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UC Releases Spring 2021 Survey Results, Student Satisfaction and Engagement Low Overall

An Undergraduate Council survey found widespread student dissatisfaction with remote learning, their social lives, and Harvard policies related to the coronavirus pandemic.
An Undergraduate Council survey found widespread student dissatisfaction with remote learning, their social lives, and Harvard policies related to the coronavirus pandemic. By Zadoc I.N. Gee
By Mayesha R. Soshi and Lucas J. Walsh, Crimson Staff Writers

A survey soliciting information on College students’ spring semester experiences released by the Undergraduate Council Tuesday found widespread student dissatisfaction with remote learning, their social lives, and Harvard policies related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The survey posed 78 questions asking students to report their experiences on topics ranging from mental health to academics to residential life. In total, 502 students — roughly 10 percent of the College student body — responded, according to the UC’s report, which makes recommendations to College administrators about fall 2021 planning.

“This is a rare opportunity to reimagine Harvard that should not be taken lightly,” the report reads. “Harvard’s decisions this Fall will set the tone for the remainder of the decade and beyond.”

The survey found that more than 95 percent of undergraduates prefer to live on campus than off campus in fall 2021. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ announcement that it is planning for a full return of students to campus in fall 2021 ranked as the most popular policy among students, per the survey.

Offering in-person courses ranked as the second most popular potential policy, followed by extending the deadlines to add or drop a class or take a class pass/fail to the 11th Monday of a semester — a policy the FAS implemented during the fall and spring semesters this academic year.

In contrast, wellness days received overwhelmingly negative responses from undergraduates with a mean score 0f 0.89 out of 10. To the chagrin of many College students, the FAS implemented five wellness days throughout the spring semester in lieu of a traditional week-long spring break to reduce travel during the global health crisis.

In the survey, however, students indicated they are supportive of continuing wellness days in future semesters in addition to spring break.

Students living in Harvard’s dorms during the spring semester indicated that they understood Harvard’s residential policies put in place to limit social life on campus. Still, some expressed frustration regarding limited access to on-campus resources, such as printers, common spaces, and study areas.

On-campus students also reported confusion over whether Harvard would update its residential policies as students receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

“Many undergraduates expressed confusion about whether Harvard would adopt new policies as more students become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and whether fully vaccinated students would be able to access certain spaces (i.e. libraries, kitchens, indoor gatherings),” the report reads.

Harvard students suffered socially this academic year, the survey found. A majority of students indicated that they were “extremely dissatisfied” with their social lives.

“Students are highly dissatisfied with their social lives during the 2020-21 academic year and strongly believe that social life should be the number one priority for Harvard when it reopens this fall,” the report reads.

Student engagement in extracurricular activities was low, per the survey, as was student engagement with professional and academic services provided by the College.

To strengthen students’ social engagement, the report urges Harvard to create more opportunities for students to socialize on campus, including additional physical spaces and events for rising sophomores and juniors.

The survey also found that online learning harmed students’ mental health.

Students reported that their mental health deteriorated due to an apparent increase in academic pressure and a lack of boundaries between personal and academic life.

Eighty-eight percent of undergraduates reported having difficulty paying attention to online classes while 75 percent said they struggled to find the motivation to complete assignments.

Nearly half of survey respondents indicated they were unsatisfied with the quality of their education this academic year. Roughly 72 percent of students also indicated that they found online courses more challenging than in-person classes.

At the same time, students credited online learning with providing greater accessibility. Some students recommended that professors continue to hold office hours on Zoom and to post lecture recordings online in the future.

—Staff writer Mayesha R. Soshi can be reached at

—Staff writer Lucas J. Walsh can be reached at

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