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With over 1,500 new cases among faculty, staff and students since the term started and a testing positivity rate of over 14% this past week, one would be hard-pressed to find a friend group, class or dorm that has managed to entirely avoid the clutches of COVID-19. And, as Student Assembly first shared in its email communications and the administration continues to remind students, this should come as no surprise: Dartmouth anticipated this staggering caseload and adjusted its policies accordingly, doing away with isolation housing, setting up a shockingly high quality isolation dining experience and allowing people the chance to test out with a negative rapid test after five or seven days. The College has done good work in preparing for the inevitable, but glaring issues remain: Dartmouth must do more to ease the lives of those who, by virtue of the College’s decision to treat COVID-19 as endemic, have contracted the virus.
In 1984, Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, making access to federal funding for transportation projects conditional upon whether or not a state had a drinking age of 21. If a state allowed the sale of alcohol to anyone under 21, they didn’t get their money. Regardless of what you think of the minimum drinking age, the law worked. By 1988, just four years later, all states had altered their drinking laws so they wouldn’t lose funding. To this day, no state allows the sale of alcohol to anyone under 21. There were complaints and controversies, but in the end, no state was willing to forgo their free cash for highways from D.C. over the drinking age. There’s an important lesson to be learned here is that the way to get states to act on matters generally considered out of federal purview is to tie their money to it.
I have a question for you: Do you think it is morally permissible for you to consume a bag of chips? A regular, plastic, and often half-filled bag of chips?
Criticizing Dartmouth is, admittedly, pretty easy.
Thus far, winter term has been characterized by unprecedented levels of COVID-19 transmission — with 993 new cases in just the last seven days — as well as a return to some social restrictions and a commitment to in-person instruction. While in-person classes resumed in a limited capacity in the summer and fully resumed in the fall, their continuation despite the spread of the omicron variant is a notable and welcome deviation from previous policy. This Editorial Board commends both the College’s commitment to in-person instruction as well as their clear and continuous communication of any and all changes that are made to COVID-19 policy, but firmly recommends additional investment in hybrid class models for those in isolation.
Two years ago, our world was transformed with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As my boarding school in Massachusetts, like other institutions across the nation, shifted to online learning, I was forced to book an immediate flight home to Hanoi, Vietnam. From 8,000 miles away, I watched with an outsider’s perspective as America’s devastating COVID-19 response unraveled. From the previous administration’s denial of the pandemic and laissez-faire policy approach to citizens’ anti-masking protests and fatal shootings –– reactions incomprehensible to me given the grave death toll of the virus –– life in the US seemed surreal, almost dystopian.
Over winterim, I had the opportunity to visit my grandmother’s nursing home. While I was encouraged to sanitize my hands and wear a mask, neither measure was required, given my vaccination status. Within the home, residents, caregivers and visitors carried on with mild caution but, generally speaking, operated with little regard for the global pandemic. Due to the nature of the omicron variant — which is significantly less likely to spread to the lungs than earlier variants — the powerful immunity of a vaccinated population and the capacities of nearby medical facilities, this nursing home opted to loosen restrictions among the population most at-risk to COVID-19.
The Student Worker Collective at Dartmouth has — after three grueling months of organizing — secured the support of a supermajority of the student workers of Dartmouth Dining Services, a turning point in our work to create a union of student workers. On Jan. 5, the SWCD sent an open letter to the administration and requested a response by Jan. 17. We now await a reply that, ideally, will consist of the College’s acceptance of our demands, including voluntary recognition of our union through a card check agreement and quarantine pay for DDS student workers in COVID-19 isolation. If the College truly cares about its DDS student workers, especially amid the dramatic rise in cases on campus, it must agree to the SWCD’s demands to ensure the safety and livelihood of DDS student workers.
“We do not intend to police enforcement, but we expect all students to act responsibly and avoid indoor social gatherings,” interim provost David Kotz and executive vice president Rick Milis announced in an email this past Tuesday. This statement more or less sums up College leadership’s current response to the COVID-19 pandemic — absolving themselves of responsibility, while doing little to actually reduce transmission.
Over the past several months, two of Dartmouth’s peer institutions — Harvard University and Columbia University — saw members of their student unions strike. Harvard’s graduate student union went on a three-day strike in late-October, which later led to a contract that increased pay. Columbia student union began striking in early-November; that strike is still ongoing, upending academics as the union fights for fair pay and recognition of hourly student employees as union members.
Months after its catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan, the United States faces another major challenge to its unipolarity: a belligerent Russia.
On Dec. 17, interim provost David Kotz and executive vice president Rick Mills announced several new additions to Dartmouth’s COVID-19 policies, which will now include a booster shot requirement for all community members as well as a ban on “social gatherings” and a shift to grab-and-go dining for the first two weeks of winter term. This move comes as multiple peer institutions, including Harvard University, Stanford University and Yale University, have decided to delay the start of in-person classes.
On Nov. 6, the Office of the Provost notified the Graduate Student Council via email that North Park graduate housing, a collection of apartments on North Park Street east of College Park and one of the only on-campus housing community for graduate and medical students, will be exclusively occupied by undergraduates for the 2022-2023 academic year. This change is the College’s way of making up for the shortage of undergraduate housing that will arise from the renovation of Andres Hall and Zimmerman Hall beginning in summer 2022. Notably, this is the second time in less than five years that the College has stripped North Park from graduate students. To make matters worse, this appalling decision was taken without first consulting the Graduate Student Council. Dartmouth should immediately reverse this decision, or risk an even worse graduate student housing crisis than the one it faced this year.
There is no piece of advice more profound than to think before speaking. Yet this aforementioned wisdom has merely become an age-old adage — one that is mindlessly repeated by exasperated parents to their children in exactly the same manner that it was mindlessly repeated to them. The problem isn’t necessarily the cyclical nature of such advice, but rather the deaf ears onto which it falls, for the implications of forgoing this lesson are such that they fundamentally impact the influence and value that society places unto speech. When people simply speak in order to have something to say, any and all words begin to lose their meanings. Our problem: Are we, as a society, assigning relevance to words with actual meaning? Or are the words that we revel in mere nonsense, meant only to dispel the looming prospect of silence?
When I began working at a spunky, midtown startup last summer, I expected to slog through a hopefully rewarding, but probably boring, few months. I braced myself for long hours of worksheet organization, awkward water cooler small talk with 30-year-olds and the majority of my time spent twiddling my thumbs instead of actually accomplishing real, important work.
One week ago, interim athletics director Peter Roby ’79 announced that, due to a lack of compliance with masking rules as well as “inappropriate behavior” by students when asked to mask by gym staff, students would be barred from Alumni Gymnasium for two days — Monday and Tuesday of this week. This closure — the second this term, after an earlier one-day shutdown in October — is demonstrably unjust, a collective punishment that negatively impacts both the physical and mental well-being of the student body. Yet the student behaviors described in Roby’s email — which have been observed at other places throughout this campus, including in the dining hall and classrooms — also have no place on this campus. Simply put, both sides have a part to play in reducing the current tension: the College, for its part, must stop foisting unjust collective punishments on students and commit itself to more coherent and rational pandemic policies, while students must take the simple step of treating the College employees who do so much for this community with the respect they deserve.