Dartmouth moves forward with reopening plan

Published: Aug. 26, 2020 at 5:03 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 27, 2020 at 10:28 AM EDT
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Hanover, N.H. (WCAX) - It’s official, Dartmouth College will be opening its doors to undergraduates on campus in just over two weeks. It’s a decision that goes against the wishes of more than 150 professors who were hoping the college would change course.

After much debate here on campus and in the broader Upper Valley community, Dartmouth College has announced it is moving forward with plans to have students return to campus on September 8.

“I think they are moving in the right direction,” said Public Policy Professor Charlie Wheelan.

He supports the plan to bring undergrads back to campus for the fall semester though he says the concerns in the community, which includes fellow faculty, are real.

“This is an age-old conflict between the college and the college town. We exist because the college is here. On the other hand, the college often does things that impinges on the rest of the community,” Wheelan said.

A petition has been circulating among professors on campus to encourage the college to go fully remote, especially with COVID-19 outbreaks popping up on campuses across the country. But Wednesday, in a community-wide email, college president Philip Hanlon told the community they are sticking to the original plan.

“I think one of the key things the administration will have to do is underscore how important it is to getting students back and keeping them here that they behave in a way that does not endanger their fellow students, the faculty, or the rest of the community,” Wheelan said.

Only half the roughly 4,200 undergrads will be on campus at a time. Students will be tested three times in the first week, and dorms are being isolated for those who test positive. Big gatherings are not allowed and every student will have to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

“It does seem a little strict in some sense but I do get that public health and safety is their primary concern,” said Dominique Fontaine.

She is a medical student at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine. She’s is one of more than a thousand students who have already been tested. I asked her if she thought the incoming undergrads will follow the rules.

“If we are being for real here, I do think that most students would want to cut corners. And like who doesn’t. I think that everybody wants to cut corners and do something fun. And get out and go see their friends, however, it really is an individual decision,” she said.

The statement acknowledges that the plan to move forward will likely not satisfy everyone. However, it says safety is a priority. A website is being set up for anyone who is concerned in the community to monitor conditions here on the ground.

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