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HLS, HSPH, GSD, HDS, and Radcliffe Institute to Stay Virtual in Spring 2021

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Harvard Law School, Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Graduate School of Design, Harvard Divinity School, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study will continue to hold their instruction and programming online next semester because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Law School Dean John F. Manning ’82 wrote in an announcement to students that it is “neither prudent nor equitable” for the school to resume in-person instruction for the winter or spring term.

The Law School made its decision in accordance with current public health considerations put forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Massachusetts state government, Manning wrote. He also noted that the school took “considerations of equity” into account when making its decision.

“Hybrid classes differentiate the educational experience among students not only on any given day, but also across the semester,” Manning wrote. “Such classes are not equally accessible to students who come from countries subject to a travel ban, who face other difficulties securing visas, who have family or personal obligations or challenges that compel them to remain where they are now, or who suffer from underlying conditions that place them at high risk of serious illness should they contract COVID-19.”

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“Especially given the nature of our pedagogy, it seemed to us problematic to create a tiered experience in which only some of our community could engage in the forms of classroom instruction being offered,” he added.

The school is launching new initiatives — including creating more on-campus housing available and streamlining requests for class recordings — as it prepares for the online semester.

School of Public Health Dean Michelle A. Williams wrote in an email to students and faculty that “the risks and uncertainty are simply too great to have everyone back on campus,” prompting the decision to extend remote learning through wintersession and the spring semester.

Still, administrators are “exploring options for limited on-campus access for students and faculty who have space needs,” Williams wrote.

The school will also continue to provide “augmented teaching support” and offer an opt-in pass/fail grading policy, per the email.

Graduate School of Design Dean Sarah M. Whiting wrote to affiliates that after “exhaustive scenario planning,” the school decided to continue with remote learning and prohibit building access through the spring semester.

“While this is not the choice I had hoped to be sharing with you, it stems from a number of factors: the rising infection rate in Cambridge, Somerville, and the rest of the Boston area; the challenge of making the single space of the trays truly safe; and the continued closure of U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide, making it impossible for many of our international students to obtain visas,” Whiting wrote.

The school is aiming to enhance remote learning via various initiatives, including a “real-time” view of activities at the school titled “GSD Now” and a website-building toolkit, in the coming months, per the email.

Divinity School Dean David N. Hempton cited logistical concerns and continued uncertainty surrounding the pandemic as factors in the school’s choice to stay virtual.

“Given this uncertainty, along with HDS's small classroom size—particularly while Swartz Hall is under renovation—and the challenges this presents to physically distance, HDS will conduct all spring 2021 courses online,” he wrote. “In so doing, the School seeks to maximize community safety and to allow students to make informed plans for travel, living arrangements, and enrollment.”

The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study posted an update to its website stating due to risks associated with large gatherings and a resurgence of infections, its activities “will continue to be primarily virtual” through the end of the academic year.

“This includes public events and private programming, student opportunities, the Radcliffe Fellowship Program, and research services at Radcliffe’s Schlesinger Library,” the website reads.

Breaking from the other schools, Harvard Kennedy School Dean Douglas W. Elmendorf announced on Tuesday that the school will use a “targeted-hybrid” approach in which “a limited number of students will be able to take a small number of courses with substantial in-person elements.”

Still, he wrote that “most classes will continue to occur remotely.”

—Staff writer Camille G. Caldera can be reached at camille.caldera@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @camille_caldera.

—Staff writer Michelle G. Kurilla can be reached at michelle.kurilla@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @MichelleKurilla.

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