Opinion Asks: Another Term of Zoom University

by The Dartmouth Opinion Staff | 11/17/20 2:00am

This past term was an unusual one for Dartmouth. As the first term to welcome students back to campus since March nears its close, there is much to reflect on. In your opinion, was this term successful? What worked and what didn't?

If you had asked me two months ago when I arrived on Dartmouth’s campus for the first time if I thought we would get through the term without an outbreak — I don’t think I would’ve said yes. So, the fact that Dartmouth has been able to navigate “semi-residential” learning even as the pandemic rages in other parts of the country means that the term was a success. 

Could it have been better? Gone smoother? Seen fewer students “disappeared” over the course of the term? Sure — but I’m just grateful to have spent my first term of college here in Hanover.

 — Michael Harrison ’24

This term presented many unprecedented logistical challenges for faculty and administration, as well as students. To this end, while I am sympathetic to the difficulty that accompanied planning an on-campus term during the middle of a global pandemic and have been pleasantly surprised by the low level of COVID-19 transmission among Dartmouth students, I have consistently been disappointed by the College’s failure to acknowledge the necessity of social interaction in maintaining one’s mental health and some semblance of normalcy. 

This is perhaps best represented by the limited number of social spaces on campus and the College’s narrative that students should strive to spend as much time as possible in their dorm rooms. This perspective is not only ignorant in that it fails to consider the need for students to log off of their computers and engage in semi-normal human interaction, but it is also incredibly damaging, as it perpetuates the idea that students exist solely to write papers, take exams and complete assignments. While these are certainly major components of students’ lives, the College must be willing to acknowledge that we are social beings who require space to relax and interact with other people. 

 — Natalie Dokken ’23

Coming to Dartmouth for the first time this fall, I knew that almost everything would be conducted virtually, and I would miss out on most typical traditions and experiences. But while my freshman fall was not what I expected, I found that Zoom classes actually provide an interesting learning environment, and bonding with members of my class is still possible, despite struggling to recognize people behind masks. Dartmouth in a pandemic is certainly not ideal, but this term has only made me more excited to attend after this pandemic is over.

 — Katherine Arrington ’24

While I cannot speak for everyone, it seems that most of the Class of 2024 felt welcome to our unique community. Of course, 20F was far from the term we had dreamt of as we penned our personal statements. However, considering the circumstances, I felt this term was largely successful, and I commend the College for the months of preparation that made it possible. 

That said, much can be improved. At times, the COVID-19 guidelines seemed either unclear or unreasonable. By correcting this issue, I am confident that future socially distanced terms will be even better.

— Kami Arabian ’24

Ultimately, looking back, I believe this term was successful. The clear goal for 20F was to bring students back to campus without having any major outbreaks, and that goal was achieved. Merely allowing students on campus and having them remain there for the whole term should be seen as an accomplishment for the College compared to other schools around the country. That being said, I feel that the administration could better support students, especially ’24s, in building community and socializing despite COVID-19 restrictions. This is the first term with these restrictions in place, and naturally there are some issues to work out. 

— Gracie Dickman ’24

I would say this term was successful. I am very glad I chose to come to campus. I was able to make some great friendships and have some unforgettable experiences, even if the restrictions in place made those moments harder to come by. I would not have those memories and relationships if I had stayed home this term. I think in-person classes would’ve been possible, but I understand the rationale behind why they were not implemented this term at least. I am sad to have missed out on the hallmarks of freshman fall such as Homecoming, but I am thoroughly looking forward to experiencing all that Dartmouth has to offer in the future.

— Thomas de Wolff ’24

It’s hard to put a label of success or failure on this term. This term was a relative success for Dartmouth in terms of keeping COVID-19 rates low — knock on wood for the remainder of the quarter — and ensuring that students were tested appropriately. I think for many students living in off-campus houses and Greek houses, this term could also be defined as a relative success, as these students were able to maintain a more “normal” college life. 

What should be worked on, however, is the life of students living in dorms. While I understand the College is cautious of allowing students to socialize and facilitating interaction, the meager offerings of outdoor seating and limited library hours were not enough. I am worried we may see the consequences of the disparity in quality of life for on-campus students in coming terms, as more and more students elect to live off campus and potentially further away from the College.

— Gabrielle Levy ’22

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