappealing nature of winter term has made others confident in their decision to forgo their housing. Dan Igielski ’23 is also living off campus, and believes that the risk of being sent home and the limited access to academic, athletic and social facilities has made it seem like winter term won’t be the college experience he was hoping for. His housemate Noah Canel ’23 conveyed similar thoughts, expressing his concern about how Dartmouth in particular is handing student residency.

“It's hard for me to stand behind Dartmouth’s procedures and plans when I see how differently COVID-19 is being handled by private and public institutions across the country,” Canel said. “I am frustrated that we all had to sacrifice our on-campus experiences and now watch from the sidelines as other college students do exactly what we were attempting to prevent, without punishment at that, on magnitudes that outweigh our tiny school in the middle of the woods.” 

Igielski said that even though he is planning on living off campus, he can still have a good term by living somewhere fun with his friends and potentially taking online classes. This was a common sentiment among all the ’23s I spoke to — students want to be with other Dartmouth students no matter what, both for the social and academic benefits.

At the end of the day, ’23s are finding a way to make it work — whether that’s living on or off campus. 

I am currently living off campus with other ’23s, and if you ask me what my plans are for winter, I will unashamedly respond “I don’t know.” Despite being from New England and weathering aggressive winters much of my life, I don’t do well with the cold. Imagining sitting in my dorm room as the sun sets in early afternoon, being delivered meals, booking library appointments and accidentally breaking a rule that results in my departure has led me to decide not to live on campus this winter. However, I have yet to construct serious plans for living off campus with friends, and am still unsure whether I'm actually going to take classes. What’s worse, if you ask me in two weeks, I likely still won’t be able to give you a more clear answer. That being said, I have faith that things will fall into place.