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The end is here. Over 93 million people have already voted, with tens of millions more still to vote tomorrow. And then comes the count. Due to the high proportion of mail-in votes, election-night calls of certain key states, such as Pennsylvania, are highly unlikely. I for one, will likely stay up watching results anyway, while others will make the wise decision to go to bed and check in the morning. But whether you're glued to CNN or waking up to a phone alert the morning after, there’s something likely to be missing from your radar — the results of local elections.
Updated Oct. 30, 2020 at 1 p.m.
The 2020 election is the first time I am eligible to vote in a federal election, and as such, it also marks the first time I have religiously followed politics. I was very eager to cast my vote, but after opening up my mail-in ballot, something struck me: There were 28 names on the ballot for Hanover. Of those, 11 were women. The other 17 were men — a 40-60 split. And these numbers are actually on the high end for women — a Pew Research Center study shows that women make up merely a quarter of those who state that they have campaigned for election.
When Indiana’s Democratic senator Birch Bayh launched his campaign to reform the American presidential election system in 1966, he aspired to dismantle the Electoral College by constitutional amendment. Recently, Bayh’s efforts have been reincarnated by Democrats whose presidential candidates have lost the presidency despite winning the popular vote. Instead of abolishing the Electoral College, though, both Bayh and the Democratic Party should take up a much easier, safer project that would achieve the same goal: abolishing the winner-take-all electoral system.
My history of political engagement — or lack thereof — is embarrassing. I don’t do my research on the candidates running for Senate or House in my home state of Maryland, I don’t read my local newspaper and at best, I’ll drop in to events on campus to see a presidential candidate talking to Dartmouth students. Even though American politics matters for me as a U.S. citizen, I often get lost in the ordinary demands of the day-to-day, and political engagement just ends up taking a backseat.
After a summer of historic racial reckoning, institutions across the United States have reflected on the roles they play in perpetuating racism in this country. Colleges and universities have tried to be especially vigilant in these reckonings. Princeton University has been one of the most visible institutions addressing its past: It recently removed former President Woodrow Wilson’s name from its School of Public and International Affairs and one of its residential colleges. A new residential college built in its place will be the first at Princeton to be named after a Black alumna. While the actions of Princeton and other universities undertaking similar efforts do not erase these schools’ pasts, they do represent important first steps in addressing years of racism within their walls.
On Sept. 27, the Caucasus erupted into violence as the Azerbaijani Armed Forces launched a brutal offensive on the Nagorno-Karabakh region — known as Artsakh to the Armenians — a de facto independent state inhabited mostly by ethnic Armenians but recognized internationally as part of Azerbaijan. Since 1994, this inevitable conflict had been held off by a delicate ceasefire organized by the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe — co-chaired by Russia, the United States and France. Today, however, even this basic ceasefire seems untenable due to the rise of a new obstacle to peace: Turkey. While Turkish involvement elicits painful memories of the 1915 Armenian genocide for many Armenians, many non-Armenians seem to be unaware or, worse, generally apathetic towards it. The Dartmouth community must do its part in raising awareness of these events, since the world’s collective silence may lead to another Armenian genocide.
If you’ve followed the news on campus this term, you’ll know that the Dartmouth administration has enacted a strict set of COVID-19 policies, violations of which have led to the College removing an unknown number of undergraduate students from campus this fall. The administration has justified its approach on public health grounds. It appears, however, that the College has been rolling out policies amid a growing and glaring double standard: COVID-19 regulations for graduate students are dramatically less restrictive than those for undergraduates.
With winter term course selection coming up soon, it’s time for Dartmouth to rethink its decision to continue holding the majority of classes over Zoom. Currently, there are only 23 fully in-person classes offered. While there are only a limited number of classrooms able to hold socially distanced classes, there are 36 spaces on campus that can hold more than 13 socially distanced students at any given time. Dartmouth should fully utilize these spaces to provide students with a break from the strain of Zoom classes. The way forward is clear: Dartmouth should hold as many in-person classes as possible next term.
Although the World Health Organization declared the spread of COVID-19 a pandemic back in March, Congress has yet to implement a widespread testing program — even after an outbreak of COVID-19 in the White House in early October left three Republican senators (and the president) infected with the virus. As of now, tests are only offered to those who have symptoms or who believe they may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive. Not only does Congress' failure to implement regular, widespread testing put the lives of congresspeople and thousands more at risk, but it sets a dangerously negligent example for the rest of the nation.
Amid the general turmoil of the first presidential debate, it was easy to miss that Donald Trump made a truly extraordinary statement for a Republican president — when asked if human pollution contributes to climate change, he said “I think a lot of things do, but I think to an extent, yes.” Eight days later, Vice President Mike Pence said that the Trump administration will “always follow the science” on climate change.
As part of Dartmouth’s reopening plan, the College made clear that it would have little tolerance for violations of its COVID-19 “Community Expectations.” Dean of the College Kathryn Lively warned in August that students who engaged in behavior that violated the agreement would immediately “lose the privilege of campus enrollment” for the rest of the year.
After several college tours, the campuses I visited began to blur together into an indecipherable mix of bookstores and brick buildings. My final tour provided a stark contrast. While not so different from others in architecture or scenery, Dartmouth’s welcoming atmosphere left a memorable first impression. Students, faculty and community members alike greeted me on my tour throughout campus and seemed genuinely eager to see and talk to me. Within my first 10 minutes on Dartmouth’s campus, I knew I was home.
I came to Dartmouth ready to take full advantage of the political sphere: I attended a few meetings of the College Democrats, and I even met Elizabeth Warren on my birthday. But I soon realized that the political scene at Dartmouth was too vile and pushy for me to muster.
In the leadup to fall term, the town of Hanover openly voiced its fears that the return of students would lead to a rise in the area’s otherwise low number of COVID-19 cases. For the stated reason of protecting safety of the town and the College, the Dartmouth administration has put in place a series of strict — albeit understandable — regulations on students’ lives. For example, on-campus students cannot gather in groups larger than nine people and cannot have guests in their dorm room unless they live in the same building. Additionally, classes remain almost exclusively online.
Even before announcing his 2016 presidential bid, Donald Trump had a strained relationship with science. The president regularly tweeted claims that global warming was a hoax, that vaccines caused autism and that energy-efficient lightbulbs cause cancer — all of which are wholly unsupported by scientific evidence.
Over six months have passed since Dartmouth shifted to Zoom world. The free and simple video-conferencing platform has been a lifesaver, used for class, meetings, video calls, events, interviews — just about every human interaction that once happened on campus. But as we become ever-more acquainted with Zoom, this new fixture of College life deserves closer scrutiny.