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The Dartmouth
April 19, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

DSG discusses student wellness projects and hunger strike

At its latest meeting, Dartmouth Student Government heard from representatives of the hunger strike for Palestine after detailing plans for a shuttle program.

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On Feb. 25, the Dartmouth Student Government Senate met for its seventh weekly meeting of the winter term. Led by student body president Jessica Chiriboga ’24, the Senate discussed student wellness projects and spoke with a few hunger strikers for Palestine.

Jake Twarog ’24 presented the Hanover-White River Junction shuttle pilot program, which he organized with DSG-Hanover town liaison Nicolás Macri ’24.

Twarog said that many students take the Vermonter, an Amtrak train, to and from White River Junction, which is about five miles away from campus. The Vermonter provides daily service between Washington, D.C. and St. Albans in northern Vermont, stopping at major cities such as New York City and Philadelphia.

Students who take the train in White River Junction often struggle to find transportation back to campus, Twarog said. While Advance Transit services end on Saturdays at 6 p.m, the northbound Vermonter is scheduled to arrive at White River Junction at 6:15 p.m, so passengers are unable to get back to Hanover. Additionally, Advance Transit does not operate on Sundays.

During the pilot program, Macri will drive a shuttle from Rauner Special Collections Library to White River Junction and back. Services to the northbound train will be provided on Saturday, March 9 and 23, and services to the northbound and southbound trains will be provided on Sunday, March 10 and 24.

The Senate voted unanimously to adopt the program so that it could be designated as an official College business and use College vehicles. If the project is successful, Dartmouth Transportation Services has expressed interest in funding the shuttle as soon as the fiscal year 2026, which begins in July 2025. 

South House Senator Ian McKenna ’27 presented the Mental Health Committee’s Dartmouth Sleep Project, a collaboration with the Student Wellness Center. 

McKenna explained that students who have attended DSG’s office hours, as well as students who have filled out the College’s student health report, have expressed that they are sleep-deprived. According to the results in the report, 88% of students “feel exhausted from nonphysical activity,” and 62% indicated that the “campus climate” negatively affects their mental health through auditory and visual disturbances. 

To address these concerns, the Dartmouth Sleep Project will distribute bags with an eye mask and a set of earplugs to undergraduate advisers to give to students in resident halls. 

The Senate voted 11-0-3 to provide the DSP $1,035 in funding from the DSG budget. The DSP will be launched in the first week of the spring term. 

North Park House Senator Sydney O’Connor ’27 then presented the Dartmouth Hammock Pilot Project, which will provide eight standing hammocks that can be rented through the Collis Center. According to O’Connor, these hammocks will address the needs of students for outdoor recreational space during the upcoming spring, summer and fall terms. 

“[The hammocks] fit so well with Dartmouth campus culture and public art installations,” she explained. 

Additionally, research has shown that hammocks improve mental health and sleep, O’Connor said. 

A vote to provide $560 funding to purchase the hammocks passed 12-0-1. They will be available for rent at the beginning of the spring term. 

Kevin Engel ’27, Roan V. Wade ’25 and Paul Yang ’23, three of the eight students protesting the College’s handling of the Israel-Hamas War, spoke to the Senate about their experiences with the administration. Engel participated in a hunger strike for a week, while Wade and Yang are still hunger striking, entering their 10th day of fasting on Feb. 29. 

During the meeting, Engel informed the Senate that the College had released a statement on the Office of Student Affairs website about its stance on the trespassing charges pressed against him and Wade, who were arrested in October while calling for the College to divest from businesses invested in Israel. The statement clarified that the College would not be interfering with the legal process. 

In an interview after the meeting, Engel clarified that the statement had been included in an email from Dean of the College Scott Brown following up about a meeting with the hunger strikers on Friday, March 28. During this meeting, Engel, Wade and Yang had asked Brown, Provost David Kotz ’86 and Vice President for Government and Community Relations Emma Wolfe that the College publicly state its position on the charges. 

West House Senator Samay Sahu ’27 pointed out that the publication of the statement had not been announced to campus or even student leaders. 

“Everyone knows about the protests and upcoming trials,” he said. “So, I’m disappointed in the College for quietly releasing this statement.”

Engel, Wade and Yang also spoke about how the “support and resources” the College had offered to the hunger strikers at the meeting were “performative.” 

Yang said during the Senate meeting that, while the College had reached out to the students to provide medical support, they had not done anything to acknowledge the strikers’ demands. 

“It’s time for DSG to step in and call for the College to issue a public response statement,” Yang  said.

Engel explained during the interview that the College reached out to the hunger strikers’ emergency contacts and parents without the strikers’ consent, which felt “paternalistic.”

“They don’t seem to view us as political entities or critical thinkers capable of making a political stance,” Engel said. 

Engel, Wade, Yang and members of the public who were present to support them advocated for DSG to release a statement pushing the College to drop the charges. Senators spoke about the importance of DSG maintaining a “position of neutrality,” according to Macri, to best advocate for students. 

On Feb. 26, DSG sent an email statement to campus clarifying its position on the College’s statement and refusal to drop the charges against the arrested students. 

“Dartmouth Student Government believes these students should not have been arrested given the alternatives available at that time,” the email stated. “Therefore, we are disheartened that these two students are being prosecuted and believe it has unnecessarily prolonged pain for the Dartmouth community.” 

DSG Senate meetings occur weekly on Sundays at 7 p.m. in Collis 101 and are open to all students.