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Khurana Commends On-Campus Students on Smooth, Covid-Safe Move-In

Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana in his University Hall office in 2019.
Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana in his University Hall office in 2019. By Delano R. Franklin
By Alex M. Koller and Taylor C. Peterman, Crimson Staff Writers

As undergraduates embark on their second week of the spring semester, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana commended on-campus students for a safe and smooth move-in process in a Friday interview.

The College announced in December it would welcome back seniors, juniors, and students with challenging learning environments to live on campus for the spring semester. Similar to the fall, students arrived on campus in the week before classes began this semester and were required to undergo Covid-19 testing and a quarantine period.

Khurana said he was heartened to see the relatively low positivity rate of Covid-19 among students moving in. The positivity rate among Harvard affiliates during the last seven days was 0.24 percent as of Sunday morning, per the University-wide Covid-19 Testing Dashboard.

“We had relatively few students infected upon arrival, which I really think speaks well to the students adhering to our suggestions and recommendations of quarantining,” he said.

Khurana said local circumstances surrounding Covid-19 influenced the College’s approach to move-in.

“Unlike in the fall where we had low infection rates generally in the country, as students were coming back, we had much higher infection rates in the United States and obviously around in some parts of the world,” he said. “As a result, one of the changes we made was a double testing that happened on move-in.”

As part of the double-testing regimen, students were administered both an antigen test and a PCR test upon arrival, Khurana said.

“There was an antigen test that was given, and it’s a quick test, and the results can come back within a couple of hours or less,” he said. “That allowed us to identify people who potentially may have been carrying an infection of Covid-19, and they were also given the Broad [Institute] PCR test, which takes a day to turn around or so.”

Alexandra P. Grayson ’22 said the move-in process was “really streamlined.” She said the mandated quarantine period “passed by pretty quickly” as she set up her room and prepared for the coming spring semester.

“We were ramping up for the semester so I wasn’t just sitting around bored,” she said. “It felt pretty supportive and the housing administration was definitely reachable.”

Khurana said the College stocked dorm rooms with food, water, masks, and several weeks' worth of Covid-19 tests ahead of students’ arrival.

Melody M. Wang ’22 said her move-in experience was “pretty smooth.” Wang, who also lived on campus in the fall, said the provision of two days’ worth of food in her dorm room was an improvement over last semester, when she only received enough to last her one day.

“I think maybe one thing they could have thought out slightly better was maybe utilizing more spaces,” she said. “I saw a lot of people waiting outside in very cold temperatures with their suitcases.”

Some freshmen who successfully petitioned to live on campus are living in Harvard Yard, while all upperclassmen are residing in their assigned house, according to Khurana.

“Some of our first-year students who before had been distributed in the houses are actually getting an opportunity to now be in the Yard and our upper-class students all went back to their respective houses,” he said.

Though he acknowledged “it’s not easy” for students to live within the constraints of current campus life, Khurana said he has enjoyed seeing students reunited back on campus and socializing safely.

“I’ve just been really tickled to see people back and students greeting each other,” he said. “It’s so great to see students — even though it’s cold outside — to be outside socializing with each other and seeing them laughing.”

—Staff writer Alex M. Koller can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @alexmkoller.

—Staff writer Taylor C. Peterman can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @taylorcpeterman.

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