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Students Staying Over Winter Recess Faced HUHS Closures, Sparse Social Programming

Winter Break
Weld boathouse sits along the frozen Charles River this chilly winter.

While some college students tanned on tropical beaches or raced down ski slopes, students who stayed at Harvard during winter break faced sparse social programming and Harvard University Health Services closures.

Roughly 150 College students — many of whom are athletes, international students, or students with unsafe home environmetns — stayed on campus, according to Associate Dean of Students Lauren E. Brandt ’01. Campus services normally available during the semester closed briefly during the break, though one organization — the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Foundation — ramped up its programming for students.

The College’s Housing Office coordinates with students whose applications to stay are approved. This year, University officials also responded to several "immediate need situations” and covered unanticipated travels plans, Brandt wrote in an emailed statement.

Between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day, students seeking health services on campus had limited options. Though HUHS Urgent Care remained open throughout break, most of the health services offices were shuttered for the holidays.

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Counseling and Mental Health Services was closed for the beginning of winter recess, though students seeking help could speak to an on-call urgent care provider.

Harvard University Dining Services also curtailed their operations. Dining halls closed on the last day of finals in December and did not begin to re-open until early January, starting with Currier House. The College gave students a stipend in the form of Crimson Cash, which students can use at 15 local restaurants, to tide them over this year — as it has done in previous years.

Scattered across campus dorms and Houses, students said they had limited opportunity for social interaction. New this year, however, was a pilot program run by members of the Roosevelt Foundation, which organized outings and events over winter break. The foundation, based at Adams House, maintains a museum of Roosevelt’s time at Harvard and seeks “to use the Roosevelt legacy to address pressing domestic and international problems.”

Executive Director Michael D. Weishan ’86 wrote in an email over the foundation's mailing list that the organization coordinated board game nights, a trip to New Bedford, and walks along the Freedom Trail. Weishan’s email also informed affiliates that the foundation raised money to send two students home for the holidays — one to California and another to England.

Though several students pointed to the foundation’s work, they said the period remained lonely and isolated. James A. Bedford ’20 — who has spent three breaks on campus — called it “miserable.”

“During the Christmas-New Year’s period, there are actually a surprising number of students who are on campus. Just nobody knows that anybody else is on campus,” Bedford said. “You don’t normally see many people. I remember seeing nobody for about a week and a half.”

Bedford, who helped advise the Roosevelt Foundation on its winter programming, called the events “very successful” at improving break for some students.

Brian Warner ’20 — who has also spent each winter break on campus — said winter break is an expectedly lonely time at Harvard.

“It’s not that bad because I get to stay in my room,” Warner said. “I guess I don’t have a high standard for it because I expect to be relatively alone for a month and then people start coming back.”

—Staff writer Shera S. Avi-Yonah can be reached at shera.avi-yonah@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter at @saviyonah.

—Staff writer Delano R. Franklin can be reached at delano.franklin@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter at @delanofranklin_.

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