Opinion Asks: Vaccinations and Loosening COVID-19 Restrictions on Campus

Should vaccinated students be able to attend unmasked, undistanced gatherings on campus as well as off campus?

by The Dartmouth Opinion Staff | 4/15/21 2:05am

This past week, Dartmouth announced in a college-wide email that students living in off-campus, private spaces who were vaccinated could gather in groups of nine or fewer students without masks and without maintaining six feet of distance — a policy that is in line with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines regarding vaccinated individuals. However, the new policies do not afford vaccinated on-campus students the privilege of unmasked, undistanced gatherings because, in part, of the difficulty of ensuring only vaccinated students are gathering in common spaces or dorm rooms. Do you agree with these proposed changes to the college’s social distancing and mask policy? If not, what changes to these policies would you propose?

I understand the difficulties that the College faces with adjusting COVID-19 guidelines: Students who haven’t yet been vaccinated could easily take advantage of potential changes, posing a health threat. However, I think the College should be ready to quickly reevaluate its decision given the rising student vaccination rates. The College should get itself in front of the curve and implement more lenient rules; otherwise, they risk students abandoning the rules altogether. I believe students who are vaccinated should be able to be in each others’ rooms without masks on. The truth is, vaccinated students will start to take actions like these whether or not the College approves of them. 

— Gracie Dickman ’24

While I am glad to see the College loosening some of its restrictions, I’m not quite sure what jurisdiction the College ever had over off-campus gatherings to begin with. In giving its blessing to off-campus gatherings among vaccinated individuals — but not to on-campus ones — the College has once again shown its desire to unfairly punish students living on-campus. Remember, the College never cared to enforce its “policies” when it came to off-campus gatherings among off-campus students: not in the fall term, and certainly not in the winter term when a larger outbreak emerged. So, I think the College ought to at least adopt CDC guidance uniformly even if doing so may present logistical challenges. 

— Michael Harrison ’24

At present, it may be difficult for the College to easily distinguish between those who have and have not been vaccinated. However, in the next few weeks, the administration should adopt a system through which students can confirm their vaccination on demand. This way, if a college official is suspicious of an unmasked or non-socially-distanced gathering, they can scan student ID cards for immediate confirmation. This sort of policy would go a long way toward incentivizing students to get vaccinated and leave the entire school, as well as the town of Hanover, better off. Additionally, relaxing campus policies by allowing students to properly socialize would improve students’ mental health and finally deliver the first steps of a return to normalcy. 

— Kami Arabian ’24

While the administration has followed the prescriptions of science until now, the College’s current policies inconsistently apply CDC guidelines. Dartmouth should apply the same policy to all students, regardless of if they live on or off campus. If students are vaccinated, they should be allowed to socialize with other vaccinated students, in accordance with CDC guidelines for vaccinated individuals. 

— Thomas de Wolff ’24