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Dean of Students Expresses Goal for 'Fully Operational' College in Fall 2021

Dean of Students Katherine G. O'Dair expressed her desire for a livelier campus come fall 2021 in an interview Monday.
Dean of Students Katherine G. O'Dair expressed her desire for a livelier campus come fall 2021 in an interview Monday. By Naomi S. Castellon-Perez
By Hannah J. Martinez and Sixiao Yu, Crimson Staff Writers

Looking ahead to the 2021-2022 academic year, Dean of Students Katherine G. O’Dair said her office aspires to “have as normal a fall as we can” in a Monday interview.

Ever since being dispersed from campus almost exactly one year ago due to the burgeoning Covid-19 crisis, students at the College have taken courses online. While many undergraduates have been studying from afar, some returned to campus to do their coursework in Harvard’s dorms. The College welcomed back freshmen and a select group of upperclassmen to campus in the fall; this spring, it invited seniors, enrolled juniors, and students with personal or environmental learning difficulties to move into its residential spaces.

In this past year, undergraduate students have experienced a wide range of difficulties when it comes to virtual learning, including technical issues with online learning, social isolation, and navigating classes in completely different time zones.

O’Dair said that the DSO’s “goal” is for the College to be “fully operational” next fall.

“We are in our planning, thinking through our operation so we can welcome as many students back to campus as we can,” O’Dair said.

Despite her hope for a livelier campus in the fall, O’Dair pressed on the need to be “flexible” in the context of much “uncertainty” regarding the country’s Covid-19 prognosis.

O’Dair’s Monday statements come on the heels of a Sunday email that the College would be moving from “Level Three: Yellow” of its campus reopening phases into a provisional status of “Level Four: Lime” on March 1.

Level Four allows students to gather in groups of up to eight in some indoor common room spaces, as well as for independent study in dining halls. It also opens up the possibility for some College, House, or Yard sponsored outdoor programming. The step up from Level Three came less than three weeks after the College announced its move into Level Three from “Level Two: Orange,” marking a steady rate of progress.

“It might have seemed quick to move from Yellow to Lime,” O’Dair acknowledged, but explained that the DSO had seen “positive trends” in the residential community.

O’Dair said that there were “a number of factors” that contributed to the decision to move into Level Four, such as strong compliance with Crimson Clear – an app on which students log a daily attestation of their health — in addition to a low student positivity rate for Covid-19. There have only been three positive cases of Covid-19 among undergraduate students in the past week, according to the University’s testing dashboard.

“Students are doing really well,” O’Dair said.

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

—Staff writer Sixiao Yu can be reached at

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