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Harvard FAS To Expand Campus Housing, Host Exclusively In-Person Instruction in Fall 2021

Harvard College students will move in on a staggered schedule by grade level this fall.
Harvard College students will move in on a staggered schedule by grade level this fall. By Ryan N. Gajarawala
By Andy Z. Wang, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard will expand its undergraduate housing capacity on and near campus to accommodate “normal housing density” in fall 2021, even as it anticipates the largest matriculating class in its history, administrators wrote in an email to Faculty of Arts and Sciences affiliates Tuesday afternoon.

The administrators — University President Lawrence A. Bacow, FAS Dean Claudine Gay, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean Emma Dench — also shared that all graduate and undergraduate instruction will take place in the classroom, with the option of online supplemental instruction.

Gay first shared in a March interview with The Crimson that the University was “charting a path to a full return for our students, our faculty, and staff.” Weeks later, the College announced a planned return to “in-person learning” in the fall semester.

The administrators wrote in the email that both graduate and undergraduate residential programs will “return to normal campus operations” in the fall semester, including both full housing density and in-person dining for students in the College.

“Harvard College is anticipating the largest entering class in its history, having admitted a normal class size in addition to the large number of deferrals from last year,” they wrote. “To accommodate this larger student body, the College has expanded the undergraduate residential program and support system to include additional housing on campus and adjacent to campus.”

The College’s fall plans feature a staggered return to campus. The class of 2023 — the only class unable to return as a full cohort to Cambridge this previous year — will be the first class returning to campus, with move-in beginning Aug. 20. Meanwhile, first-years will be invited to campus starting on Aug. 25, with orientation held the following weekend. Classes will begin on Sep. 1.

International students “whose arrival has been delayed by visa processing or other barriers” may enroll as long as they can arrive on campus by Oct. 4. Some international students have expressed concern that they will be unable to obtain visas in time for the fall semester.

“The Office of International Education will contact these students and advise them in selecting courses that they can begin remotely and then join in person after arrival,” they wrote.

In the email, the administrators also wrote that instruction — including sections — will be hosted in person in the fall semester. Nonetheless, they acknowledged certain teaching approaches that could be carried over from a virtual year.

“The experience of the past year has demonstrated that technology can be a powerful pedagogical tool and instructors may use some pre-recorded materials to supplement their in-person teaching,” they wrote. “Instructors may hold office hours online if they feel this will better meet the needs of their students.”

Libraries and museums will be open for the fall semester, and all co-curricular events and programs, including athletics, are expected to resume.

Earlier this month, Bacow announced that Covid-19 vaccination would be required for all students on campus this fall. In Tuesday’s email, the administrators wrote that Harvard will help vaccinate anyone who has not been able to access the vaccine.

“We understand that access to the COVID-19 vaccine is variable across the world,” they wrote. “Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) will provide vaccination to any enrolled, full-time student who has not been vaccinated.”

In addition, the administrators shared that students living on campus “should expect a short arrival quarantine period.” However, the College will no longer operate under the color-coded reopening levels established this spring semester. Following the quarantine, all students will “move to regular campus access.”

Nonetheless, they acknowledged the volatility in public health guidance, as well as the continued effects of the pandemic. Detailed safety precautions “will be set closer to the start of the fall term,” they wrote.

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

The administrators closed by calling upon staff, faculty, and students to bring a “spirit of experimentalism” into the fall semester to build “our way to a new normal.”

“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,” they wrote.

“We are truly excited to be with you this fall and invite you to view this short message of welcome as we eagerly await your arrival,” they concluded.

—Staff writer Andy Z. Wang can be reached at

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