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Dean of Students Office Praises Compliance With Covid Rules, Discusses Spring Programming

Dean of Students Katherine G. O'Dair lauded students in a Monday interview for their adherence to Covid-19 policies since returning to campus amid a nationwide surge in Omicron cases.
Dean of Students Katherine G. O'Dair lauded students in a Monday interview for their adherence to Covid-19 policies since returning to campus amid a nationwide surge in Omicron cases. By Naomi S. Castellon-Perez
By Audrey M. Apollon and Christine Mui, Crimson Staff Writers

Reflecting on the first two weeks of the semester, Dean of Students Katherine G. O’Dair lauded students in a Monday interview for their adherence to Covid-19 policies since returning to campus amid a nationwide surge in Omicron cases.

Following two weeks of heightened Covid-19 precautions on campus, Harvard relaxed its health policies, fully reopening House dining halls and lowering the weekly testing cadence for students on Friday. O’Dair said in the Monday interview that she is “extremely pleased” with how students have observed safety policies since moving in this term.

“I think our return to campus went as smooth as it could have gone,” she said. “That is so much to the credit of students.”

“My hope — perhaps all of our hopes, including students — is that with continued vigilance, we can make further adjustments,” O’Dair added.

In an effort to reduce indoor gathering sizes, the College closed dining hall seating at the start of the semester and switched to strictly takeout options. Though the College opened select dining spaces on campus to accommodate students unable to return to their rooms between classes, some students who live in Quad Houses reported challenges finding places to eat.

Associate Dean of Students Lauren E. Brandt ’01 said it is her “strong hopes” Harvard will not have to resort to grab-and-go dining again but did not rule out the possibility if cases spike on campus.

“We know there were challenges. That’s one of the reasons why we did set up those alternate locations,” Brandt said. “If we ever had to do it again, I imagine we would do something very similar.”

“This just isn’t about the students and their experience, but it is also about the staff who work in these spaces on a daily basis,” she added.

During the interview, Dean of Students Office administrators said students can expect the return of some longstanding residential traditions in the near future.

As Housing Day nears, freshmen are preparing to choose classmates with whom they wish to live in their upperclassmen dorms — a process called blocking. The First-Year Experience Office has introduced more programming to educate students about blocking based on guidance from the Committee on Student Life’s ongoing review of the process, according to Brandt.

“There was also a panel that was hosted with House administrators, our housing office staff, and first-year proctors to give students an opportunity to ask questions,” Brandt said. “They’re really trying to give students a sense of how to navigate what can be a somewhat complex process.”

In November, the DSO told The Crimson about plans this spring to reopen House grilles — student-run eateries that offer late-night food. Brandt said now that dining halls are operating at normal capacity, she expects students to be “hearing about grilles opening up very soon” on a House-by-House basis.

For the first time since the pandemic started, the College Events Board plans to hold in April an in-person Yardfest, an annual concert for undergraduates.

“We are back up and running with events and activities that do follow [Environmental Health and Safety] guidelines, and Yardfest is one of those,” said Jason Meier, associate dean for student engagement. “We are very much hoping current trends with Covid numbers will continue, and we have full faith that our students will continue to abide by those.”

—Staff writer Audrey M. Apollon can be reached at audrey.apollon@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Christine Mui can be reached at christine.mui@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @MuiChristine.

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