Email From President Hanlon and Provost Helble

June 29, 2020

To the Dartmouth community,

March 2020 seems like a lifetime ago. The absence of students, faculty, and staff enlivening the Hanover Plain makes us eager to be together again on campus, pursuing our mission of teaching, scholarship, and research. With that as our goal, we have been working on a plan to bring back to campus as many of us as possible this fall in a way that is safe, sustainable, and pragmatic. Most of all, our commitment to the excellence and distinctiveness of the Dartmouth experience continues, regardless of the form that experience may take.

We write to share current information about our plan and what we expect to have in place for the entire 2020-21 academic year. Many details are evolving and will be updated over the course of the coming weeks based on emerging data, ongoing modeling of disease progression, and regional, national, and global events.

SAFETY FIRST

As we plan for the return of faculty, students, and staff to campus, the health and safety of our community is our top priority. New Hampshire has been successful in containing and managing the spread of COVID-19, but we know that a second wave of infection is likely and that it will require a rapid and comprehensive response within our community. There is much we still do not know about this disease. Our plans, therefore, must address risks to the future health and safety of our students, who will come to Hanover from around the globe, as well as for the health of our faculty, our staff and the Upper Valley community that surrounds them.

Over the past four months, our COVID-19 Task Force and its various working groups have been consulting with medical professionals, faculty and alumni experts, and state officials, and monitoring public health guidance to recommend an approach to the next academic year that navigates a careful balance among multiple considerations: preserving our students' educational experience, limiting the spread of disease, and offering the support systems required for new infections. Effective processes for virus testing, contact tracing, physical distancing, self-isolation, and quarantine will be critical to our preparedness. Our Health Management Working Group is finalizing recommendations for an institutional plan that will guide these activities in partnership with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

UNDERGRADUATES WILL RETURN TO CAMPUS BY TERM

In order to facilitate the physical distancing needed in our classrooms and residences, and to be able to reserve sufficient housing for quarantine or self-isolation in the event of a resurgence of infection, we must reduce the number of students on our campus. Dartmouth has successfully faced this type of challenge before. When we transitioned to coeducation in 1972, President John Kemeny had to determine how to accommodate more students without adding beds. Thus, the D-Plan was born. Now we face the challenge of determining how to accommodate the same number of students with what are, in effect, fewer available beds and classroom space. Today's situation calls for a new D-Plan. 

We therefore plan to bring back to campus more than half of our undergraduates for the fall term and anticipate doing so for each subsequent term through the summer of 2021. This will give each student the opportunity to spend two terms enrolled on campus this academic year and to enroll via distance learning from home for one or both of the remaining two terms.

In the interest of class cohesion, the Class of 2024 will receive priority to be on campus as a residential cohort for the fall and spring terms and will enroll for an off-campus winter term. International students in the Class of 2024 who have difficulty securing a visa in time to begin the fall term will be permitted to enroll off-campus. Other undergraduates will be able to express their preferences for their two residential terms, with the understanding that the '23s will receive priority to be on campus for the 2021 summer term (along with the '22s who chose to defer their 2020 sophomore summer because of COVID-19). Members of the Class of 2022 will receive priority for the fall 2020 term and '21s for the spring 2021 term. We are committed to working with high-need students as we did in the spring and summer terms and will provide more information soon. No enrolled student is required to be on campus for any term and may elect to spend the entire year enrolled off-campus.

Dartmouth will begin the undergraduate fall term on Sept. 14 as scheduled. We will shortly share the move-in dates, which will reflect a 14-day quarantine for all students upon arrival. We will ask undergraduates who are on campus to depart as soon as fall term classes end. Final exams for all undergraduates (and most graduate students) will be held remotely the week after Thanksgiving, allowing students to depart campus several days earlier than Thanksgiving break and avoid the anticipated peak travel period.

Undergraduate students will receive additional information from the dean of the College regarding these and other topics by email today.

STUDENT CAMPUS RESIDENCES

This coming year we will expect all undergraduates who are on campus to live in rooms that have private, single sleeping spaces (individual rooms and two-room doubles) in order to maintain appropriate physical distancing. This reduces the number of undergraduate housing spaces available in any one term but will limit the risk of disease transmission among students and provide quiet study space, which will be particularly helpful for remote learning. Residential Life will be in touch in mid-July with students who enroll for the fall. Housing assignments, assigned arrival dates, and related arrival information will be provided to all fall term residents the week of August 16.

GRADUATE HOUSING

We do not expect major residential changes to graduate student housing, which already offers single-occupancy bedrooms, both on and off campus. Some adjustments in graduate housing may be needed in response to public health needs.

TEACHING AND LEARNING

The majority of undergraduate instruction and faculty office hours will be held remotely this fall, although some in-person classes will be offered on campus. Physical distancing requirements of 6 feet between people mean that we will have substantially reduced classroom space available to students. We pride ourselves on our commitment to teaching and we view the challenge of doing so remotely—for however long that it is required—as mission-critical.

Individual graduate and professional schools will provide guidance on what will be taught remotely and what will be offered in person. Calendars, degree requirements, and academic procedures in our graduate and professional programs may vary, and students should follow the guidance provided by their school.

CAMPUS LIFE

The reality of COVID-19 means that the campus environment will be very different this fall. There will be strict limitations on gatherings, social activities, and lectures. We will have new protocols for using campus buildings and common spaces, restricted travel with self-quarantine protocols, contact tracing, a requirement to wear face coverings everywhere but private spaces, enhanced cleaning procedures, staggered scheduling and reconfigured workspaces, and limited access to buildings. The College library will be open to the Dartmouth community of students, faculty, and staff.

Everyone coming to live on campus will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. As part of a collective commitment to community, all those working and living on-site will be required to participate in daily health screening via an app or website. We will also mandate virus testing upon any return to campus and regularly thereafter. We are mindful of the need to maintain individual privacy, and test results will be made available only to those who need access in order to address this aspect of community health. This will likely include testing of employees coming to campus who have traveled outside the area before the start of the term.

Despite the precautions that must be taken for students to be on campus, we feel it is important to continue to provide them with Dartmouth's extraordinary sense of place. Being in an academic environment in this setting helps promote learning, the exchange of ideas, and thoughtful reflection and will help strengthen our sense of community.

ATHLETICS

The Ivy League has not yet announced a final decision on fall athletic competition. That announcement is expected in July. Our Athletic Department will communicate directly to student athletes when more information is available.

RETURNING TO ON-SITE WORK

For the most up-to-date information on the status of when and how employees can return to work, including the plans for the Dartmouth Child Care Center, please visit the COVID-19 website https://dartmouth.edu/covid19.

As a reminder, any or all of our plans may be changed if we experience a significant health event on our campus, or if required by federal or state mandates. Conversely, successful disease prevention or treatment efforts—such as the availability of a vaccine—could also shift the landscape. We intend to evaluate the situation on a termly basis and adapt our plans accordingly. Our later start date means we can look to the experiences of other schools to help guide our decisions.

We join those who want to return to the important work and profound educational experiences provided by a fully residential year at Dartmouth, and we look forward to a time when that is possible. In the meantime, we have created a plan that adapts to the realities we face. We will share additional detailed information with relevant groups and people as important decisions are made and we will update the guidance on our COVID-19 website (https://dartmouth.edu/covid19). A list of frequently asked questions is also available on the site at https://news.dartmouth.edu/covid-19/academic-year-2020-21-return-campus-plan/frequently-asked-questions. In addition, we will continue to stream our Community Conversations webcast on alternating Wednesdays through July and possibly later, with the next livestream scheduled for July 8, so that you can ask questions and get updates about the institution's priorities, decisions, and operation (https://news.dartmouth.edu/community-conversations). Questions can also be directed to the COVID-19 Task Force at COVID-19.task.force@dartmouth.edu.

Again, as difficult as it is to make these adjustments to our lives and learning, they are important measures to safeguard the health of our community while continuing to preserve our students' academic experience. Thank you for your patience, perseverance, and care for others. We are in this as a community and we will get through it as a community.

Despite the uncertainty and constraints imposed by the pandemic, and regardless of the medium in which we educate our students, we are dedicated to providing all of them with a rich and rewarding experience in the coming year and supporting our faculty and staff in their important work. We can't wait to welcome you back to campus.

Sincerely,

Philip J. Hanlon '77, President
Joseph J. Helble, Provost