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Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana said in a Monday interview he has “a great deal of confidence” that upperclassmen invited to return to campus for the spring semester will adhere to Covid-19 residential rules.
Harvard’s housing plan for the spring semester — which welcomes roughly half of all undergraduates to fill 3,100 beds on campus — prioritizes seniors and currently enrolled juniors, rather than freshmen as it did in the fall.
Students living on campus during the fall semester were required to sign a community compact assuring their compliance with social distancing and other safety guidelines, a requirement which will continue this spring. The College also developed a Community Council — composed of student volunteers, faculty, and staff members — to enforce the compact.
Khurana acknowledged that seniors and juniors returning to campus in the spring will reunite with old social “connections,” unlike freshmen, who arrived without existing friendships. He said, however, that he believes these connections will encourage upperclassmen to observe community compact guidelines, rather than flout residential rules.
“Those connections will, in fact, even make it easier for us to realize our mutual obligations to each other to keep each other safe because our students are more likely to know about each other,” he said. “Right from the get-go, they know that different people have different health conditions.”
Khurana also said he believes upperclassmen are especially committed to the “health and well-being” of Harvard staff members.
“They also know how important it is to keep our dining hall workers safe, our custodial workers safe, our frontline safe — that these are not just ancillary folks, but they’re core members of our community,” he said.
“I have a great deal of confidence in our upper-class students precisely because they understand the mission of educating citizens and citizen-leaders for society is a mission not about maximizing one’s individual needs, but rather putting oneself in community,” he added.
Khurana also said student compliance with the compact in the fall set an example for undergraduates arriving in the spring as well as Harvard’s graduate school students.
“They’ve set such a great bar for showing us the way, and they adapted when we had to adapt,” he said of the students living on campus this fall.
In one case of the Community Council adjudicating on student violations of the community compact, Harvard sent home three freshmen living in Mather House after they hosted a September party in their dorm.
Khurana also said student input from the fall informed a number of changes to the community compact ahead of the spring semester — most notably, the introduction of color-coded reopening levels.
The system — with the strictest of guidelines beginning at “Level 0: Purple” — uses colors to represent the gradual reopening of on-campus spaces. The highest level — “Level 5: Green” — would permit small social gatherings.
Khurana said the development of color-coded phasing aims to “clarify the importance of the community compact” and ensure greater transparency around campus reopening decisions.
Khurana concluded that he has been “really pleased” with how undergraduates have risen to meet challenges posed by the pandemic. Their conduct, he said, has affirmed his confidence in the student body.
“I knew these things were already in our community — the resilience, the commitment to each other, the commitment to truth, and the creation of knowledge,” he said. “It was great to see that continue and even become more resolute during this moment.”
—Staff writer Alex M. Koller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @alexmkoller.
—Staff writer Taylor C. Peterman can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @taylorcpeterman.
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