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The College’s announcement that summer term will be held exclusively online has understandably caused a great deal of disappointment. Only adding to this frustration has been the College’s decision to preserve the requirement that students spend at least one summer term “in residence.” As a result, the current sophomores now find themselves facing either another term of remote learning or the inability to pursue internships during their junior summers. This is an unfortunate reality, and one that reflects a long-term strategic failing on Dartmouth’s part.
Social distancing imposes tremendous costs on all of us. Colleges shut down, students stay home, employers go bankrupt, salaries dry up, economies free fall and governments lose trillions. Still, the coronavirus continues to spread faster than authorities can keep up with.
“Wouldn’t classes be better if girls always had to speak in class before boys were allowed to participate?” A professor asked me this last term in an attempt to build rapport. The question was rhetorical and my opinion was taken for granted. Surely I, a young woman, wouldn’t disagree.
Your knuckles are white and your heart is racing. Nervously pacing back and forth, you check the Wi-Fi for the fifth time in the last minute. That’s right — it’s add/drop time. Dartmouth students know this antiquated course change process all too well. At midnight before the first day of classes each term, the Dartmouth registrar opens up the course selection webpage for students to add or drop courses. Term after term, the add/drop process causes students undue stress and confusion. The failure of the most recent add/drop period has made it clearer than ever: the current system must go.
The international reputation of the U.S. has suffered greatly as a result of its response to the coronavirus pandemic. Our lack of preparation to ensure a sufficient supply of protective equipment for health care personnel, coupled with President Trump’s insistence that he had the spread of the virus “totally under control” as the U.S. surpassed every other nation in terms of coronavirus cases, has shown that America does not always do it best. Even worse, we have failed to learn from and cooperate with other nations who can, in some cases, do better.
The eruption of COVID-19 has led to more than 22,000 deaths nationwide, with devastating social and economic ramifications. In a time of crisis, an increasingly desperate America has looked to the federal government for guidance and support as the lives and livelihoods of millions are put on hold. But the country as a whole has been let down by President Trump, whose actions have only deepened the systemic inequalities previously cultivated under his administration.
On April 4, The New York Times featured the article “College Made Them Feel Equal. The Virus Exposed How Unequal Their Lives Are,” written by Nicholas Casey. Casey juxtaposed the lives of two students studying at Haverford College, one who “sat at a vacation home on the coast of Maine,” and the other who had to “keep her mother’s Puerto Rican food truck running.” I applaud Dartmouth’s decision to make spring term credit/no credit to accommodate students who, like the New York Times story pointed out, must work a job or care for their family. However, social class and alleviated academic pressure aside, the online learning experience has not measured up to Dartmouth’s traditional classroom setting.
Dartmouth’s decision to institute a credit/no credit grading system has not been without controversy. Yet regardless of one’s views on the matter, it cannot be denied that the decision came from a well-intentioned place — primarily aimed at providing equity for the student body. At this point, the policy has been implemented, and it’s in our interest to focus on making the new system work effectively.
When Dartmouth announced its intention to host the entire spring term online, many students and professors were both disappointed and anxious. It was nearly impossible to imagine how the Dartmouth experience would translate to a remote format. As expected, attending Dartmouth virtually has not been the same as the on-campus experience. However, in our first week and a half of remote learning, professors have been remarkably innovative and accommodating. The online format, and the hard work of professors to make it work well, have allowed many students to continue their education relatively smoothly in spite of the challenges of learning from home. If Dartmouth can accommodate all 6,500 of its students learning in a remote format with only three weeks’ notice, the College should be able to offer a remote option for undergraduates who might need to take a term at home in the future.
Dartmouth’s enactment of a mandatory credit/no credit grading system was met — perhaps surprisingly — with widespread frustration among students. Students have cited various issues with this new system, including the lack of opportunity to raise one’s grade point average or to show achievement in a particular course. This reaction is a testament to the strong work ethic of Dartmouth students. While it’s natural for high-achieving, aspirational students to feel lost in a class without the incentive of an A, we don’t have to see things that way. Instead, now’s the chance to view the credit/no credit grading system as an opportunity to embrace learning for its own sake and — as too infrequently happens at Dartmouth — to focus on our passions without the stress of grades.
Panic over COVID-19 has incited racist responses by some Dartmouth students, but anti-East Asian sentiment on campus is nothing new.
The COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly changing life across the world, and Dartmouth is no exception. The past month has brought sweeping changes to the College — campus facilities are now all but closed, with coursework reduced to a credit/no credit, remote format. Some of these policies, like the decision to move spring term to remote learning, are generally recognized as necessary given the realities of the public health crisis. Others — like charging full tuition — have received much less support from the student body. But in all of Dartmouth’s policy changes in response to COVID-19, one thing stands out: the College’s failure to take students’ voices into account.
The COVID-19 pandemic is not just a public health issue. The outbreak has upended many aspects of our lives. It has exposed the realities of class disparity, highlighting unequal access to resources like food and housing. In the face of this crisis, many people have had to turn to unions, rent strikes and community organizing for survival.
Dartmouth recently decided to suspend standard grading for the upcoming spring term and move all courses to a credit/no-credit grading system. We urge the Dartmouth administration to reverse this decision. The College’s argument is fallible, peer institutions have moved to more flexible grading systems and there will be a detrimental effect on post-graduate opportunities as a result of the new policy.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented changes to Dartmouth. Following the College’s move to remote instruction, most students — including The Dartmouth's staff and directorate members — have vacated campus and returned home for the spring term. In order to accommodate these new and uncertain circumstances, The Dartmouth will pause print production for the duration of the term.