Allow Dartmouth's Class of 2024 the option to defer

Allow Dartmouth's Class of 2024 the option to defer

June 30, 2020
Petition to
Dartmouth College Office of Undergraduate Admissions and
This petition made change with 504 supporters!

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Started by Myles McMurchy '16

Dear Lee Coffin, Vice Provost for Enrollment and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid:

As Dartmouth alumni, we oppose the policy proposed in your June 29 e-mail to the Class of 2024, “Reopening of Campus for 2020/21 Academic Year,” which prohibits incoming students from deferring their admission for the upcoming academic year. Your e-mail states,

“If you do not wish to enroll in classes for the fall, winter, and spring terms as required of all incoming first-year students during the 2020/21 academic year, we advise you to cancel your enrollment by July 10 and reapply for admission to next year’s class.”

This coercive policy punishes students during one of the most critical junctures of their lives on top of living through a global pandemic. While anyone can appreciate that the College has had to make significant changes to campus life, inevitably these proposed changes will significantly attenuate the experience of first-year students. The Class of 2024 will not take most of their classes in person; they will not remain on campus throughout the changing seasons; they will not have the experience of being freshman roommates; they will not get to know their classmates as intimately, despite one of the primary aims of the D-Plan being for students to build relationships during their first and last years on campus. These unfortunate outcomes are all the more reason to accept that some students, who have already been admitted on their merits, may wish to defer.

The deferral policy will disproportionately affect vulnerable and underrepresented students, who are most likely to face acute challenges navigating part or most of their first year of college remotely. Although Dartmouth is comprised of one of the wealthiest student bodies of any university in the country—and so it follows that most students come from stable and supportive homes—the fact remains that many students come to Hanover from turbulent environments that will not be amenable to the pressures of online learning during their first year of college. These students should surely have the right to defer their enrollment. So, too, should students facing other unprecedented challenges, including that their own immediate family members may be ill—and again, low-income students would disproportionately face caregiving obligations and other intense stressors compared to the student body at large.

Mr. Coffin, we recognize the immense strain these circumstances have surely put on the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, including your long-term planning for the Class of 2025 and beyond. Nevertheless, your response should not be to bar first-year students—most of whom are mere teenagers—from making the reasonable decision to defer their matriculation to the College until this pandemic has subsided. The well-being of these students in the midst of one of our greatest crises should come first. To prioritize anything else—as evidenced by your overly harsh and inhospitable prohibition of deferrals—does not reflect the responsive community of Dartmouth we alumni have known.

The June 29 email is also inconsistent with responses of peer institutions. Harvard, Yale, and Princeton will allow incoming students to defer. Perhaps your e-mail does not reflect that, in fact, the College has allowed deferrals for some number of students: in such a case, we request that the College clarify its policy. Will the College in fact allow some students to defer matriculation, and is your e-mail not a policy-in-fact but an attempt to dissuade additional students from deferring? Or is it the case that students who, per your instructions, cancel their applications and re-apply in the following admissions cycle, will be guaranteed admission? Even in such an event, we request that you recognize the immense burden of requiring students to go through the admissions application a second time.

Please clarify the College’s position on deferrals for the upcoming academic year. As it reads now, the College prohibits incoming students from deferring in the midst of a global pandemic. We must acknowledge that despite the College’s best efforts, the fiscal and societal challenges students face from this pandemic will not be fully alleviated by the “new D-Plan” described in your e-mail. This reality, alongside the unprecedented non-academic stressors students will encounter, is reason enough to allow them to defer.


Concerned Alumni of Dartmouth College 


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