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As Fall Semester Winds Down, Khurana Says Harvard Is “Actively Planning” for Spring

As students living on campus prepare to disperse for the remainder of the fall semester, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, pictured here in February, said in a Friday interview that Harvard is diligently preparing for the spring.
As students living on campus prepare to disperse for the remainder of the fall semester, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, pictured here in February, said in a Friday interview that Harvard is diligently preparing for the spring. By Amanda Y. Su
By Juliet E. Isselbacher and Amanda Y. Su, Crimson Staff Writers

As students living on campus prepare to disperse for the remainder of the fall semester, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana said in a Friday interview that Harvard is diligently preparing for the spring.

As undergraduates anticipate the College’s decision on which — if any — students it will invite to return to campus, Harvard began to provide initial details on the uncertain spring semester with its release of the academic calendar last month.

Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences announced in October that it would not hold spring break in 2021. Instead, it will reallocate the five days of break as “wellness days” throughout the spring semester. On these days, scheduled approximately every other week, FAS courses will not meet.

Khurana said this plan yields two benefits: minimizing travel for students — which would reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission — and providing regular downtime.

When asked how Harvard will ensure that faculty honor the intent of wellness days by refraining from assigning class work, Khurana said he is confident that faculty will prioritize “students’ academic, social, and personal well-being.”

“We are going to be working with our community, our faculty, and others to think about how we can really ensure that those wellness days really provide a respite for our community,” he said.

He referred further questions about how the administration will help faculty work around wellness days to the Office of Undergraduate Education.

In an October interview, Khurana said Harvard would prioritize inviting the senior class to live in residence.

Khurana said the FAS Pandemic Planning and Response Group is considering different spring scenarios based on public health conditions and soliciting feedback about fall academic and residential experiences.

“My understanding is that the decisions around the spring with respect to who we can potentially bring back will be made in early December,” he said.

As administrators plan for the upcoming semester, students currently living on campus are preparing to move out before Thanksgiving break and complete their last full week of courses, in addition to final exams, at home.

Khurana said those on campus who have “no easy place to go” during winter break were able to petition to remain in Harvard housing. He noted the application and coordination process resembled that of previous years.

Last year, some of the 150 College students who spent winter break on campus said they were frustrated over limited dining and health services. Others said their winter in Harvard dorms was lonely, isolating, and “miserable” — an experience that social distancing and public health restrictions may even exacerbate.

—Staff writer Juliet E. Isselbacher can be reached at juliet.isselbacher@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @julietissel.

—Staff writer Amanda Y. Su can be reached at amanda.su@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandaysu.

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