April 20, 2020

April 20, 2020

To the community,

Over the past month, in the face of so many changes that have come to Dartmouth, we have frequently been asked whether it might still be possible to preserve the residential term we know as "sophomore summer."  We have heard from alumni and older students alike how fondly they recall this particular experience. That is one important reason why we waited as long as we could to make a decision about the summer term, giving ourselves the chance to assess the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic and see whether we could find a way to enable undergraduates to return to campus, to live in our residence halls, and to join one another in our classrooms. We waited as long as was practical to find out whether the spread of the virus had peaked, whether the predictive modeling matched the data, and whether state and federal governments could offer updated guidance that might allow residential education to resume.  

Unfortunately, after several weeks of careful consideration, we have concluded that the facts are not in our favor. Students come to our campus from all over the country and the world, many from areas where the number of cases continues to increase. The number of new cases diagnosed daily in the U.S. has not yet begun to diminish, and even assuming full, sustained adherence to social distancing through next month, current modeling does not give us confidence that we will be sufficiently close to global containment by June. Personal protective equipment and testing also remain in short supply. A residential summer term relying on social distancing and severe restrictions on activities and gatherings would pose a significant public health risk to our students and to our faculty and staff, their families, and the Upper Valley community. 

Put simply, given the continuing progression of the disease, a wide geographic disparity in its containment, the continuing lack of adequate testing capability, and no widespread effective treatment, with the health and safety of our community being of paramount importance we cannot offer a residential summer term. We have therefore made the decision that the 2020 summer term will be a full remote-learning term.  No in-person classes will be held.

We understand how disappointing this decision will be for our sophomores, who have been anticipating this experience for the past two years. We are very sorry that they will not be able to be on campus this summer. Members of the current sophomore class will therefore, if they wish, have the opportunity to change their D-Plan to be on campus for the summer of 2021, joining next year's sophomores in Hanover. 

We also understand that this decision will disappoint many of our faculty and staff, who are also being asked to continue distance learning for another term. They have wholeheartedly embraced a spring term of remote teaching and were looking forward to the return of a vibrant residential student community. 

Because we cannot comfortably offer residential educational experiences this summer, all athletic camps and on-campus residential summer programs have also been canceled. In addition, we have decided to close the Hanover Country Club for the season and will return all membership fees. The Hopkins Center will also remain closed through August, with programming continuing through Hop@Home online experiences only.

At this time, there are no additional changes related to on-campus operations. Therefore, following the guidance of the governors of New Hampshire and Vermont, we are asking staff and faculty to continue to work remotely when possible, consistent with arrangements they have worked out with their supervisors.  Over the course of late spring and early summer, as allowed by any updates to state and federal guidance, we expect to begin exploring options for the partial ramping up of on-campus operations. To all employees, we will keep you updated in the coming months as these conversations progress. To those employees who remain working on campus, we extend our gratitude and appreciation. 

With summer term decisions now made, our COVID-19 task force and the members of its various working groups have turned their attention to identifying possible scenarios for fall term, remaining attentive to emerging data on disease progression, predictive modeling, and federal and state recommendations. I thank them for their continued diligence in this ever-shifting environment. We will keep the community informed as our evaluation of different options progresses.

This has not been the spring term that I nor any of us imagined we would experience just a few months ago, and now the same must be said of summer. This kind of change, of such extraordinary magnitude and in such a short period of time, is challenging for every member of our community. But as I have said so often these past two months, I remain inspired by the way our faculty and staff have remained focused on our students' education, and how our students have responded with understanding and compassion for the faculty and staff working on their behalf. These collective efforts and sacrifices, while difficult for all, are keeping our families, friends, and neighbors safe. As we continue on, I remain grateful for the resilience, creativity, compassion, and support of our extraordinary Dartmouth community.


Joseph Helble