Peter Elias' notes from Homecoming

Peter Elias sends us his notes from Homecoming 2021:

 

Thursday:
 
Many of the movers and shakers started arriving to get ready.
 
 
Friday:
 
I arrived from several days in Montpelier, VT on Friday afternoon and checked in at the Courtyard Marriott in Lebanon. It was my first time in that hotel and I recommend it highly: clean, convenient, friendly staff. Signs were up explaining that masks were required and I saw no staff and only a few guests without masks during my stay. I think it would be fun if ‘69s tended to stay there for campus visits, so we could enjoy breakfasts or other times together.
 
I walked around campus a bit and was saddened by the construction scaffolds and staging for the Dartmouth Hall renovations. There are other places to take pictures, of course, but the lawn in front of Baker has home to a monstrous tent (which I never saw being used) and there were at least 3 concentric circles of metal fencing around the bonfire, along with the huge portable light fixtures and their mobile generators. 
 
About 30+ of us gathered at Hinman Forum in the Rockefeller Center at 5:00 for our pre-parade drinks and light catered dinner. The College requires indoor masking except when actively eating or drinking, and most of our class was masked when we started, but nearly no one wore their masks after the meal, so I left. The meal was good and the company was great.
 
The speeches and other rituals took place from a grandstand on the Green (since Dartmouth Hall is being renovated) and were mercifully short. There was a rather anemic running around the bonfire within two of the layers of metal fencing and no stampede of 2025s.  The bonfire was quite nice.
 
I returned to Rockefeller after the bonfire but the lack of masking was not to my liking so I returned to my hotel room.
 
 
Saturday:
 
Some intrepid folks including Dona, Rick, and Norman set up the Class tent across from the gym starting at 8:30. I spent my morning cruising the campus, taking some photos, and chatting with students. They are bright and quite willing to chat, about the College and about all manner of other things.
 
At 11:00 we met in 219 of Wilson (the old museum building near the Hop) for our Class meeting. After the usual reports (treasurer, newsletter, webmaster, giving, mini-reunions, alumni council…) we discussed the revised constitution and voted unanimously to approve the revisions. Soon to appear on the Class website.  
 
Attendees were:
  1. Jim Staros
  2. Peter Elias
  3. Arthur Fergenson
  4. Henry Allen
  5. Mark Anderson
  6. John Leavitt
  7. Roy Wallace
  8. Ken Paul
  9. Greg Lau
  10. Tom Hunt
  11. John Myers
  12. Paul Tuhus
  13. Rick Willets
  14. Dick Glovsky
  15. Bob Garman
  16. John Mathias
  17. Dudley Kay
  18. Jay Glaser
  19. Jud Graves
  20. Andy McLane
  21. Nick Perencivich (remote)
  22. Tex Talmadge (remote)
  23. Allen Denison (remote)
  24. Mark Bankoff (remote)
  25. Steve Larson (remote)
 
(I may have missed remote attendees?)
 
After the meeting, we moved to The Tailgate and the usual excellent refreshments. It was another glorious day, much sunnier and warmer than had been predicted. 
 
I visited the Ski Team cider and donuts event in front of Robinson Hall (Robo) and had a good time re-connecting with coaches. Brayton Osgood coaches the Nordic team and was a classmate and Nordic teammate of my son 2 decades ago. I still consider the Dartmouth Nordic team part of my family.
 
At the Ski Team event, I did the following informal and non-scientific survey, which I have already shared on the ListServ:
 
 
During the Saturday noon hour I asked 10 consecutive undergrads who showed up for cider and donuts at the ski team tent in front of Robinson Hall the following questions: 
 
1. "Our Class has had some discussions about comfort and freedom of speech on college campuses. Would you be willing to answer a few questions about this?"
 
if they said yes:
 
2. "Do you or your friends ever feel uncomfortable expressing your ideas or opinions in class or in non-formal settings on campus?"
 
if they said yes:
 
3. "Is it a problem? And, if so, how bad is the problem?"
 
 
The first 10 undergrads I asked all said they would answer the questions. Several were part of small groups, but most were alone. I only took answers from the initial person I asked in a group. The answers broke down as follows:
 
Q1: Yes 10 out of 10.
 
Q2: 'Yes' 7 out of 10. 'No' 3 out of 10.
 
Q3: One student out of seven said it was a significant problem. I did not ask about the opinions she felt uncomfortable sharing or her ideology. Of the remaining six, the consensus was that it wasn't a big problem, tended to be limited to certain individuals or contexts (one said specific individuals turned everything into a fight) rather than a general or campus-wide problem, and was less an issue on campus than in other realms of their lives (two mentioned family and one mentioned their religious community). One student commented that poorly articulated or poorly defended opinions were more likely to be met with dismissal or ridicule than non-standard ideas, and said this was a good thing.
 
My two takes from this tiny and unscientific sample are (1) that the Dartmouth campus is not perceived by undergrads as a hostile environment for expression of ideas; and (2) that current undergrads are much more willing to interact with alums than we were as undergrads.
 
Weakness of this study: very small sample, no data to assess representativeness, answers not anonymous, possible selection bias (cider and donut skiing enthusiasts). Strengths of this study: no drop-outs or refusals, random selection of respondents from a convenience sample, non-directive questions, simplicity.
 
The game (which I did not attend) went into overtime and Dartmouth won.
 
At 5:00 we started gathering at the newly renovated DOC House. I can only describe it as stupendous. It preserves the shape and character of the old structure, but is clearly going to be viable for another 90 years. They swapped the kitchen and dining room so the dining room now has the view of Occom Pond. Julie Mathias and her team worked magic getting old photos up inside, which adds layers of personality and history - the photos alone are worth a couple hours of a visit.  The meal was acceptable (I was not thrilled by my chicken) but the wine and company were excellent.
 
Miscellany:
 
Dartmouth has clearly worked very hard to create a culture and systems to be safe despite Covid. I suspect they view this weekend as a sort of ’stress test’ for their systems and if no campus outbreaks result, they may be in a position to relax some of the rules gradually while monitoring. Personally, I REALLY look forward to the re-opening of the Ravine Lodge for alums. Currently, it is available only to students, faculty and staff. I spend a couple nights at the Ravine Lodge as part of all (except winter) my visits to Hanover. 
 
Dartmouth has an active program they call the Dartmouth Bystander Initiative (DBI) headquartered in the Student Wellness center on the top floor of Robinson Hall. It was developed in conjunction with the national Green Dot Bystander Intervention organization ~ 2012, and all the work is done by students who are trained to teach bystander intervention techniques to other students, but reactively (when something bad seems to be happening or is about to happen) and proactively (to set a cultural norm where interpersonal violence is not tolerated and were everyone is expected to do their part to keep the campus safe). 
 
Peter

Comments

I encourage all of us who attended our glorious Homecoming to bear in mind that travel to a location for an event with a large number of people from across the country with a large indoor component carries a significant risk for COVID-19 infection, despite conscientious institutional and individual efforts to mitigate risks.

 
I am:
  • Planning to do a home rapid antigen test daily to cover the ‘high-risk’ window of infection from 3-5 days after exposure and a repeat test at 7 days. (Rarely one sees ‘late bloomers’ here.) For me that is every evening from Monday evening through Thursday evening and then Saturday morning. I am using the BinaxNOW product. (Note: I remained negative. Sigh of relief.)
  • Planning to notify all attendees and Dartmouth if I test positive. 
  • Minimizing my contacts with others until I have tested negative through this window and wearing an N95 for any contact, even outdoors or with vaccinated individuals.
  • Informing my contacts or potential contacts of my recent activity so they can adjust their exposure to me if they so desire.
  • Not worried. (Note: I have received 3 doses of Pfizer vaccine.)
 
Here is my evaluation of the COVID-19 risk associated with our Homecoming, using the SMARTS mnemonic:
 
  • SPACE. Our two evening events were in fairly large venues with apparently good ventilation. I ate Saturday night in a room with windows cracked open (enough so some wore sweaters). The Class meeting was in a room with high ceiling but no windows and I have no idea about the ventilation in Wilson. (My CO2 meter there stayed under 900 there and in Rockefeller so ventilation was apparently good.) It was renovated recently so I suspect it is good, and Dartmouth has been very conscientious about their approach so I suspect (hope? trust?) they have assessed air quality. People did NOT stay 6 feet apart during conversations, drinks, or meals.
  • MASKS. Almost all - but not all - classmates wore masks indoors except while directly eating or drinking. The masks I observed were good quality and worn properly. Many classmates removed their masks and mingled in fairly close proximity when not actually eating or drinking during our pre- and post-meal activities and 1/3 of our classmates did not mask during the Class meeting. I did not attend the post bonfire gathering because when I arrived I saw too many without masks for my comfort.  I saw excellent masking indoors by students, faculty and staff on campus (better than our class) and a surprising amount of masking outdoors and on my one brief venture into the Coop to buy a present. I saw nearly 100% masking at the Courtyard Marriott but others reported maskless behavior there.
  • AIR. It is hard to know what Dartmouth has done for air quality. Two of our rooms were large. Windows were open where I ate at the DOC House and the CO2 levels act Class meeting were good. (I forgot my CO2 meter for Saturday dinner.) 
  • RESTRICT. Attendance was restricted to classmates and guests who were fully vaccinated and asymptomatic. This was on the honor system and, frankly, I’d feel better about this if I hadn’t seen so many classmates not careful about indoor masking. ALL the Dartmouth staff were fully masked and are engaged in testing.
  • TIME. The duration of my exposure indoors was the 3 events, a total of about 8 hours. It seemed short, but in COVID-time, this is a very long exposure to shared air, especially with the Delta variant.
  • SHOTS. I assume that all classmates and guests honored the requirement to be fully vaccinated. I did not quiz people and we did not ask people to sign a form. A number of the people did volunteer that they had already had their booster. Being fully vaccinated reduces but does not eliminate the risk of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic infection leading to spread.
 
In retrospect, while I confess to some disappointment that some classmates were inconsistent with indoor masking (which led me to leave some things early and skip an event) I am glad I attended, think my risk of a personal bad outcome is quite low, and am willing to be careful for the week after the event to minimize my threat to others. I would do it again.
 
Peter

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