Moore: An Injured Morale
After three years of loving Dartmouth, an injury is making me lose faith in its professors and support systems.
While the administration recently promised to reorient its focus toward student health, there are still some critical gaps in campus support systems. Despite my love for this school, the illusion of care spread by certain professors and disability services is an aspect of Dartmouth that disappoints me.
In early January, alongside one-fifth of the campus, I got COVID-19. After a week of quarantining in my room and missing our first varsity race, I went to the skiway, where I crashed and was sent into a 10-month knee recovery process. Three days after that crash, I was crutching to class when I got hit by a car, adding a concussion and some broken ribs.
I considered withdrawing from courses altogether and moving back to my home across the country. But after hearing so much about the provost’s renewed commitment to student health in the winter, I was confident I could stay afloat with a solid support system and professors on my side.
Only a few weeks in, however, I was seriously regretting my decision to stay on campus and take classes. Rather than working with me, Student Accessibility Services, the Department of Safety and Security and most especially my professors made my return to school much more stressful and complicated than I had expected. I found that due to my temporary injuries, I was forced to pick between focusing on my mental and physical health and academically succeeding — a compromise I don’t believe students should have to make.
After multiple visits to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, I met with my professors to explain my prognosis. Not only would I be missing class for surgery, but I would also be taking fentanyl and oxycontin for the pain, along with managing my concussion for the remainder of the term. Despite the physical signs of my injuries and my doctor's notes, one professor found it suspicious that my surgery date lined up with the midterm and suggested that I wasn’t telling the whole truth. Another said that although he empathized with my situation, he still expected me to perform exactly the same as my peers, completing assignments and exams without flexibility.
Furthermore, two professors stated that if I missed class — no matter if it was due to surgery, concussion haziness or pain levels — they would dock my grade for lack of participation. To me, this was the most twisted part of my situation, because these same professors offered virtual participation options anyway for those who had to miss class due to COVID-19. When I was already in harrowing pain, experiencing the mind-altering effects of medication and concussion and struggling to maintain my relationships and daily routine, this harshness felt punitive.
As recommended by my undergraduate dean, I explained my frustrations to SAS and Safety and Security, both of whom expressed sympathy and warm wishes. However, because my disability was only temporary, supposedly neither office could interfere with my professor’s conduct or offer anything besides wellness counseling through Dick’s House. According to those in charge of the school’s disability services, my arrangement was to be handled entirely by the same professors who either didn’t believe I was injured or didn’t really care — end of story.
I’m a student who genuinely loves learning and forming relationships with professors. I am also a student who used to be a huge advocate for Dartmouth, barring the administration’s lack of mental health awareness and focus. In fact, I convinced my little brother to apply and have spoken at many high schools to the excellence of Dartmouth’s education. However, I’m beginning to have second thoughts about my unconditional love for this school, as I find myself yet again disappointed in its support network — the most critical part of campus life. After student suicides and hard lessons learned from COVID, shouldn’t the health of our students still be a priority?
I do recognize that my temporary injury pales in comparison to many, and it’s important that SAS prioritizes more permanent and lasting accessibility issues. That said, if professors continue to be this unaccommodating, there is a need for more standard practice and SAS protection when it comes to temporary disabilities. The College must recognize that, despite their general effort towards improvement of student health, individual professors carry the most weight in students' day-to-day lives. If there is no standard of care among the faculty, and SAS does not cover the gaps in such care, then student health is not a decided priority.