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Dean of Students Office Imposes Stringent Social Distancing Measures for Undergrads Remaining on Campus

Dean of Students Katherine G. O'Dair, pictured in November 2019, discussed extra precautionary measures to ensure the safety of the several hundred students that remain on campus in an interview Thursday.
Dean of Students Katherine G. O'Dair, pictured in November 2019, discussed extra precautionary measures to ensure the safety of the several hundred students that remain on campus in an interview Thursday. By Naomi S. Castellon-Perez
By Sydnie M. Cobb and Declan J. Knieriem, Crimson Staff Writers

Dean of Students Katherine G. O’Dair outlined her office’s new residential plan in a Thursday interview, describing extra precautionary measures to ensure the safety of the several hundred students that remain on campus.

“As part of our de-densification plan, we also established a new residential plan,” O’Dair said. “Our primary guidance was the advice of public health experts.”

The Dean of Students Office’s current residential policies prohibit shared living spaces and bathrooms, gatherings of more than two people, and the use of common spaces in the Houses. In addition, the DSO imposed a strict ban on alcohol to limit the impact of intoxicated students on an “overburdened” healthcare system, according to the policy.

This modified residential plan follows University President Lawrence S. Bacow’s March 10 mandate that students vacate their on-campus housing in response to the spread of the coronavirus.

Several hundred undergraduates currently remain on campus, according to Associate Dean of Students Lauren E. Brandt ’01. She said Thursday that the DSO made decisions on accommodations for remaining students in conjunction with faculty deans and house staff.

“There's just been a huge swell of working together in collaboration to ensure that students are being supported, and that they're being supported in safe ways,” Brandt said.

In an email, College spokesperson Rachael Dane declined to specify the exact number of students residing on campus.

Linda Lee ’21, a Crimson blog and technology editor, said being on campus has felt “normal but isolating.”

“Being on campus has helped maintain the regular structure of typical college life because you’re surrounded by familiar buildings and in your room all the time,” Lee said. “The social aspects have been the hardest simply because no one can really see each other, so you’re left to yourself.”

Lee added that the Harvard University Dining Services staff has made her experience more pleasant by accommodating student suggestions. Per the DSO residential policy, HUDS is continuing to prepare bagged meals three times a day with multiple options at each meal time.

“HUDS has gone above and beyond to make sure we are comfortable,” Lee said. “If you ever have a request, they will change it for you."

“For example, the bags used to be prepacked, and you just kind of got your bag and left,” she added. “I asked one time if I could get one of the side salads from another bag, and they said they couldn’t. The next day they started a completely new system of being able to assemble your own bags.”

Eugenio Donati ’20, who is from northern Italy, said remaining in Adams House has limited his social interactions.

“It’s very, very empty,” Donati said. “I walked around campus for five to ten minutes and did not run into anyone.”

“You go downstairs, get your meal, and then you go back to eat lunch or dinner in your room,” he added. “My physical social life is now non-existent, so I try to talk to my friends on FaceTime or the phone as much as possible.”

Claira Janover ’20 — a Currier House resident who has moved to Kirkland House — said her only interactions with others in Kirkland have been while she was picking up meals in the dining hall. She said her days have not been very busy.

“I just kind of run around the river — no more than a couple of miles — and then have my Zoom class and just stay up and watch TV,” Janover said. “It's definitely not productive.”

Janover added that she has found support from the College to be imperfect yet helpful in stabilizing her residential situation following the order to vacate dorms.

“When we were first kicked off campus, I was pretty anxious and panicked because I relied on housing,” she said. “I know there's a lot of complaints about it, but I’m just putting it into perspective in comparison to other schools where there wasn't even an option to stay on campus. I know that it's not a perfect world, but I think they're trying their best.”

—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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