Who’s partying on the banks of the Charles River? How about in Harvard Square? It’s not clear, but an educated guess would tell you it’s Harvard kids. Whoever it is, Mather House held a meeting on Tuesday to review norms and guidelines for social distancing, as reports grow of deviant socializing and outbreaks erupt on campuses across the country.
We were encouraged to hear that the Mather meeting was not intended to be punitive. Instead, the house opted to take a more community-based approach by seeking to have an honest conversation to bolster conformity to and morale around the College’s current rules. Harsh, widespread punitive measures would not make for an effective solution to this problem. The college is right to not rush into more punitive measures as colleges have. Northeastern, for example, sent 11 students home, and New York University sent home more than 20.
And the evidence speaks to Harvard’s credit. To date, Harvard has been extremely successful in containing COVID-19. The University expected up to 50 cases upon students returning to campus, but has had only eight positive cases among undergraduates and 41 cases among all Harvard affiliates. These numbers are remarkable — and a testament that the vast majority of students are abiding by the College’s strict rules. Especially considering what has happened at other colleges around the country, students and administrators deserve praise.
It is also, however, a display of the privileged position Harvard occupies relative to other schools in terms of its resources and finances. All Harvard students are being tested for COVID-19 three times a week and getting results back on the same day in some cases. The University has conducted over 45,000 tests since June 1 through its rigorous testing program.
That’s simply not possible for the vast majority of higher education institutions at a time when many are already in financial jeopardy. As of May, the number of colleges and universities at risk of closing or merging in New England had doubled from 13 to 25. And without a national plan to help these institutions, it is hard to blame the individual schools for their shortcomings in virus containment and hasty reopenings as compared to Harvard.
The University, in recognition of how successful they have been in containing the virus, has expressed a willingness to ease its strict rules — and already has, allowing students to gather in groups of up to 10 outside.
So to our peers, remember that you have everything to gain by continuing to follow the social distancing guidelines. It is not only in the interest of the public good and public health, but also in the interest of your own future freedom. Your friends, professors, and, frankly, the world are all watching.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.