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No Wellness Days This Fall: FAS Planning To Follow Normal Academic Calendar, House Larger-Than-Normal Student Population

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay said in a Wednesday interview that the fall semester would operate under a traditional fall calendar, including Thanksgiving break.
Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay said in a Wednesday interview that the fall semester would operate under a traditional fall calendar, including Thanksgiving break. By Jocelyn Wang
By Meera S. Nair and Andy Z. Wang, Crimson Staff Writers

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay said in a Wednesday interview that Harvard plans to follow a normal academic calendar in the fall semester as it transitions back to in-person operations.

Gay announced in March that the FAS is planning a full return to residential life and classroom instruction in the fall semester, including providing as much in-person learning as possible. To prepare for an in-person fall, the FAS is currently piloting in-person learning experiences, which Gay said began “late last week.”

“The first pilot class was in CS, and throughout the next several weeks, there’ll be a number of class sessions in Harvard Hall,” Gay said. “I also understand that [the Office of Undergraduate Education] is conducting some outdoor pilot sessions, including a singing class in the tent that’s going to set up behind Sever, a performance art class in Farkas, and also some sessions of undergrad lab classes.”

Gay said the OUE will survey faculty and student participants in the trials for feedback.

Gay also said the fall semester would operate under a traditional fall calendar, including Thanksgiving break. Notably, the calendar would not include wellness days, which were instituted this semester in lieu of a spring break.

“At this time, we’re not anticipating any changes to the established academic calendar for the upcoming academic year,” she said.

Wellness days have received a mixed reaction from students. While some have said they are “relaxing,” others have commented that wellness days have been “more time to do homework.” In a Tuesday interview with The Crimson, Dean of Students Katherine G. O’Dair said wellness days could possibly supplement — rather than replace — usual breaks in the future.

Gay also commented on the recent admission of a full cohort of students to the College’s Class of 2025. She said she “can't wait to welcome them to campus and to Cambridge in the fall.”

“We chose to admit a full class despite the many deferrals matriculating this fall because we really believe in the promise of this incredibly diverse and accomplished group of students,” Gay said. “We are committed to opening the door of opportunity to all talented students, even if it means confronting the challenge of accommodating more students on campus next year.”

The 349 students originally admitted to the Class of 2024 who deferred their matriculation for a year will be joining the newly-admitted cohort in the fall. Nonetheless, Gay said all students enrolled in the fall should be able to access Harvard-affiliated housing.

“As Dean Khurana has expressed, we are actively preparing for a larger number of students in the fall,” Gay said. “We’re looking at all possible options to accommodate students in housing on campus or in Harvard-affiliated housing near campus, really with the goal of providing Harvard housing to all students who want it.”

Gay said Harvard is “eager to welcome our international students back to campus,” although she recognized that these students may face “particular hurdles” as they prepare to return to Cambridge next fall.

“We have assured students that they can confidently apply for visas, knowing that we will offer in-person instruction,” she said. “We recognize that some students may confront delays in visa processing that will impact their ability to come to campus, and the College and GSAS are going to work directly with those students to help them navigate their program options.”

While Gay said she maintains the “overarching ambition and goal of a return to full operations in the fall,” she is aware that uncertainty regarding the pandemic will linger.

“Some degree of this is not entirely within our control,” she said.

“There are very few ‘red means stop, green means go’ moments,” Gay added. “There’s no expectation that we’ll move abruptly from the current status quo to full return. It’ll be something that will be introduced gradually, over these next few months.”

“It’s important to acknowledge that case numbers do continue to rise at a steady rate,” she said. “I take from that that we clearly have a long road ahead of us, and now’s not the time to become complacent.”

Gay shared that the FAS tentatively plans to announce its final plan for the fall semester — covering housing, financial aid, and re-entry protocol — in May.

—Staff writer Meera S. Nair can be reached at meera.nair@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Andy Z. Wang can be reached at andy.wang@thecrimson.com.

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