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Just over a week ago, the U.S. experienced a national catastrophe. The Trump-incited siege on the Capitol, which used violence in an attempt to overturn a democratic election, was a galling attack on the heart of American democracy.
We’re only a couple of weeks into the new year, but fortunately, we now have promises from states across the country that the general public will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the months ahead. So, it seems reasonable to assume that the latter half of the year will usher in a badly needed wave of normalcy. However, if there’s one thing that the pandemic has taught us, it’s that so many of the things we hold dear are incredibly fragile: the presence of our loved ones, our ability to progress academically and professionally and our ability to socialize freely.
Shortly after 4 p.m. on Jan. 6, as law enforcement worked to secure the Capitol from a Trump-incited insurrection, the Associated Press projected that Democrat Jon Ossoff had won the U.S. Senate runoff election in Georgia. Ossoff and fellow Democratic senator-elect Raphael Warnock notched key victories in the previously red state, delivering the party a majority in the Senate — thanks, in part, to a consistent closing message advocating $2000 stimulus checks for all Americans.
In less than a week, Dartmouth students will awaken Hanover from its winter break hibernation. Many of the bright-eyed freshmen who were present last term will be gone, replaced by older students who have experienced Dartmouth at its best and most normal. How will these older students, with higher expectations of what a Dartmouth term should look like, react to the restricted and watered-down version being served? Not well, we can assume. This may put the community at risk from COVID-19 if frustrated students look to off-campus — and very likely non-COVID-19 safe — options for social life.
On Wednesday, the world watched in horror as a mob of right-wing insurrectionists launched a coordinated attack on the Capitol building, forcing the hurried evacuation of elected officials and leaving five dead — among them, a Capitol police officer. Broadcast live for all to see, this embarrassing display of antidemocratic chaos further tarnished the United States’ reputation as a champion of democracy. In its aftermath, some analysts have warned that the nation may face a new era of increasing political violence.
Though winter term has begun, most students still dialed into their Zoom classes while scattered far from Hanover. The reason? On Dec. 7, the College announced that it had chosen to delay move-in from Jan. 5 and 6 to Jan. 16 and 17 in order to mitigate the consequences of a post-holiday surge in COVID-19. This late decision — announced just a month before students were due to return, and nearly a month after the College gave students their original move-in dates — has created financial and academic difficulties for students forced to abruptly change their plans.
On Jan. 31, 1958, the U.S. launched its first satellite, Explorer 1, into orbit, marking the nation’s entry into the space race — a rivalry with the Soviet Union over the achievements of the two states’ respective space programs. With many firsts — the first satellite, dog and man in orbit and the first man on the moon — this era was one of the most intense bursts of scientific innovation in human history. However, for all its glory, the space race suffered from one key weakness that led to its early and dramatic decline: It was motivated not by a desire to advance mankind, but by fear of the enemy. The U.S. should not make this mistake again; it must work to renew its long-term investments into space exploration.
The litany of complaints is well-known at this point: a lawsuit on behalf of sexual harassment victims in psychological and brain sciences department, an open letter from Black faculty, staff and students highlighting institutional racism at Dartmouth and a graduate student forced to resort to a hunger strike. Despite the College’s rhetoric, Dartmouth has not taken sufficient concrete steps to address harassment, discrimination and harmful power dynamics in its community. The College must establish an independent ombuds office to help mediate conflict and resolve disputes among faculty, staff and students.
This past term was an unusual one for Dartmouth. As the first term to welcome students back to campus since March nears its close, there is much to reflect on. In your opinion, was this term successful? What worked and what didn't?
Since the world shut down back in March, most of us, myself included, have been anticipating the end of the pandemic and hoping to get back to our regular lives. And with recent news of the apparently successful Pfizer vaccine, many of us have grown even more fixated on ending this crisis. However, with so much time devoted to predicting the end of the pandemic, its causes are often overlooked. Our society made choices that allowed this pandemic to occur, and we need to evaluate them so that we can avoid similar disasters in the future.
This term has been a bleak one. Students arriving in Hanover faced a 14-day quarantine in their rooms, almost all classes have been conducted online and the College has strictly regulated all face-to-face social interaction. In the face of rising COVID-19 cases nationwide, the College has taken and will continue to take many precautions. But now, after a term’s worth of experience, the College must take a step back and consider those areas in which it can improve students’ experience for the winter.
We are in uncharted territory. With the recent confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, Americans are living with the most conservative court since 1950. Never before has each one of the Supreme Court’s sitting justices been so closely affiliated with the party of the president who appointed them. All Americans, regardless of party, should know that the kind of partisanship that has infected the Supreme Court offers a terminal prognosis. And if the U.S. Senate — or the next president — does not act to reform the Supreme Court in nonpartisan ways, the American people can rest assured that the U.S. will be at the mercy of a decidedly political Supreme Court.
Dining at Dartmouth saw a number of changes this term, from a meal delivery system during quarantine to limited occupancy in dining halls. However, amid these changes, it is clear that the College’s dining services have failed students more often than not, despite the best intentions of College administrators.
This fall has seen an unknown number of students, many of them ’24s, sent home for violating the College’s COVID-19 restrictions — most commonly, it seems, the limit on the number of students allowed in dorm rooms. Several students have testified to their experiences, recounting that their floors have been almost entirely cleared of people — some all at once, and some over the course of the term. The College’s rules on gathering limits leave ’24s between a rock and a hard place: To obey the strict rules, students must sacrifice their social and mental well-being. Amid this dilemma, it is clear that the students are not failing the administration — the administration is failing its students.
During election season, we love to talk about democracy. Between walking around Dartmouth’s campus and scrolling through Instagram, I have seen countless phrases such as “Make your voice heard” and “One person, one vote.” But how much impact do ordinary American citizens actually have on policy after we exercise that right to vote? Apparently, not much.
This year’s presidential election was fraught with fear — fear that partisan hostilities would collapse into full-on riots and violence, fear that President Donald Trump’s attempts to undermine American democracy and values would succeed, and most of all, fear that we would be stuck with another four years of Trump’s immorality, incompetence and idiocy. As a result, media coverage leading up to the election and throughout the ballot counting was largely cynical.
I woke up to a frost this morning and a few inches of snow coating the trees outside my window. As the Upper Valley gets colder, I’m beginning to think about the impending winter and its social implications. COVID-19 is primarily spread indoors — but the outdoors aren’t always an easy place to be during the Hanover winter. With temperatures dropping, feelings of isolation will become even more prevalent if Dartmouth doesn't offer some warm way for students to gather together.