This morning, Lawrence Bacow, president of Harvard University, sent a letter out to the entire Harvard community asking students not to return to campus after spring break and to meet academic requirements remotely until further notice. The university’s spring recess begins next week, starting Monday, March 16.
According to Bacow’s letter, which Fast Company has reviewed, the university has already begun transitioning to virtual instruction for both graduate and undergraduate classes, so that professors can sort out any kinks that might emerge from lecturing via video conferencing technology like Zoom. The goal is to ensure that all classes can be taught virtually by Monday, March 23, which is the first day of scheduled classes after the break.
“The goal of these changes is to minimize the need to gather in large groups and spend prolonged time in close proximity with each other in spaces such as classrooms, dining halls, and residential buildings,” Bacow writes. “Our actions are consistent with the recommendations of leading health officials on how to limit the spread of COVID-19 and are also consistent with similar decisions made by a number of our peer institutions. The campus will remain open, and operations will continue with appropriate measures to protect the health of the community.”
Other universities around the country are taking similar measures to reduce students’ exposure to the new coronavirus and prevent spread, although Harvard appears to be among the more aggressive in its efforts to tackle the outbreak. The decision to prevent students from returning after spring break will be a burden to some students who might not be able to afford a last-minute flight home.
We reached out to Harvard for comment about whether the university has any plans to help students who may have trouble paying for tickets home. Rachael Dane, director of media relations at Harvard, said, ‘The College is working directly with students based on a number of considerations, including financial ones.”
Harvard just gave students 5 days to pack all of their things, move out, and go home. many can't go home because of costs and travel restrictions, and they've provided no guidance. and we're expected to go to class for the rest of this week.
— hakeem (@hakeemangulu) March 10, 2020
These new directives suggest that commencement and graduation festivities, which are typically scheduled for late April and early May, will likely be canceled. For graduate students and undergraduates who would have graduated this year, this week may be the last time they are on campus as students.