Harvard Will Ask Most Undergraduates To Stay Off Campus In The Fall

Students walk in and out of the Widener Library in Harvard Yard. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Students walk in and out of the Widener Library in Harvard Yard. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

This fall, Harvard College will only invite 40% of its undergraduates to Cambridge — an effort to reduce density on the campus and contain the coronavirus pandemic.

In an email sent to the Harvard community Monday, President Lawrence Bacow acknowledged that “there is an intrinsic incompatibility” between the university's tradition of in-person learning and the need for social distancing.

Last month, Harvard rolled out a rule that all instruction this fall will take place remotely, regardless of where students are staying.

Every student who comes to campus will be given a room of his or her own, but will still share bathrooms with peers. All will be asked to submit to viral testing every three days, as well as report any symptoms to university health officials, wear masks and keep physical distance from one another.

The decision comes a month after most of the university’s graduate and professional schools announced plans to remain "remote" for at least the coming fall semester.

Among the 40% welcomed back this fall: all Harvard’s incoming first-year students.

In Monday’s email — co-signed by Claudine Gay, dean of the school’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Rakesh Khurana, dean of Harvard College — that preference was explained as an attempt to provide new students with “a supported transition to college-level academic work and to begin to build their Harvard relationships."

If similar measures are necessary in the spring, the email says, seniors concluding their time at Harvard will be given a blanket invitation to return to campus.

The officials apologized to sophomores, juniors and other students who will have to remain home after a disrupted spring. The university will offer students receiving financial aid who do not return to campus a $5,000 room-and-board stipend to cover remote learning — but tuition costs will remain the same.


Headshot of Max Larkin

Max Larkin Reporter, Education
Max Larkin is an education reporter.



More from WBUR

Listen Live