COVID 19: Planning for Fall Term

To the Dartmouth community,

Well into a spring term that is nothing like any of us had imagined, we're so grateful to all of you for your creativity and flexibility, as well as for your perseverance and patience as we navigate through these challenging times.

Today, we're focused squarely on the future and are writing to update you on our present thinking about fall term. There is still much work to be done to determine precisely how we will operate this fall, but we want to fill you in on the process and timetable for making those decisions.

While the majority of this message speaks to fall term for undergraduates, decisions regarding fall term for our graduate and professional students are following related but separate processes and timetables, in consultation with the provost, according to the distinct needs of each school and program.

As we continue to prioritize keeping you and the broader community safe, we have several goals for fall term. First, we aspire, to the extent that they can be safely accommodated, to have as many faculty and staff working on campus again, and as much of our on-campus research enterprise back up and running as possible. We will begin to bring some graduate students and employees back to our research laboratories over the course of the summer. As we repopulate these labs, we will take extra precautions to minimize risk for those who work there.

It is also our strong desire to bring some number of undergraduates back to live and study on campus this fall--the largest number we feel we can accommodate while minimizing risk for students, faculty, staff, and our neighbors in the Upper Valley. In the most likely scenario, we expect to have a mix of in-person and virtual classes in the fall for both undergraduates and graduate and professional students. We will also need to modify the ways in which students live to achieve less density in our residence and dining halls and maintain capacity for students who fall ill or need to self-quarantine.

These aspirations will not be easy to achieve and will require the best thinking and can-do spirit of our entire Dartmouth family. To that end, we are convening three groups to help us tackle the various challenges that exist around fall operations.

An Academic Working Group consisting of the deans and associate deans of Arts and Sciences and Thayer, along with the dean of the College, will be consulting with the relevant faculty committees in making a series of recommendations on undergraduate curricular issues. The prospect of having a bifurcated system, with some students learning remotely from home and others on campus in-person, raises a set of complex academic issues that need to be addressed. The graduate and professional schools will rely on their respective academic leadership groups for advice on similar issues within their schools.

In addition, a Health Working Group comprised of individuals from Dartmouth and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center has been formed to advise us on how testing, monitoring, contact tracing, quarantine, and treatment will be handled when the campus is repopulated. We are extremely grateful that Dartmouth-Hitchcock is eager to partner with us on these challenges. We will benefit greatly from their experience and expertise.

Finally, our COVID-19 Task Force is working to address other operational matters related to our gradual return, such as whether off-campus programs can run this fall, what facilities we will designate for quarantine and isolation space, and a host of other issues. As has been our process since the start of this pandemic, recommendations from the task force will be presented to us for consideration, taking into account the latest data on the spread of the virus.

All of this work is taking place now and will be continuing, in earnest, over the next eight weeks. Our goal is to communicate final decisions on fall term operations by June 29. Details on the return of student belongings, our June 14 virtual celebration to mark the conferring of degrees to the Class of 2020, and our grading policy for summer term will be announced sooner, over the course of May.

In all aspects of campus life, we expect that physical distancing and other changes to our behavior to help safeguard public health will need to remain in place for quite some time, and we are committed to strictly enforcing those practices across our community.

For now, please be assured that as we near the end of one academic year, we are planning for the next with the same steadfast commitment to providing exceptional learning experiences for our students while putting the health and well-being of our community first.

We appreciate your patience and support in these uncertain times, and pledge to keep you well informed of our progress in the weeks and months ahead. In the meantime, please stay well and take care of one another.


Philip J. Hanlon '77

Joseph J. Helble