Verbum Ultimum: Bursting the Dartmouth Bubble
The recent COVID-19 outbreak on campus demonstrates the price of Dartmouth letting its guard down.
After a term of low COVID-19 case numbers and relatively loose restrictions, Dartmouth’s bubble abruptly burst last week with the emergence of its first major COVID-19 outbreak. As of Thursday, Dartmouth’s total active student COVID-19 case count sits at 143 — roughly 4% of undergraduates living on campus and locally off campus. Students, who just weeks ago were ice skating on the Green and eating indoors at Collis, have now been forced back to the confines of their rooms.
The unfortunate reality is that this outbreak and return to lockdown could have been prevented. It’s an open secret that off-campus gatherings, Greek house parties and senior society meet-ups have been held against the College’s COVID-19 guidelines this term. In an email to campus last week, Provost Joseph Helble confirmed that the rise in transmission could most likely be attributed to maskless “noncompliant social interactions.” In other words, the selfish actions of a few have led directly to a locked-down campus for everyone.
The privileged nature of those actions, whether it be coming to campus without being tested or holding gatherings with dozens of people, reflects the values and priorities of certain Dartmouth students. Embedded in the actions that led to this outbreak is the innate belief that those students’ fun night out is more important than the health and safety of the entire Dartmouth community.
The repercussions thus far have been immense. Students who held in-person jobs on campus can no longer work their planned shifts. People who rely on the library or other public spaces to focus must now prepare for finals — alone — from their dorm rooms, all the while grappling with the mental health consequences of being stripped of social interaction.
In the fall, many voices, including that of this editorial board, were critical of the College for its harsh and opaque COVID-19 policies. This term, the College has adopted a far more reasonable stance, allowing more flexibility and opportunities for in-person interaction.
Unfortunately, some chose to abuse that.
We previously argued — and still believe — that respect and tolerance will succeed where condescension and repression fail. However, all sides must act in good faith. As a student body, we must remember that our personal actions have ramifications beyond ourselves. If this fractured and factionalized College hopes to one day function again as a community, each one of us needs to start caring about more than just ourselves.
Going forward, Dartmouth must also enforce clear, fair COVID-19 guidelines. Few at Dartmouth want a fall term-style surveillance state, and few want the College to turn a blind eye to potential superspreader events. Large parties are not hard to go without, and those who hosted them deserve censure. The College must look into the events that caused this outbreak and hold accountable the people and organizations responsible.
The editorial board consists of opinion staff columnists, the opinion editors, the executive editors and the editor-in-chief.