Dartmouth confirmed that it will bring half of its undergraduates to campus this fall.
The decision comes after Helble last week announced a pause in the fall plan timing to give senior leaders a few more days to consider the experiences other institutions were having in bringing students back to campus during the COVID-19 pandemic and to listen to the opinions of students, faculty, staff, families of undergraduates, and members of the Upper Valley community.
"We listened as many of you—students, faculty, staff, parents, and Upper Valley community members—expressed your preference for how we should proceed. We have heard you and considered your arguments and understandable concerns," the pair wrote. "No decision at this time, during this pandemic, will satisfy everyone.
"We have, however, made the decision that we think honors our mission while implementing safeguards for the protection of our community. After much careful consideration, we have decided to move forward with our plan to return approximately half of our undergraduate student body to Dartmouth, beginning Sept. 8."
To date, 1,015 graduate and professional school students have returned to campus and have been tested for the virus. None have tested positive. The other half of the undergraduate population will spend fall term at home, learning remotely. Over the course of the coming academic year, most undergraduates will have the opportunity to spend two terms on campus.
Dartmouth's plan for on-campus learning provides for pre-arrival testing for undergraduates living in the United States; testing on arrival and on days three and seven for all students; 14 days of quarantine following arrival; wastewater monitoring of all residential buildings; random surveillance testing throughout the term; a required daily temperature self-assessment screening for all students, faculty, and staff entering campus buildings; restrictions on the size of groups that may meet, a hygiene campaign, a mandatory face-covering policy; and clear community expectations that all enrolling students are expected to sign as a condition for access to campus. While half of the undergraduates will be in residence on campus, the majority of their classes and faculty office hours will be held remotely.
Still, Hanlon and Helble said, time on campus is at the heart of a Dartmouth education.
"As a residential college with a mission to deliver the world's premier liberal arts education in a close-knit, vibrant community in a setting ideal for learning and reflection, we are committed to making on-campus learning happen for as many of our students as possible," they wrote. In addition, they said that having students on campus will allow undergraduates to have access to the technology, support, and stability they need to complete their work.
Observing the experiences of peer schools, Hanlon and Helble said that while all higher ed institutions are dealing with the same virus, each has a different set of variables to contend with concerning the possible spread of COVID-19. A number of schools, particularly in New England, have opened successfully using tactics that are similar to Dartmouth's plan.
"Our plan is science-based and data-driven and it leverages our rural setting and comparatively low population," they wrote. "We are confident that we can manage our plan effectively and safely while respecting and sustaining the hard work the Upper Valley has done to flatten the curve."
"We expect that there will be challenges and setbacks along the way," the pair wrote. But they said they believe community members will set aside personal preferences in the interest of prioritizing the health and safety of all members of the community.
To Dartmouth's undergraduates, Hanlon and Helble said, "You are vital members of our beloved Dartmouth community. We believe in you. We trust you. We have great confidence in your ability to meet this moment. We look forward to partnering with you to carry out our plan. And, most importantly, we look forward to welcoming you to campus and getting to work."
For the latest information on Dartmouth's response to the pandemic visit the COVID-19 website.