Campus & Community

Letter from President Summers

3 min read

Harvard University

Office of the President
Massachusetts Hall
October 16, 2001

Dear Faculty, Students, and Staff,

Our community has shown remarkable strength, resilience, and compassion during these past few difficult weeks. Many of you have offered much-needed support to people directly touched by the September 11 attacks. Others of you have joined in the effort to understand the implications of those terrible events, and to respond in ways that affirm Harvard’s commitment both to thoughtful inquiry and to public service. All of you, simply by carrying on with the basic tasks of daily university life, have done much to help our community through this trying time.

The headlines of the past several days have added to the sense of unease that many people across the country have experienced since last month’s tragic events. Responsible public health officials have helped to put the reported incidents in perspective and have sensibly cautioned that we be vigilant but not overreact. I have every confidence that all of us here will carry forward energetically with our professional and personal lives, alert to any unusual occurrences but determined not to let anxiety get the better of us.

We are fortunate to have within the university a variety of individuals with experience highly relevant to situations such as the one now before us. I have asked several of them – including a number of faculty members with specifically relevant scientific expertise, the Director of University Health Services, and the Deans of Arts and Sciences, Government, Medicine, and Public Health – to serve as an informal advisory group. They will advise me and other Harvard officials, as needed, on any communications or precautions that would advance our paramount interest in the well-being of all members of the University. Meanwhile, Harvard remains in continuing contact with the appropriate public authorities, and we have no information to suggest that anyone within our community is at particular risk.

In addition:

  • A special Harvard Web page, created in the wake of the September 11 events, now contains updated information concerning both anthrax and the safe handling of mail. (See, also accessible via a link on the Harvard home page, 
  • University Health Services remains open to any members of the Harvard community who may feel anxious in light of recent events and who would like to speak with a member of the counseling staff. You can reach UHS by calling 495-5711. 
  • The Harvard University Police Department will continue taking prudent steps to promote the safety and security of all who live and work here. Anyone with concerns about an item received in the mail, or about other safety or security matters, should not hesitate to call the HUPD at 495-1212 (Cambridge-Allston) or 432-1212 (Medical Area).We live in complicated times – complicated now in ways few of us could have imagined five weeks ago. But we are privileged to live and work in a community of enormous good sense and good will, and I know that both of those will serve us very well in the weeks ahead, as they have in the weeks since September 11.

    Lawrence H. Summers