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Enhanced mental health support, relaxed COVID-19 rules, and other changes announced.
A candlelight vigil will be held on Tuesday in memory of the four undergraduates who have died this academic year, President Philip J. Hanlon '77 announced in an email that he, Provost Joseph Helble, and the Dartmouth school deans sent today to students, faculty, staff, and the families of undergraduates.
The email also announced increased mental health services, relaxed COVID-19 restrictions, extensions on end-of-term options for undergraduates, and a new partnership with a nonprofit foundation that promotes suicide prevention and emotional health.
"We are a community in mourning. We are grieving the loss of friends and family members and yearning for the lives we enjoyed before the COVID-19 pandemic began. The challenges we have faced have often seemed overwhelming and relentless. The promise of widespread vaccination gives us hope, yet many of us are also exhausted and anxious," said the email.
In addition to Hanlon and Helble, the email was signed by school deans Alexis Abramson, Duane Compton, Jon Kull '88, Kathryn Lively, Matt Slaughter, and Elizabeth Smith.
The message comes after the death on Wednesday of Elizabeth Reimer '24, who died at her home in Holtsville, N.Y. Lamees Kareem '22 died in April and a month earlier, Connor Tiffany '24 died. Beau DuBray '24 died in November.
The Dartmouth leaders wrote that the growing mental health crisis that existed before the onset of the pandemic was exacerbated by COVID-19.
"On this critical issue, we must do more to support our community," the senior leaders wrote.
New Initiatives Beginning Today
In response to suggestions from the undergraduate Student Assembly, Dartmouth has added a second nurse to the on-call staffing at the Dartmouth College Health Service, beginning today, to take incoming calls and answer questions. The addition will minimize the chance that calls are routed to voice mail when any student contacts the health service.
Also, two new counselors and a student wellness coordinator will be added to the health service as soon as possible to expand mental health services for all students. The three positions are designed to enhance campus-wide mental health and wellness outreach for all students. The counselors will be able to increase suicide-prevention training and the clinical capacity for individual therapy. The student-wellness coordinator will promote awareness, culture change, and skill building, particularly in student residential communities.
Relaxing COVID-19 Restrictions
The changes will allow all students to host in their dorm rooms two guests who also reside on campus, for a total of three people in a room, allowing for 3 feet of physical distancing. With more than 50% of students, faculty, and staff in the area who have approved campus access having been vaccinated, students will now be allowed to gather indoors and outdoors in informal groups of up to nine people. They may also schedule formal gatherings for up to 25 individuals.
"We encourage you to reach out to one another and make plans to get together," said the email.
Details on Tuesday's Vigil
It's expected that many will gather at the vigil on Tuesday, which will begin at 8 p.m. on the Green. Also on Tuesday, Baker Tower will go dark, with the exception of the green light at the top of the tower. And, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Tuesday, Baker bells will chime every hour in memory of the four students who have died this year, and in recognition of the losses suffered by so many. College Chaplain Daveen Litwin will collaborate with students who wish to be involved in planning the ceremony.
End-of-Term Adjustments for Undergraduates
Two new options have been put in place for undergraduates who are concerned about their ability to meet their academic obligations this term. They have more time in which to elect the non-recording grade option, which will last through June 2, the last day of classes. And the deadline to request an incomplete grade in a course, following the normal process, has been extended to 4:30 p.m. on June 11 for all students who are not graduating. (Students with pending incompletes are not eligible to graduate.) Students are advised to consult their undergraduate dean and faculty members about seeking incompletes.
Dartmouth to Work With JED Foundation
The new partnership with the nationally recognized JED Foundation will see the launch of a four-year program to protect emotional health and promote suicide prevention for teens and young adults. The foundation will guide Dartmouth through a process of systemic and enduring change.
Said the email, "We will build the interdisciplinary campus team of students, faculty, and staff, including senior leadership, to guide this process and to conduct our institutional baseline assessment." The initiative will begin in the fall with the administration of a student survey, to be repeated four years later to assess progress.
"One of the hallmarks of our small, close-knit community is our capacity to care for one another," wrote the senior leaders. "Please take a moment to reach out to someone you may not know well and ask how they are doing, think about how you can make another person's burden a little lighter, and make a point of giving a friend or colleague the encouragement they need to manage a difficult day. We are Dartmouth, and we are here for each other."