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Students Form Harvard-Wide Task Force in Response to Pandemic

Harvard students from schools across the University formed a group to centralize advocacy and resources in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Harvard students from schools across the University formed a group to centralize advocacy and resources in response to the coronavirus pandemic. By Aiyana G. White
By Camille G. Caldera, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard students from schools across the University formed a group called Students vs. Pandemics this week aimed at centralizing advocacy and resources in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Gwendolyn Lee — a student at the Harvard Kennedy School and one of the group’s co-founders — said Students vs. Pandemics and its COVID-19 Task Force has three primary goals: to improve transparency and communication, to build community, and to identify problems across the University caused by the global disease outbreak.

Much of the group’s work is centralized on a Google Sheet, with sections of information to help students “stay healthy,” “find resources,” “have fun,” and “support community.”

Lee said she and her sister, Alexandria Y. Lee — a student at the Harvard School of Public Health — decided to start the organization after discussing the coronavirus pandemic's impact on their classmates.

“In times of crisis and rapid change, there’s a huge need for information and rapidly updated information, but at the same time it can be challenging to sift through everything that's circulating, to find transparent and accurate information,” Lee said. “So we saw a need to improve transparency and communication.”

The group also hopes to inform students about what they can do to further “systemic change” on the issue. A tab on the Google Sheet suggests projects like translating public health information and compiling various states’ economic relief actions.

Laura A. Jenny ’21, who is in charge of the group’s outreach to the College, said she is focused on compiling resources for students to maintain their mental health while away from campus and in isolation.

“We’re also going to have a team on mental health and wellness, a team addressing different community service projects, thinking about what resources we can bring to the greater Cambridge and greater Boston areas,” Jenny said. “We’re also trying to do a COVID-19 Hackathon, which is going to be a space for students from all across the University to get together virtually to come up with innovative ideas on problem solving specific problems that are coming from the outbreak.”

Bryan O. Buckley, a student at the Harvard School of Public Health, said he is most proud of a section of the Google Sheet dubbed “Complain + Fix,” where students can list coronavirus-related issues they have and solicit solutions from others. Items listed on the sheet include childcare refund problems, Commencement-related confusion, and visa queries.

“It’s okay for people to feel anxious and be angry and to go through all the maelstrom of emotions and just having an opportunity to put that frustration out there, because it gives us the opportunity to hear and see what are really truly worrying folks, and also for some folks that are able to be in the creative space, thinking about solutions that might be helpful for the University,” Buckley said.

Buckley — who is also the president of the Graduate Student Council — said he hopes that he can leverage his relationship with the Provost’s Office to help communicate problems and solutions to the administration.

“The more we can systemize everything and create communication, that helps a lot of administrators,” he said.

The Task Force currently includes undergraduates, students from the Harvard Kennedy School, the Harvard Medical School, the Harvard School of Public Health, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Buckley and Lee said they are working to involve students from all twelve schools.

—Staff writer Camille G. Caldera can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @camille_caldera.

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