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Harvard College Annual Housing Day Indefinitely Postponed Due to Coronavirus

The College announced Monday that it will postpone the annual Housing Day tradition.
The College announced Monday that it will postpone the annual Housing Day tradition. By Kai R. McNamee
By Sydnie M. Cobb and Declan J. Knieriem, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard College will indefinitely postpone Housing Day — an annual tradition in which freshmen students are assigned to an upperclassmen house — to prevent the transmission of the novel coronavirus, Faculty of Arts and Sciences Registrar Michael P. Burke wrote in an email to students Monday.

The College has yet to announce a new date for Housing Day. The Housing Office will contact freshmen about their assignments, per Burke’s email.

“More immediately, as part of our effort to eliminate gatherings of 100 people or more, we are announcing today that Housing Day, originally scheduled for this Thursday, March 12th, will be postponed,” Burke wrote. “The Housing Office will be in touch with students about when they will receive their housing assignment.”

The email specified that, as of Monday afternoon, there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus on campus.

The first confirmed cases in the region — three employees of Cambridge-based company Biogen — were announced by the company Thursday. These employees, though not residents of Massachusetts, attended a company management meeting with about 175 colleagues at a Boston hotel.

Kirkland Hoco Co-Chair Andrea J. Zhang ’22 said she understood the College is taking precaution in postponing Housing Day.

“Of course it’s an unideal scenario, but it’s also understandable given how so many other concerts, events, classes, and tests have been moved,” Zhang said.

In the email, Burke also provided guidelines for students seeking treatment in the event that they exhibit symptoms — though he wrote that Harvard University Health Services is not currently providing testing services.

“Regarding testing, please note that diagnostic testing for COVID-19 can be conducted only through the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” the email states. “At this time, HUHS is not providing testing, independent of these agencies.”

Burke also announced that, effective immediately, “non-Harvard affiliated out-of-town guests” are barred from staying on campus overnight.

Kirkland House Committee Co-Chair Maranda Ngue ’22 said in an interview Monday though she was “suspecting” a postponement, she is still “disappointed” by the announcement. She also said the house committee is “brainstorming” alternative ways to welcome freshmen to the House.

“The way that we planned for our HoCo in Kirkland was we would continue on with our plan, thinking that maybe Housing Day would happen, so either way we were ready to go,” Ngue said. “It's kind of unfortunate, but we're trying to find a way to make sure that the next incoming class of Kirklanders are very welcome here.”

The email comes on the heels of the College’s decision to cancel Visitas — Harvard’s annual admitted student weekend — over similar fears of the outbreak. Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 informed admitted students in a Friday email the College will replace the event with “Virtual Visitas,” a program of videos and online events.

The University is also discouraging all non-essential international travel for spring break and strictly barred all University travel to countries with a Level 3 Travel Warning from the CDC.

Dunster House Committee Co-Chair Dylan Zhou ’22 wrote in an email that he understands the “safety concerns” behind the decision and added that the postponement is preferable to “full cancellation.”

“Dunster House still intends on hosting its traditional evening events, which include a Community Dinner, a Scavenger Hunt, a Welcome Home Stein, and Free Grille Food, on the new Housing Day,” he wrote. “The only backup plan is that we may need to split a larger group into subsets of less than 100 people.”

The next email from Harvard College on coronavirus will come Thursday afternoon, per the update schedule the College announced last week. It will include more detailed information about spring break housing, dining, and transportation, according to today’s message.

—Staff writer Sydnie M. Cobb can be reached at sydnie.cobb@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @cobbsydnie.

—Staff writer Declan J. Knieriem can be reached at declan.knieriem@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DeclanKnieriem.

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