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Harvard FAS to Replace 2021 Spring Break with Intermittent ‘Wellness Days’

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences announced an updated spring calendar Thursday.
The Faculty of Arts and Sciences announced an updated spring calendar Thursday. By Naomi S. Castellon-Perez
By Kevin R. Chen, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences will not hold spring break in 2021, reallocating the five days of break as planned “wellness days” throughout the spring semester, FAS Dean Claudine Gay announced in an email to faculty and staff Thursday.

FAS courses will not meet during the wellness days, which Harvard will schedule roughly every other week. The spring semester start and end dates will remain in line with those in previous years.

Gay wrote that the schedule will help minimize travel for FAS affiliates in residence while also providing downtime.

“As was the case this fall, we anticipate that public health considerations will require us to minimize travel for our community in residence in order to manage the transmission of the virus on campus and protect our academic enterprise from disruption,” Gay wrote. “This schedule supports that approach, while still recognizing the need for downtime (and time away from a screen) during the term. Following our regular academic calendar also avoids the introduction of schedule conflicts across Harvard Schools, which is a particular concern for graduate programs.”

This decision regarding the spring academic calendar is independent of the decision regarding when undergraduates would return to campus, which the FAS still intends to announce in early December, Gay wrote.

“While the academic calendar is now set for spring, the question of when undergraduate students who will be learning in residence would arrive on campus is related but independent of the academic timeline,” she wrote. “While there is much more work ahead of us, we are on track to share the outcome of that planning early in December.”

FAS will invite students facing challenging home environments to campus, while also planning to prioritize bringing seniors back to campus if possible, Harvard administrators announced in a July email.

While the FAS originally planned to bring up to 40 percent of students — the entire freshman class and students who face challenges learning at home — back in residence this fall, only 25 percent of students decided to return to campus. Students on campus must follow strict safety protocols to prevent COVID-19 infections, including frequent testing and limited social interaction.

Gay said in an October interview with The Crimson that circumstances “bode well” for welcoming “potentially even more” students to campus in the spring. While she called the conditions on campus “encouraging” in her Thursday email, she wrote that public health conditions are “deteriorating.”

“Communities across the nation are seeing spikes in positive cases, and, on Monday of this week, thirteen Massachusetts cities and towns took a step back in their reopening because of a rise in coronavirus cases,” Gay wrote. “Though current data on the incidence of the virus on our campus are encouraging, we must prepare for the possibility that the course of the pandemic will continue its current trajectory.”

The University reported seven new cases of coronavirus over the past seven days, out of 16,265 tests. None of the seven people who tested positive were undergraduates.

Gay ended her message by thanking faculty and staff for their work amid the pandemic.

“Some days it feels like we have been on one long Zoom call that started in March,” Gay wrote. “Thank you for all of your hard work, care, and commitment to our teaching and research mission over that time, and for all to come in the months ahead.

—Staff writer Kevin R. Chen can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @kchenx.

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