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Harvard Administrators, Students Work to Get Scattered Undergrads Counted in Census

Harvard is working to ensure students get counted in the 2020 Census despite being dispersed due to the coronavirus.
Harvard is working to ensure students get counted in the 2020 Census despite being dispersed due to the coronavirus. By Aiyana G. White
By Joshua C. Fang, Crimson Staff Writer

For the United States Census in 2010, Harvard undergraduates filled out paper forms they received in on-campus mailboxes. This year, with campus closed due to the coronavirus, administrators and student groups are working to make sure the 2020 Census counts students correctly.

“Harvard undergraduates will be counted by our administrators as living at Harvard and should not be counted in their home or current location,” a weekly digest email from the College read. “Administrators from Harvard College will be submitting your entry on your behalf, and no action is needed from you in order to complete your Census.”

University President Lawrence S. Bacow announced last month that most undergraduates would be required to move out of on-campus housing in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Student organizers from the Harvard Votes Challenge — a campus organization dedicated to increasing voter turnout — helped to gather and share information with students as the Census proceeds.

Kevin L. Ballen ’22, co-chair of the Harvard Votes Challenge, said he believes working to ensure that students participate in the Census aligns with the organization’s mission.

“The Census isn’t our main focus, but we felt called to mobilize around it because it’s important for civic engagement,” Ballen said. “The main thing around the Census is really just messaging to students how to fill it out.”

The Harvard Votes Challenge has also partnered with similar organizations across the Ivy League to create a “civic engagement cohort” and encourage Census participation among students across all eight universities.

The Census is a constitutionally mandated count of the population conducted every ten years. The count is used to distribute seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, determine legislative boundaries, and allocate billions of dollars in public funding.

Per Census rules, universities count college students that live in on-campus housing. A press release from the Census Bureau said this policy would still hold “in general” for students attending colleges and universities temporarily closed due to the spread of coronavirus. Undergraduates that live off-campus, however, should still fill out their own Census forms “in most cases,” according to the Bureau.

Due to social distancing guidelines from public health officials, the Bureau has extended the timeline for Census responses online, by phone, and by mail. Although April 1 is the reference date for determining where individuals reside, households can still fill out the Census until Aug. 14.

Correction: April 3, 2020

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the Census Bureau's revised timeline for accepting responses. The end date for households is Aug. 14, not July 31.

—Staff writer Joshua C. Fang can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jshuaf.

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