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DSO Reflects on Covid-Impacted Year, Anti-Racism Goals

Dean of Students Katherine G. O'Dair spoke positively about students' adaption to online learning and on-campus residential restrictions in an interview with The Crimson Tuesday.
Dean of Students Katherine G. O'Dair spoke positively about students' adaption to online learning and on-campus residential restrictions in an interview with The Crimson Tuesday. By Delano R. Franklin
By Hannah J. Martinez and Sixiao Yu, Crimson Staff Writers

As the school year nears a close, administrators in the Dean of Students Office reflected on students' experiences during the past academic year amid the coronavirus pandemic in an interview with The Crimson on Tuesday.

Harvard held courses online during the 2020-2021 academic year due to the public health crisis. For the fall semester, the College only invited freshmen and a select group of upperclassmen to live in residence, while juniors, seniors, and a cohort of petitioning students were invited to campus in the spring.

Students living in residence had to comply with a spate of residential guidelines, including social distancing guidelines and Covid-19 testing three times per week.

Dean of Students Katherine G. O’Dair said she was “grateful” for on-campus students’ adherence to residential guidelines and commended their adaptation to online learning.

“What we learned was how remarkably adaptable students were to these changes,” O’Dair said. “We are just incredibly grateful for all their commitments to abide by the rules.”

“I think students also adapted to the online learning environment, and in some ways, though, that online learning environment was better for some students,” O’Dair added.

Assistant Dean of Student Engagement and Leadership Kate T. Colleran said that she appreciated students’ flexibility.

“We’ve been watching the student orgs process through the whole cycle of the year and really feeling the loss of their in-person events but then coming back strong in the spring with virtual Eleganza and Ghungroo and participation in Virtual Visitas,” Colleran said. “It was so great to see them come back with those traditional events this spring, even though they had to look different.”

Colleran added that the College was able to host an in-person light show called Lucidity, which she said attracted more than 300 students over the course of three days.

“It was really nice to see students dropping by being like, ‘Oh my goodness, this is an event, this is in-person, I can come to this,” Colleran said.

Associate Dean of Students Lauren E. Brandt ’01 said that “collaboration and coordination” aided the DSO in its support of students and their experiences.

“This year has just illustrated the extent to which collaboration and coordination is really one of the strengths that we can bring,” Brandt said. “So many different stakeholders are involved in supporting all of the community and all of the student experience.”

“It’s just been inspiring to see everyone really trying to work together provide the best possible experience in a very difficult time,” she added.

The administrators also reflected on their progress over the past year in making the DSO an anti-racist organization.

Associate Dean of Students for Inclusion and Belonging Alta Mauro said she was “proud” of the work the DSO has done to achieve that goal.

“I feel really proud of the progress that we’ve made, and one of things I’m proudest about is that we don’t feel so proud that we think the work is over,” Mauro said. “We have a commitment to extending our work in this area.”

“I feel good about the actual things that are in place that will carry on into the fall. We'll also need to take a fresh look, right, and so we’ll need to say what have we learned about ourselves and about our organization, and then how do we calibrate and move forward,” Mauro added.

—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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Student LifeCollege LifeCoronavirus