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Prompt: As the fall term begins to draw to a close, marking the end of Dartmouth’s first in-person term since the COVID-19 pandemic began, it is important to reflect on the term. In an Opinion Asks published earlier this term, we asked what writers perceived to be the largest challenges of the term. Now, we want to ask: What were some of the most successful parts of the fall term? How should the various successes and failures of this term inform the College’s actions going forward?
I nearly had an aneurysm in early October when the gym was closed to “incentivize mask wearing.” Last Friday, when I was warned that the gym will be closed November 8 and 9, ostensibly to punish unmasked students, I almost did something, well, destructive.
Since 1996, Julia Griffin has served at the helm of Hanover local government, in her role as town manager overseeing day-to-day operations and the town’s almost 30 departments. Now, 25 years later, her long career in public service will come to a close: Late last week, Griffin announced her plans to step down from the role following the annual town meeting in spring 2022.
On Oct. 25, the Sudanese military seized power and declared a state of emergency. In response, thousands of civilians poured into the streets of the capital, Khartoum, in protest against the prospect of military rule. General Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan, the head of Sudan’s power-sharing “Sovereignty Council,” which constitutes a lead civilian-military institutional setup, launched the military coup and took the prime minister captive. Although prospects of a return to military rule loom over Sudan, the counterrevolution could still be reversed with extensive street protest coupled with firm international pressure.
Who am I?
Absent significant innovation in the technologies that facilitate space travel, all human life will end. Earth has already experienced five mass extinction events in the 3.5 billion-year history of terrestrial life. The next mass extinction may, potentially, wipe out advanced human civilization. Many experts think climate change presents a serious threat to human life; others fear asteroid collisions, supervolcanoes and solar flares. And even if our resilient species adapts to apocalyptic conditions on Earth, virtually all astronomers and physicists agree that eventually — in roughly 10 billion years — our sun will die.
Dartmouth is short on cash, or so it seems. Last year, the College cut the budget of its study abroad programs by 45% and permanently shuttered two of its five libraries. This year, the College is struggling with “labor shortages,” which they refuse to resolve by offering higher wages. The labor shortage is so bad, the College argues, that the students should excuse food lines that stretch down the block and Living Learning Communities where the students live with mice, exposed wires, no shower heads and a floor so tilted that items roll across the room.
Most current Dartmouth students remember the hell this campus went through last year: Dealt a bounty of pandemic-related stressors, students’ mental health suffered tremendously over the course of last year, and three first-year students — Beau DuBray ’24, Connor Tiffany ’24 and Elizabeth Reimer ’24 — died by suicide within a matter of six months. In response to these deaths and years of complaints from students about Dartmouth’s mental health infrastructure, the College announced a four-year partnership with the JED Foundation, a national nonprofit that promotes emotional health on college campuses. The partnership began last week when the “Healthy Minds” survey was fielded to students. Over the next two years, that survey and other findings will be used to implement interventions on campus before the survey is readministered in the 2024-25 academic year. Some community members see this partnership in a positive light; one student referred to it as “a step in the ‘right direction’” in a recent article.
Earlier this month, Dartmouth announced a 46.5% return on its endowment, which reached an eyebrow-raising total value of $8.5 billion. This windfall, after a year of slashed study abroad programs and library closures, seemed to embarrass the College into action. Dartmouth immediately announced an increase to the student minimum wage, bonuses for employees and grad students, and more generous financial aid policies.
On Oct. 11, WMUR broke the news that the Dartmouth College Republicans would be inviting first-term U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, a 26-year-old Republican from North Carolina, to sit on a panel titled “The Future of the Republican Party” on Oct. 24, this Sunday. Cawthorn will attend alongside NH-1 congressional candidate and former Trump administration assistant press secretary Karoline Leavitt and former Trump campaign strategist Alex Bruesewitz.
I love the Choates.
On Oct. 14, the streets of Beirut witnessed deadly gun battles amid tensions over the probe into the 2020 Beirut port explosion. This fighting comes nearly two years after the October Uprising erupted in 2019, evoking memories of Lebanon’s civil war and the sectarian strife of the 1970s. With a political system in deadlock and an economy in shambles, the salvation of Lebanon does not lie in foreign intervention or aid packages, but in steadfast rejection of the status quo and a thorough investment in community building away from identity politics.
Last Friday, in a campus-wide email, Interim Dean of the College Scott Brown announced the discovery of significant mold growth in the Andres and Zimmerman residence halls, informing the community that students with a “health sensitivity” to mold had been given the option to relocate to temporary housing, first in the Boss Tennis Center and, starting Sunday, in a “limited number of hotel rooms in the area.” The email also noted that mold “remediation” efforts, which include the vacuuming of interior surfaces of each HVAC unit with a high-efficiency particulate vacuum and the installation of additional filtration, have already begun in Andres and Zimmerman and that additional inspections will occur in other residential buildings throughout the next few weeks. In addition, the College announced that, moving forward, it will expand its mold protocols to include regular checks of air handling units in all Dartmouth buildings.
On Monday, Dartmouth announced that its endowment — the pool of money generated from donors and investments and used in part to finance the College’s operations — grew to $8.5 billion at the end of fiscal year 2021, a striking 46.5% increase from the previous fiscal year. When Dartmouth announced this growth, it also announced several ways it would use the endowment to support the student body, such as increasing financial aid to undergraduates, offering a $1,000 bonus to certain graduate students and raising the student minimum wage from $7.75 an hour to $11.50 an hour — a change College spokesperson Diana Lawrence estimated would impact around 1,000 student workers.
I find myself continually frustrated by the College’s ignorance of the problems it creates for itself. I’m struck by how the administration struggles to provide logical, effective solutions in a timely manner. It seems as if they don’t care. At all.
The first time I went to a gym, I dropped a weight on my foot. I was a stick-thin, anxiety-riddled 18-year-old who had just arrived in Tel Aviv on a gap year program. The only reason I was at this strange, odorous facility in the first place was because my friends had somehow cajoled me into accompanying them, even though I was staunchly against actually joining the gym. When we strolled down the aisles of panting millennials on ellipticals and bulging Israeli Defense Forces soldiers pumping ungodly heavy curls, however, my perspective quickly began to change. Contrary to my expectations, I wasn’t being judged for my super-skinny arms at all. Nobody cared if I was barely able to wobble up a 20-pound weight— they were simply concerned with their own workout. When I attempted to lug a 30-pounder over to my bench, the weight rolled right off the rack, thunking onto my right foot. And yet, while my pain was very real, the expected accompanying embarrassment simply never came.
Professors, as well as the administration, love to tell us to put our health first. They tell us to sleep and to eat and to take care of our mental health — and to put all those things before our schoolwork. And yet, the incentive to sacrifice our physical, mental and emotional health on the altar of academia remains. If we want a culture of healthier and happier students, and people in general, then we need new norms. Extensions, understanding and academic flexibility must all become a deeper part of Dartmouth’s culture.
This editorial is featured in the 2021 Homecoming special issue.