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From Daniel Webster, Class of 1801, onward, many Dartmouth alumni have gone on to serve in prominent public service roles. Alex Azar '88, the former Secretary of Health and Human Services under the Trump administration, is certainly one of them. But prominence and power do not mean admirability; Azar stepped down from his post earlier this week with the entrance of the Biden administration, ending four years of controversial health care policy.
“Callous and full of blatant disregard,” “doing everything possible to screw us,” “ridiculous” — over the past six months, these have been the words with which the members of the Class of 2023 have described the handling of the pandemic. As a ’23 myself, I agree — our class has been screwed over. We’re enduring an unmitigated surge in COVID-19 cases, a disastrously slow vaccine rollout and more than 400,000 deaths in the U.S. All of us are victims of a negligent response by the federal government and the misfortune of this virus arising in the first place.
On Jan. 6, the nation watched in horror as a group of pro-Trump insurgents stormed the U.S. Capitol in an event best understood as a pathetic attempt at a coup. The group, some armed with assault rifles, Molotov cocktails, bombs and even six-foot spears seized the Capitol building, forcing Congress to temporarily delay finalizing the certification of the electoral vote and President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
In the midst of a pandemic-exacerbated national mental health crisis, it comes as no surprise that wellness products are having a moment in the spotlight. Even before the pandemic, from 2015 to 2017, the global wellness industry had grown nearly twice as fast as the global economic growth rate, making it worth $4.5 trillion in 2018.
After four years filled with barely disguised racism, misinformation about COVID-19, denial of election results and impeachment (on a record-setting two separate occasions), President Donald Trump is finally leaving office. We voted him out in November, and in only a few days, President-elect Joe Biden will take office. But as damaging as Trump has been, he is not the cause of all of our political issues. Rather, he is a symptom of a wider right-wing movement that has come to play a major role in American political life.
Smoking is one of the leading causes of death in America, and the tobacco industry has concealed and obfuscated the dangers of smoking to protect its profits. As a former cigarette smoker, I learned the risks firsthand and quit for good when I had a precancerous growth removed from my inner lip in 2019. I have lost relatives to smoking, and I know how dangerous it is.
Just over a week ago, the U.S. experienced a national catastrophe. The Trump-incited siege on the Capitol, which used violence in an attempt to overturn a democratic election, was a galling attack on the heart of American democracy.
We’re only a couple of weeks into the new year, but fortunately, we now have promises from states across the country that the general public will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the months ahead. So, it seems reasonable to assume that the latter half of the year will usher in a badly needed wave of normalcy. However, if there’s one thing that the pandemic has taught us, it’s that so many of the things we hold dear are incredibly fragile: the presence of our loved ones, our ability to progress academically and professionally and our ability to socialize freely.
Shortly after 4 p.m. on Jan. 6, as law enforcement worked to secure the Capitol from a Trump-incited insurrection, the Associated Press projected that Democrat Jon Ossoff had won the U.S. Senate runoff election in Georgia. Ossoff and fellow Democratic senator-elect Raphael Warnock notched key victories in the previously red state, delivering the party a majority in the Senate — thanks, in part, to a consistent closing message advocating $2000 stimulus checks for all Americans.
In less than a week, Dartmouth students will awaken Hanover from its winter break hibernation. Many of the bright-eyed freshmen who were present last term will be gone, replaced by older students who have experienced Dartmouth at its best and most normal. How will these older students, with higher expectations of what a Dartmouth term should look like, react to the restricted and watered-down version being served? Not well, we can assume. This may put the community at risk from COVID-19 if frustrated students look to off-campus — and very likely non-COVID-19 safe — options for social life.
On Wednesday, the world watched in horror as a mob of right-wing insurrectionists launched a coordinated attack on the Capitol building, forcing the hurried evacuation of elected officials and leaving five dead — among them, a Capitol police officer. Broadcast live for all to see, this embarrassing display of antidemocratic chaos further tarnished the United States’ reputation as a champion of democracy. In its aftermath, some analysts have warned that the nation may face a new era of increasing political violence.
Though winter term has begun, most students still dialed into their Zoom classes while scattered far from Hanover. The reason? On Dec. 7, the College announced that it had chosen to delay move-in from Jan. 5 and 6 to Jan. 16 and 17 in order to mitigate the consequences of a post-holiday surge in COVID-19. This late decision — announced just a month before students were due to return, and nearly a month after the College gave students their original move-in dates — has created financial and academic difficulties for students forced to abruptly change their plans.
On Jan. 31, 1958, the U.S. launched its first satellite, Explorer 1, into orbit, marking the nation’s entry into the space race — a rivalry with the Soviet Union over the achievements of the two states’ respective space programs. With many firsts — the first satellite, dog and man in orbit and the first man on the moon — this era was one of the most intense bursts of scientific innovation in human history. However, for all its glory, the space race suffered from one key weakness that led to its early and dramatic decline: It was motivated not by a desire to advance mankind, but by fear of the enemy. The U.S. should not make this mistake again; it must work to renew its long-term investments into space exploration.
The litany of complaints is well-known at this point: a lawsuit on behalf of sexual harassment victims in psychological and brain sciences department, an open letter from Black faculty, staff and students highlighting institutional racism at Dartmouth and a graduate student forced to resort to a hunger strike. Despite the College’s rhetoric, Dartmouth has not taken sufficient concrete steps to address harassment, discrimination and harmful power dynamics in its community. The College must establish an independent ombuds office to help mediate conflict and resolve disputes among faculty, staff and students.
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?
Since the world shut down back in March, most of us, myself included, have been anticipating the end of the pandemic and hoping to get back to our regular lives. And with recent news of the apparently successful Pfizer vaccine, many of us have grown even more fixated on ending this crisis. However, with so much time devoted to predicting the end of the pandemic, its causes are often overlooked. Our society made choices that allowed this pandemic to occur, and we need to evaluate them so that we can avoid similar disasters in the future.