Campus & Community

A welcome return

5 min read

Harvard details plans for full, in-person campus life for fall semester

Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences today released detailed plans for a return to on-campus teaching, living, and research for undergraduates and all FAS-based graduate programs for the upcoming academic year. The announcement came in a message to faculty, students, researchers, and staff from University President Larry Bacow, FAS Edgerley Family Dean Claudine Gay, Danoff Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, and Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Emma Dench.

In the joint message, the four said campus would return to full residential density and provided updated guidance on re-entry protocols, housing details, campus public health guidelines, athletics, and co-curricular activities and events.

“With this fall we begin a period of transition, building our way to a new normal,” the message said. “We encourage you to come to campus with a spirit of experimentalism, to embrace the opportunity to find new and better ways to do things. While there will be much that is new, our commitments remain the same — putting the health and safety of our community first and centering our academic mission in all we do. Your unbridled academic ambition defines us as a learning community, and we welcome that ambition, along with your boldness, passion, and energy as we create a post-pandemic Harvard that honors our past while delivering on the full promise of our mission for the 21st century and beyond.”

Harvard College and GSAS students will begin moving back onto campus starting Aug. 20, with undergraduate move-in staggered by class year, beginning with the Class of 2023. The message also laid out the College’s preparations to accommodate both the largest incoming class in its history and students who took a leave during the pandemic. These steps include additional housing on and adjacent to campus, along with provisions to ensure that all students will have access to the support structures of the College residential system.

The message also offered guidance for those who have been vaccinated as well as those who still need to be. As announced earlier this month, Harvard will require that all students receive an FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine to be on campus during the fall term. Full-time students, including international students, who have not been vaccinated will be able to get shots from University Health Services (HUHS). Those who have been fully vaccinated will be required to submit proof of vaccination to HUHS.

Students should expect to complete a short quarantine period after their arrival, the message said. That period will be followed by full campus access, which includes libraries, archives, museums, research facilities, and classrooms.

Additional information with updated public health protocols for move-in and for the fall will be outlined in June. They will be adjusted as needed as state and federal guidelines change.

“Harvard will establish public health protocols to keep the campus community safe and to protect against disruption of the academic mission. These protocols are likely to include, at a minimum, regular viral testing and contact tracing,” the message said.

The update on fall planning comes amid increasingly positive signs of a return to normal life. Vaccination rates are climbing; infection rates are declining; states are lifting restrictions; and, recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people in crowds and in most indoor settings. Last week, Massachusetts announced it is on track to meet the goal of vaccinating 4.1 million residents by the first week of June.

The message acknowledged particular hurdles international students have faced with visa processing and government policies preventing them from entering or leaving the U.S. Because of this, undergraduate international students whose arrival has been delayed by visa processing or other barriers will be able to enroll this fall as long as they arrive on campus by Oct. 4. International undergraduates who cannot arrive by then will be able to enroll in the spring semester.

International graduate students are expected to be on campus by the start of the fall term and must submit their arrival plans and travel documentation to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences by July 15. The FAS will work with all international students to navigate their program options.

The message also addressed the expected resumption of in-person co-curricular activities, events, and programs. The Ivy League is expected to announce a resumption of fall sports competition, so Harvard Athletics will return to regular access to campus athletics facilities and recreational programming will resume.

As announced in March, the message confirmed that FAS staff members working remotely will begin to transition to in-person work on Aug. 2.

In addition to the announcement, Bacow, Gay, Khurana, and Dench also released a short video welcoming back the Harvard community and sharing what they looked forward to as Harvard begins its transition to post-pandemic life.

“I am thrilled to be able say the two words that I’ve been dying to say since last March,” said Gay. “Welcome back.”