To Be (On Campus) or Not To Be: ’24s Debate Whether to Return for Winter

by Arielle Feuerstein | 11/18/20 2:20am

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by Margaret Jones / The Dartmouth

When Dartmouth first announced it would allow students to live on campus this fall, many ’24s were overjoyed. With some universities transitioning fully online, students were grateful that the College had granted them at least one remnant of a normal college experience.

Initially, an on-campus winter term was not an option for freshmen. However, a few weeks ago, ’24s received the opportunity to place their names on a waitlist for winter housing. Those who received housing faced a difficult choice: After a fall term characterized by COVID-19 restrictions and student “disappearances,” was living on campus worth it?  

Samantha Palermo ’24 believes that it was, and is planning to come back to campus for the winter. She explained that campus is her preferred learning environment. 

“I think that the college environment is designed to help students succeed. We have all kinds of study spaces, like Collis, Novack and the library. Even though they’re open to us on a limited basis, it’s still helpful to have these spaces, and it’s also nice to be able to study with friends,” Palermo said. 

For Palermo, the College’s COVID-19 restrictions were not a deal breaker. 

“Obviously it would be ideal to be here without COVID restrictions,” Palermo said. “But I feel like the restrictions are loose enough that I can still learn.”

Even though many other students sacrificed their on campus residency in favor of living in off campus housing, Palermo still preferred the on campus environment.

“When you’re living in a house with friends it’s a lot harder to focus, and campus really is the best environment for studying and academics,” Palermo said.

Not every ’24 is so excited by the prospect of living on campus this winter. Nicholas Zane ’24 initially placed his name on the winter housing waitlist to give himself the option of staying on campus, but when the College offered him a spot, he declined. As one of a small number of ’24s actually allowed on campus, Zane decided it wasn’t worth it to remain on campus without most of his friends, and he felt he could find the college atmosphere in other places. 

“I’ve made some friends here over the term and they won’t be able to be on campus for winter term. So I would like to get a house with them. We’re actually considering renting a house in a college town and sort of integrating into their community, networking and experiencing a different culture for once,” Zane said. 

Zane said the College’s COVID-19 rules were a factor in his decision. He said he felt the College’s rules were ambiguous and the punishments too harsh, and he worried that if he were on campus during the winter, he could inadvertently violate COVID-19 guidelines and jeopardize his chances of living on campus during the spring. 

“I think the rules aren’t clear enough to know exactly what to do at all times,” Zane said. “ … I just don’t want to risk having any issues in the future.”

Zane also expressed concerns that winter term would be even more isolating than fall was. 

“It’s going to be very cold, and it’s all online lessons, so presumably I’m just going to be in my room a whole bunch, and that doesn’t sound like the most exciting return for me,” Zane said. 

While some ’24s got to decide whether to rejoin the campus community for winter, some international students had the decision made for them. Rujuta Purohit ’24, who lives in India, was informed on Nov. 6 that she had been accepted off the winter waitlist, and was then told that she needed to have her visa by Nov. 13. Purohit was unable to get a visa on such short notice. 

“I don’t live in a city that has an embassy, so I need to book a flight and book a hotel and book an appointment, and they want me to do all that in under a week,” Purohit explained. “It’s just not possible.”

Purohit reached out to the Dean of the College, the Office of Pluralism and Leadership and the undergraduate deans, explaining that she could not meet the visa deadline, but Purohit reported that the College told her the deadline was inflexible. Purohit worries that she might not be able to come to campus at all this year. 

“I was really sure I could be on campus for spring before,” Purohit said. “But not if they hit us with another deadline like this.”

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