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The New 'Normal': Students Move Back In to Covid-Modified Dorms For Spring Semester

Students pick up boxes outside Lowell House on Saturday.
Students pick up boxes outside Lowell House on Saturday. By Ryan N. Gajarawala
By Hannah J. Martinez and Sixiao Yu, Crimson Staff Writers

When Angela Y. Zhong ’24, a freshman from Cypress, T.X., arrived on campus on Thursday, she anticipated starting her “normal” college experience. Though the College invited freshmen to live in residence last semester, Zhong decided to complete her first semester of college from home.

“I really felt like I was missing out last semester,” Zhong said. “I thought I would petition, and I also just wanted to meet new people."

Students invited to live in residence this semester will encounter a far-from-normal campus experience, which began for many this week with a move-in process modified for the pandemic era.

In December, the College announced that it was expanding spring housing to accommodate 3,100 undergraduates compared to the 25 percent of students who lived in residence during the fall semester. Students living on campus this semester — seniors, enrolled juniors, students with difficult learning environments, and petitioning juniors returning from leaves of absences — began trickling onto campus Wednesday, arriving at pre-assigned times over the course of five days.

Before settling into their dorms, students underwent coronavirus testing and made an account with Color, a health testing company. After testing, students were able to pick up their meals for initial quarantine and their dorm key.

Several students reported mixed experiences moving into their dorms for the spring semester. On one hand, Samyra C. Miller ’21 said her move-in experience was “super easy.”

“I thought it was going to be a long line for testing,” Miller said. Instead, she said she quickly moved through the testing process, which involved showing her completed Crimson Clear symptom attestation, obtaining a test kit, self-administering a test, dropping it off, picking up a bag of pre-packaged Harvard University Dining Services meals, and returning to her house.

Students approved to return to campus had to take two coronavirus tests upon their arrival and remain in their rooms until receiving a negative result.
Students approved to return to campus had to take two coronavirus tests upon their arrival and remain in their rooms until receiving a negative result. By Ryan N. Gajarawala

On the other hand, Alexa L. Zinke ’23 — a sophomore who moved into Eliot House on Sunday — said the move-in process was “not as smooth” as she anticipated.

“There weren't that many people around to inform or ask questions, and so it took us way longer than it should have to figure out where we were going,” she said. “I even went into Eliot once to see if there was somebody that might be helpful, and there was nobody.”

“During the time we were actually moving in, I don’t think we saw more than maybe one other student moving in,” she added.

Once moved in, undergraduates undergo a mandatory quarantine period until they receive their first negative test. During this period, students are only allowed to leave their rooms to use the bathroom or in the case of emergency.

After receiving a third negative Covid test, students are allowed to socialize in masked pairs and take socially-distanced walks within 30 minutes of campus. Undergraduates will be notified of different phases of campus reopening through a color system, with purple being the most restrictive phase and green being the most permissive.

As of Sunday evening, the College is in Level Orange, indicating that, following their third negative test, students can socialize outside in masked pairs or with suitemates and travel within a 30-minute walking radius of campus.

Students living on campus this semester — seniors, enrolled juniors, students with difficult learning environments, and petitioning juniors returning from leaves of absences — began trickling onto campus Wednesday, arriving at pre-assigned times over the course of five days.
Students living on campus this semester — seniors, enrolled juniors, students with difficult learning environments, and petitioning juniors returning from leaves of absences — began trickling onto campus Wednesday, arriving at pre-assigned times over the course of five days. By Ryan N. Gajarawala

Despite reports of “Zoom fatigue” from the nature of online classes during the fall, several students expressed excitement about the upcoming spring semester, which begins Monday.

“I’m just super excited to be back,” Miller said. “I have a nice room — got some nice roommates, and I’m ready to just finish my last semester at Harvard, which is crazy to think about.”

Zinke added that she thinks Harvard is “doing the best job that it can.”

“I think that the school gets a lot of criticism from people that don’t really understand the logistics of neither the virus nor the way that universities have to deal with it,” she said. “I’m glad that Harvard is doing what it’s doing.”

—Staff writer Hannah J. Martinez can be reached at hannah.martinez@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @martinezhannahj.

—Staff writer Sixiao Yu can be reached at sixiao.yu@thecrimson.com.

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