Harvard University has advised its students not to return to campus after spring break and to expect to complete classwork remotely “until further notice”, in an effort to avoid the further spread of Covid-19.
The change marked another sign of the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on even the most prominent institutions, as a growing number of universities known for their intense classroom debates, crowded events and hands-on research are now moving to empty their campuses as much as possible.
Amherst College, Princeton University, Stanford University, New York University, the University of Washington and others have announced dramatic changes in recent days in an effort to prevent infections by limiting the communal gatherings that have been central to campus life and learning at many schools.
Harvard is beginning to transition to digital classes and hopes that transformation will be complete by 23 March, the first day of classes after spring break, the school's president announced to students on Tuesday.
Graduate students will transition to online work wherever possible, and students who must remain on campus will be taught remotely “and must prepare for severely limited on-campus activities and interactions”, the university's president, Lawrence Bacow, wrote.
Non-essential gatherings of more than 25 people on campus are strongly discouraged, he wrote.
In his letter, Mr Bacow spoke to the fundamental change about to occur. He acknowledged to students, especially graduating seniors, that this was not how they expected their time at Harvard to end.
“We are doing this not just to protect you but also to protect other members of or community who may be more vulnerable to this disease than you are,” Mr Bacow wrote.
He acknowledged to faculty that they were asking them midway through the semester to completely rethink the way they are teaching.
“I am proud to be a member of a community where people put the greater good above their own self-interest,” Mr Bacow wrote.
“Thank you for your patience and your resilience as we all learn to temper increased distance with deeper care for one another.”
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