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“The Dartmouth reported on Jan. 28 that the College would not voluntarily recognize the Student Worker Collective at Dartmouth, which is seeking to form a union of student dining workers. SWCD claims that 80% of student dining workers support their unionization effort, but the College argues that an election moderated by the National Labor Relations Board “ensures a full airing of points of view on unionization, which we believe students deserve.” Importantly, the decision to not voluntarily recognize the union also extends the process of formalizing the union. (The College has agreed to negotiate with the SWCD to “streamline” the election process.) What is your opinion on Dartmouth’s decision to not recognize the union and how should the College and students proceed going forward?”
Watching groups of students and their parents tour Dartmouth, it’s hard not to reminisce about one’s own college admissions experience — an experience perhaps filled with disappointment and reflection or, for many students who were accepted via early decision, a sense of relief marking the end of an often agonizing journey. However, while the process of early decision is appealing, it often is only accessible for those with the wealth and intergenerational knowledge to utilize it. Students whose parents make more than $250,000 per year are twice as likely to apply early than students whose family makes less than $50,000. The early decision process exacerbates inequalities, and at Dartmouth, where 69% of students come from the top 20%, we need to ban it.
On Tuesday, Jan. 25, College President Phil Hanlon announced in a campus-wide email that, after a decade at the helm, he will step down from leadership of the College in June of 2023. Shortly after this announcement, an email from the Board of Trustees praised President Hanlon for “steer[ing] the institution to ever greater academic excellence, inclusion, and impact.”
I retired from Dartmouth in the fall of 2020 after spending 28 years at the College as a coach for the track and cross-country teams. A major part of that job was recruiting, and one of our key strategies involved distinguishing Dartmouth from our Ivy League counterparts. Living on a walkable campus was a real draw, especially compared to the extensive shuttle bus system at Cornell University. We could tell potential students that Dartmouth’s athletic facilities were on campus — unlike Columbia University or Yale University, where students rely on shuttle buses to get to practices and competitions.
At the end of fall term, my grandma — my biggest supporter in my journey to Dartmouth — died from complications of COVID-19. In the midst of finals, I scrambled to leave campus early and fly to Missouri for her funeral. While I was there — in a county with a 25% vaccination rate and what I saw to be a low masking rate — I found a newfound appreciation for Dartmouth, a place that took COVID-19 seriously and consistently sought to combat the virus’ spread.
Be they attention-seekers or true believers in some form of conservatism, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — the only two Senate Democrats who opposed changing the Senate’s filibuster rule in last Wednesday’s floor debate — have dramatically closed the path to expansive election reform. The proposals outlined in the now-failed bills — such as making election day a federal holiday and protecting early voting — are hardly radical, and grow ever more necessary as Republican-controlled state legislatures pass dozens of restrictive laws.
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.
COVID-19 containment is over. In some parts of the world, it never really began, and in other parts, it has been finished for some time. Now, even longtime bastions of scrupulous public health measures, from the Ivy League to Israel, are turning away from their previous containment strategies. Faced with the seemingly unstoppable omicron variant, this is the only logical result. Now, the writing is on the wall: omicron will burn out soon, and it is time to decide how we will proceed.
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.